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HOW TO MANAGE TRAINING STRESS IN TRIATHLON

When training for more than one sport, it’s essential we manage our time properly so that we can get the best training effect from our allotted training time. Our aim is to be the best athletes we can be at each of ours sports, but with much less time dedicated to each sport than a single discipline athlete. 

This limited time allocation means that session types need to complement each other and be structured to cover all components of fitness. We need to balance our sports so that we give each one the time required to be a well-rounded athlete, continuing to build on our strengths while also ensuring we improve on our weaker disciplines.

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Training stress is important since it’s the repeated cycle of stress and recovery that causes the physiological adaptations within our bodies that lead to improved performance. Getting that balance right, however, is where it gets more difficult. Knowing how much stress we should be putting on our bodies and when to rest is key in helping you plan your training. Fortunately, many of the commonly used training platforms have some kind of stress indicator that will allow you to monitor your training stress, look for patterns in your training and know when to manipulate your training volume and session type.

Training Peaks, for example, recommends the above Training Stress Scores (TSS) for triathletes racing over the various distance. The range in scores takes into account differences in starting fitness, training tolerances, time allocated to training and the time of year. These are a useful starting point that allows us to manage our training and then dictate the volume and intensity of sessions during a particular training phase, which can then be tweaked as we progress with our training.

Setting a weekly TSS target for all of your training will help you manage your training stress, ensuring that you stick to your plan; training at the right intensity to improve fitness and allocating enough time for recovery. As a guide, set a weekly average and then use a 3-5 week block where you may have 2 weeks slightly higher than average, 1-2 week of moderate stress and then a recovery week of around 50-60% of the average TSS. Sticking to a schedule is important, but it’s also important to be flexible around other commitments. These variables may dictate when you’re able to train, such as work and family time as well as your race schedule, since it’s unlikely all your races will be perfectly spaced out.

When setting your weekly TSS it’s helpful to understand how much time or effort spent on a given discipline will result in a certain stress score. This will change with session type and intensity but having a rough idea will help you allocate an estimated score to each session as you plan, so you can stick to your targets. Then, as the week progresses and you tick off sessions, you can make adjustments to future sessions if the difference is significantly off target. 

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Lastly, a very effective way to manage your training stress is to implement a form of undulating periodisation, whereby you nominate one discipline each week as a dominant sport, that will be allocated more training duration and TSS, while the others reduce slightly. This additional stress will elicit a greater training response and by increasing the focus on one particular sport, you are effectively resting the others and as you rotate between them. Managing your training stress like this is very effective but can be a little tricky to get the hang of, which is why it’s usually something done with the guidance of a coach.

Managing your training and understanding your TSS and how to use it to help you plan is an important part of a successful training plan that will allow you to keep making improvement to your performance while minimising the risk of overtraining related setbacks. For more information about this book an appointment to chat with one of our performance coaches at [email protected]

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