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LifeSport’s late season, low maintenance workouts

2016 Ironman World Championship

— By LifeSport coach Lucy Smith

You can feel the season winding down; your Sunday bike group has dwindled over the past few weekends and sometimes only two people are in your lane at swim practice because people have finished racing for the year. You feel like you could get burned out if you keep up the training schedule too much longer, but there’s another race in you yet and you’re not quite ready to call it a day.

The end of season is an interesting time for athletes, especially if there isn’t a big race that you plan on ending your year with. It’s easy to just keep finding more races to do, and if you switch to running races then you can easily race right through until Christmas. While a true zest for racing is to be admired, racing aimlessly without a planned break is not conducive to a progressive increase in performance.

So looking ahead into the fall, pick a last few races in which to test yourself and then try to find a logical point at which to call it a season, and to take a much needed break. Plan your remaining training and be smart in order to prevent injury and overdoing it this late in the year. The foundation for the year has already been set, so volume isn’t a priority at this point, and you have probably peaked as far as your race fitness is concerned. Right now you want to maintain what you have without spending excess energy or putting yourself into the burn out path. Sessions should be shorter and fun, varied, and with just enough speed and intensity to maintain the superior fitness you earned this summer.

Tip: You can’t race a half distance on fumes so if you aren’t interested in really training seriously anymore choose shorter duathlons and triathlons.


If you can get out of the pool and swim open water, go for this variety-pack time efficient session.

Warm up with 15 minutes of easy swimming, adding in 4 x 50 m  strokes of drill near the end. Then 4 x 50 m strokes race start pace with 25 m easy strokes between each one. At that point, if there is a beach, get out of the water, draw a line in the sand about 10m from the water and practice four run in starts, with high knees over the shallows and then diving into 100 strokes of tempo swimming. Easy swim back to the beach. Sight 4 to 6 times each interval. (If there is no beach, practice dives starts or deep water starts). Do 15 minutes more swimming, with 7 to 10 minutes steady state swimming. Total time: 45 to 50 minutes. What it does: maintains race pace turnover and fitness, starting skills, start speed, and sighting skills.

Pool option: variable speed Fartlek. You won’t need to write your workout down for this one and it has a continuous flow to it, making it easy on the brain. Warm up 200m easy with drill, then do this continuous pyramid workout:

25 m  fast/25 m ez/50 m fast/50 m easy/75 m fast/75 m ez/100 m fast/100 m ez/200 m fast/200 m ez/ 100 m  fast/100 m easy/75 m  fast/75 m easy/50 m fast/50 m  easy/25 m fast/25 m easy. Finish with 200 m loose. (Total 1,800m).

What it does: This workout maintains race pace turnover and fitness, keeps you in touch with changing speeds, for surging to catch feet in races, and you can practice sighting as well.


For a quick and dirty wind trainer session do this fartlek.

Warm up for 15 min in easy gear, gradually increasing tension over last 7 min to get your heart rate up. Perform 8 x 1:00 w/1:00 high cadence spinning where you get cadence over 120 (as long as you are efficient and holding form. If this causes you to bounce in the saddle find the highest cadence possible while maintaining a still back and pelvis). Fartlek: 6-6-4-2 w/2min spin between intervals concentrating on holding race cadence and power. Perform random ten second standing sprint surges during intervals. Try to look ahead like you are racing, instead on down at your flying knees. Cool down 10 min. Total Time: 50 to 60 min. What it does: riding stationary forces you to focus only on efficiency and spinning skill, gives you a controlled environment for maximum opportunity to maintain threshold fitness and power in a time efficient workout.


Here are two 30 to 45 min time efficient sessions that will keep you in touch with your speed and threshold fitness respectively.

1.    Maintain form and speed session: Warm up 15 min, increasing to steady state pace in last 5 min of warm-up. Go into fartlek 8 to 12 x 1 min w/1 min rest at your 5 km race pace. The faster running should be dynamic and smooth. Think about your form: strong arm swing, high knees, and a strong core to keep good posture. Relaxed face and shoulders. Cool down with 15 minutes of easy running.

2.    Threshold revisit. YES, you can have it all in a 40 min run! Warm up with 10 min easy running, moving into steady state for the last 5 min. 2 min ez running, then 4 x 3 min w/1 min recovery, working off your 10 km pace. For fun and to practice shifting pace to respond to race surges, throw in one or two twenty second pick-ups in intervals. Cool down 10 min.

Late in the season, you want to be specific and smart, maximizing what you have gained this year, and minimizing stress to the body and mind. Keeping your workouts focussed should accomplish this goal. Use your remaining races to wrap up your season in a productive way!