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Training for a Triathlon with the Spinning® Program

The sport of triathlon is growing in popularity across the globe. Having a performance goal outside of the Spinning® room will give you a real sense of focus, direction and excitement. It not only benefits your commitment to your specific training (i.e., swimming, biking, running), but most importantly it gives you a much clearer focus when participating in Spinning classes. Your goal is to make sure you get the most effective training benefit during your indoor cycling session. This will translate into improvement in your outdoor riding and your race results.

The Spinning Energy Zones™ were created with the athlete in mind. An athlete in this context could be defined as: a person that wants to train with purpose and direction using heart rate parameters to ensure they work at intensities that are suited to a particular stage of their training cycle. When you begin to train for performance, you may notice a shift and you will start to understand the real necessity and benefit of having a structured plan to your weekly rides.

Each Spinning Energy Zone can be matched perfectly to the various cycles that exist in a periodized training year.  This is a great indoor option when you cannot ride outside. When you train to race, you have a plan, you want results and every single hour of training is focused on making you the fittest and fastest athlete you can be when race day comes. Spinning classes most definitely can support your pursuits.

Simply defined, periodization is when the year is divided into training periods. These periods then have a different focus and allow for the manipulation of volume and intensity to meet fitness requirements that are specific and necessary to peak for race day. Or as Joe Friel simply states, “Periodization means that the closer in time you get to the race, the more race-like your workouts become.”

For more information on periodization for triathlons, I would highly recommend Joe Friel’s "The Triathlete’s Training Bible." He has over 30 years of cycling and triathlon coaching experience and he is the master of writing about complex systems in a very easy to comprehend manner. This is a fantastic book for individuals just wanting to gain a clearer understanding about triathlon and periodization. It is also an absolute must for any self-coached competitor.

With periodization, the periods of training refer to time. In Joe’s books, he refers to these periods as: Prep, Base, Build, Peak, Race & Transition. Each has a specific training focus. The closer these periods get to race day the more specific to race conditions they become.

In order to create a personalized annual training plan, you will need to establish a number of key factors:

1. When are you racing?
2. How many training hours can you mange on average each week?
3. How many sessions can you do each day?

Other than the above, there are certainly a number of other considerations to include in order to create a successful plan, such as limiting factors, strengths and race goals. However this is definitely a good starting pointing for the average Joe.

Once an annual training plan is established, you will then be able to identify what period you are in and therefore what type of training sessions you should be doing during that period. Basically, a yearly plan is configured working backwards from the date of your race.

The table below illustrates the periods and how you can use the Spinning Energy Zone class formats to suit each period.

Period Purpose Duration
Spinning® Energy Zone™
PREP Prepare to train 2-4 weeks Recovery
BASE Establish basic abilities  12 weeks Recovery
*Keeping HR <80%
BUILD Build race-specific fitness  8-9 weeks Recovery
PEAK Increase rest and race specificity  1-2 weeks Recovery
RACE Rest and prepare to race  1 week Recovery
TRANSITION Recover both physically and mentally  1-8 weeks Recovery
Other rides

Make sure you have a heart rate monitor when you ride. If a class does not fit your training purpose, but it is the only time slot you can attend, then there is always the option to ride at your own heart rate parameters that suit your goal without necessarily following the class format. In order to avoid any disruption, I would always suggest that you notify the instructor as a courtesy if you plan to ride at a different pace than the rest of the class. I would also suggest you sit toward the back of the room so you do not disrupt the flow of the rest of the group. Another great option is to get a Spinner® bike at home and ride along to the various Spinning Energy Zone DVD workouts.

Although the Spinner is a great training tool to build fitness, unfortunately you cannot ride a Spinner on race day! When you get down to the pointy end of the proverbial stick, there is nothing better than riding your own bike, on the road and more time should be spent outdoors than in a Spinning room. However, keep in mind this will depend where you are in your training cycle. If you are in your Prep, Base or Transition period, then Spinning classes are a fantastic option. Then as you get closer to the Build and Peak period, more of your rides should be as race specific as possible, which means saving the Spinning classes for recovery sessions.

The duration of a Spinning class will most likely not provide enough volume or hours on the bike for most training days. Even a sprint-distance triathlon will have even the fastest riders on the bike for at least thirty minutes. The ride time for triathlon races ranges from thirty minutes up to six or eight hours on the bike, depending on the rider. Therefore it is necessary that you ride for at least one hour or more when you are training for triathlon goals. This may then mean you arrive early or stay on the bike longer or possibly do back-to-back classes.

For more information on the Spinning Energy Zones, click here. Good luck with your training!

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