Triathlon Training During the Coronavirus Pandemic

A change in training approach due to COVID-19?

How are you approaching your training during the current situation caused by the Coronavirus?

Lots of changes are enforced – access to a swimming pool, for most, is off limits for a start – plus travel to / from any of your normal training venues is also significantly restricted. Add on to that revised lifestyle changes; working from home, looking after the kids all day, home schooling and plenty more… whatever your personal situation is, chances are that it has changed significantly over the past month.

With that background, how can you approach your triathlon training at this time? As always, trying to apply a single approach that fits everyone is verging on impossible; we are learning all the time, individuals have different risk factors etc – but it is a period within which coaches have been forced to adapt and consider more than just sports-related fitness.

Staying healthy is your most important daily goal“, is the thinking behind the approach that Rob Wilby, Head Coach of Team Oxygenaddict (www.team.oxygenaddict.com), has been advising with his athletes. With maintaining the strength of your immune system a priority – particularly for those in any of the higher risk categories – here, Rob shares his thoughts and approach to training during the Coronavirus Pandemic.


Training During the Coronavirus Pandemic

With an ever increasing number of triathlons being cancelled and training options being limited due to Coronavirus, it’s very easy to feel demotivated and lacking direction in training right now. 

While we all have concerns greater than triathlon training at the moment, for many of us the routine and structure of training is an important way of maintaining a sense of normality.

So what should your training involve right now?

With swimming ruled out for most, and longer outdoor rides also off the agenda due to the associated risks, it’s tempting to shift focus to high intensity / high volume indoor training. 

But before jumping into high intensity Zwift races, or deciding to complete your first indoor century ride, think about your wider priorities and goals right now, and how training can help you achieve them. 

Staying healthy is your most important daily goal. 

That means your health, wellbeing and the strength of your immune system is now a priority. Training in a way that promotes this, and avoiding aspects of training that compromise it has become your new normal.

The paper “The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system”, published in the Journal of Sport & Health Medicine by David C. Neiman & Laurel M. Wentz, shows that continued exercise has a positive effect on reducing risk of respiratory infection, but only up to a moderate level of exertion. 

Heavy exertion training (intensity and / or volume) on the other hand notably increases the risk of respiratory infection.

This is shown by the “J-Curve” representation below, showing that the risk of contracting an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) decreases with moderate exercise, but increases significantly as training load increases beyond “moderate”:

Team Oxygenaddict J-Curve

(Credit: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095254618301005#fig0005)

It’s really important to understand that the scientific evidence shows that a heavy training load will reduce your immune function and leave you more vulnerable to respiratory infection. 

With this context in mind, the adaptations we’ve made to training volume and intensity within Team Oxygenaddict, and that I’m recommending to everybody are as follows:

  • BIKING: Steady rides @ 70% of FTP (or top of heart rate zone 2). Interval sessions: max 80% of FTP (or heart rate zone 3)
  • RUNNING: No faster than e-pace (as calculated here)
  • Maximum of 60-90 minutes per day of exercise

And we’ve translated these principles into a multi-sport training schedule as follows:

MONDAY: 

  • BIKE (turbo) – recovery ride, 30 minutes (55% of FTP, heart rate zone 1)

TUESDAY: 

  • BIKE (turbo) – interval session, 60 minutes (including ~30 minutes of intervals @ 80% of FTP, heart rate zone 3)

WEDNESDAY: 

  • RUN – 45 minute e-pace run 
  • SWIM – Swim cord exercises, 10 minutes

THURSDAY: 

  • BIKE (turbo) – interval session, 60 minutes (including ~30 minutes of intervals @ 80% of FTP, heart rate zone 3)
  • S&C – yoga, 20-30 minutes

FRIDAY:

  • RUN – 45 minute e-pace run 
  • SWIM – Swim cord exercises, 10 minutes

SATURDAY:

  • BIKE (turbo) – 75 minute steady ride (Max 70% of FTP, heart rate zone 2)
  • STRENGTH & CONDITIONING: 15 minutes of bodyweight-based exercises 

SUNDAY:

  • RUN – 60 minute e-pace run

As well as the benefits to your immune system, this type of structure, volume and intensity will help you maintain a great level of triathlon-specific fitness throughout this period.

For more info and advice on training during the Coronavirus pandemic, listen to this special edition of the Oxygenaddict Triathlon Podcast

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