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Should you tackle a new race distance in 2016?

– By Tim Huebsch

Have you mastered the sprint distance and want to move up to long course racing? Are you a multi-time full distance finisher ready to try something faster?

2012 Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant - just prior to the start of the race

Every triathlete gets stuck in a training funk on occasion. Motivation goes down, procrastination soars and training plateaus. One way to get out of this is to try a new race distance to keep training fresh and fun.

AARHUS, DENMARK - JUNE 17:  Reto Hug races towards the finish line ahead of Mads Vittrup-Pedersen to win the half iron distance triathlon KMD Challenge Aarhus 2012 on June 17, 2012 in Aarhus, Denmark.It provides a new challenge

It’s hard to stay motivated for your morning, lunch or evening training sessions on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes, heading to the pool or hopping on the trainer can seem monotonous. One way to keep spirits high is to work at a slower pace or aim to complete shorter distances at a faster pace.

Shorter, faster runs, rides and swims will improve leg speed and improve VO2 max. An increased VO2 max translates to increased efficiency, which proves beneficial for any distance. Not only will you see the benefits in your overall fitness, you can easily fit shorter workouts into times of the day when you’re pressed for time. If you only have an hour, you can still get in a great short session if you work on short, maximum-effort sprints.

Longer workouts (specifically runs and rides) at a slower pace will build aerobic endurance and develop lower-leg muscle, tendon, and ligament strength. The body will slowly adapt to the longer distances and be forced to become more efficient. For your runs, aim to incorporate a long session that’s about 15 to 20 per cent of your weekly mileage. If you’re on your bike trainer, gradually build up to a two or three hour session.

Changing up distances is a great way to break up your training and try something new. If your lifelong goal has been to complete a full distance triathlon, you can work off that for months at a time in advance of your race. If you’re typically a long distance triathlete, getting your speed up might be tough at first but training for a sprint or Olympic distance triathlon will give you a refreshed perspective on the sport. Working towards that goal will help keep motivation high.

Explore new routes and training spotsTriathlete Sheri Lehmer swims underwater in pool at Juniper Swim and Fitness Center in Bend, Oregon

When pursuing new race distances, your training gets a makeover. You will need to find new routes around town. If stepping up in distance, you get the chance to explore new areas. You’ll be able to reach the local trails, the waterfront or the next town over without having to turn back prematurely. If you’re working on building distance in the water and have the chance to get to a long course 50-metre pool, you’ll enjoy the opportunity to work on longer sets with less flip-turning.

Guaranteed personal best

Whenever you tackle a new race distance, you’re pursuing the unknown. Fortunately, when trying a new distance you’re given the opportunity to finish in a lifetime best on your first attempt. This is particularly helpful during a season when you may not have seen the improvements you were hoping for.

Already conquered the half and full distance triathlon? Sign up for an Olympic distance race and see how your times stack up.

Garmin 920XTYou can justify self-indulgence 

Adding distance or working at a faster pace for a short distance both provide a great workout and can burn help you burn more calories. You can better justify that slice of pizza or post-run beverage. You might also need that newest gadget to accommodate training for a new race distance.