Training for time-crunched athletes with Conrad Goeringer | EP#202
Conrad Goeringer is a Nashville-based coach specialising in coaching busy professionals. In this interview, Conrad discusses how he helps athletes leverage their time to achieve their goals and keep improving on a limited time budget for training due to work, family and other obligations.
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In this Episode you'll learn about:
- The importance of training frequency
- How to use intensity smartly and allocate intensity to the three disciplines on a low-volume training plan
- The hierarchy of swimming, biking, and running when time is scarce
- Time-saving strategies to make the most of the time that you do have available
About Conrad Goeringer
Conrad Goeringer is a triathlon coach based in the United States.
His focus is on people who want to achieve more by emphasizing the fundamentals.
His athletes are amateurs who don’t have a lot of time to train but want to do good and achieve more.
How important is training volume?
- Volume is important but it has to be possible for the time-crunched athlete and fit into his/her life
- It depends on the athlete's life schedule but a minimum for any sort of performance-orientation is 6 hours a week. 8 to 10 hours is a solid time-frame for good performance at sprint distance to 70.3. For Ironman distance it would be around 10 hours with a 14 hours a week in race-specific blocks.
- First, I would work on the engine and boosting VO2max and threshold, and later on the specific work.
- For Ironman a lot of athletes over-emphasize the need for massive volume week after week.
- Once you have created the foundation you don’t need to do extremely long sessions.
- This is of course dependent on the athletes ‘time-strapped’ ’life.
Principles of making the most outt of limited time
- The biggest goal is to extract fitness benefits from workouts as efficiently as possible.
- Frequency leads to more total quality and less trauma on the body. When working out more frequently you have more agility with the workouts.
- At least 3 bike sessions a week, 4 run sessions a week and 2 swim sessions is what we should strive for.
- Frequency and consistency are more important than overall volume. This can be done by shortening the sessions.
- We need to take into consideration the athlete’s talent, limiters, strengths and goals for the specific race the athlete is training for. A good swimmer needs less attention to the swim.
- In most cases emphasizing the bike leads to a better race.
- Making the most of the limited time means minimizing commuting for training. Having an indoor trainer is a must, ideally in combination with a power meter.
- The swim-run brick session is also a very effective training method.
- For swimming, the VASA swim trainer is also a good option to minimize travel and being able to build swim strength and technique.
Key sessions and intensity in a typical week
- A greater percentage of the intensity load should be allocated to the bike.
- You can go harder on the bike consistently from a perspective of injury prevention. It also benefits a lot from the intensity.
- The athletes I work with often have an extreme delta between threshold on the bike and on the run. This is often due to cycling strength.
- In general, I tend to see a delta of 10 beats per minute. In one case I had an athlete with a difference of 20 beats per minute. Better cycling strength improves that delta. Higher intensity is important for building cycling fitness.
- Professionals do a lot of time in zone 1 and 2 because they have the time. For time-crunched athletes, you can have massive gains by doing focused work. This is ideally indoors with a power meter. The focus is on getting as fast as possible.
- The minimum time you have to spend in a certain zone is important in that focus. For example, for a VO2 session, 18 to 22 minutes of intense work is a good duration. For Sweet Spot work, it’s more like 50 minutes a week. So sessions can be short. For 70.3-specificity, 90 minutes at 80 to 85 per cent of threshold power is the goal.
- For the run, volume is the most important component. It’s the discipline which is the most injury-prone. Run frequency is important. You need to integrate high-intensity running but for most age-groupers volume and frequency are more important.
- Hill work is a great way to build strength, with less shocks through the body. Hill reps on the treadmill is a great way. Doing cruise intervals, for example, repetitions of 2 minutes flat + 2 minutes uphill + 2 minutes flat, gives intensity with less trauma.
- So the key for running is frequency and volume over intensity. When you reach a higher volume like 25-30 miles a week, you can start integrating intensity.
- For swimming, every swim session should have intensity. Threshold intensity is one of the best bang for the buck type of sessions. For example, 100 to 200-meter intervals with short rest. If you can swim 3 times a week, it's good to have an endurance session with longer intervals, a threshold session and a technique session with drills which are productive. Again, frequency is important, maintaining the feel for the water.
- For people who don’t have access to the pool, the VASA trainer is a great tool.
Key sessions on the bike
I’m a big fan of Sweet Spot, or upper zone 3 work. Doing long intervals at this intensity for at least 40 minutes.
We also have VO2 sessions at extremely high intensity at above 105% of FTP, almost all out and short. For example, intervals in the range of 2:30 to a maximum of 5 minutes.
Studies say 30-second-intervals are incredibly effective. Workouts I often prescribe are 10 x 30” at 120 - 130% of FTP with equal recovery, followed by 3’ rest. This set would be repeated 3 times. Because the rest interval is so short the heart rate is always high and you can reap the benefits more efficiently.
Next to those we have threshold workouts like 2 x 15’ at threshold intensity.
But I think Sweet Spot and VO2-workouts are more important than threshold.
I’m also a fan of cadence workouts. Contrasting low and very high cadence. You can include this in sweetspot workouts.
How to allocate time between swimming, biking and running based on your strengths and weaknesses
You can see where your weaknesses are by comparing your results in each discipline in a race to the rest of the field. For example, if you are at the back in the swim but you are in the top 50% for the other disciplines, your swim is a weakness.
You have to ask yourself how much can you improve.
For those athletes that need to improve their swim, they need to spend more time in the water. This means more than 2 to 3 times a week.
Swimming and running both really benefit from time doing the activity. It takes a little bit of time for these disciplines to progress. Frequency is important. It’s important to know how to allocate load around disciplines.
Practically this means working with blocks. If there is a weakness, e.g. the swim, and you need to reallocate time, replacing a run with a swim is a good approach. You can also add short 20 to 30 minutes swim sessions to get a further feel for the water. And in your normal swim to run brick (e.g. 40’ - 40’), allocate more to the swim. Or when you have a run planned, have a shorter run and put in a short swim.
Recovery for time-crunched triathletes
In a lower volume plan there are more high-intensity sessions. This means recovery is paramount, otherwise, you don’t gain the benefits.
Sleep is the number one factor for recovery. A minimum of 7hours is required.
Nutrition and hydration are also important.
You can also use other tools like massages, yoga, stretching, meditation etc.
Not doing anything (carving out blank time) is a very good way to get rid of physical but also life stress.
Time management, making time and saving time
The swim-run brick is an example of it.
A rule that I have is understanding that doing something is better than doing nothing. A workout doesn’t have to be 1 hour or more to be effective. Every time you work out your body gets fitter.
A general rule I have is 30 minutes and 45 minutes a day but consistently (although for Ironman training you would need more).
You can scale down the warm-up and cool down.
It’s important to figure out a structure for the week but it has to be modular. For example, if you are travelling, focus on the run. Do the key swim and bike sessions just before you leave and when you come back.
When maximizing performance, there is the importance of body composition. Strive for good body composition and training will be easier, racing faster. To this end, strength training (even short sessions) are important.
Time-efficient strength training
Bodyweight exercises are an example. If you don’t have time to go to the gym you can do exercises using your bodyweight. These exercises have to be efficient. For example, unilateral glute bridges, single-leg squats, leg raises and different core work. These are things that can be done basically anywhere.
In general, it’s focusing on strengthening the muscles that matter, which are used in the three disciplines.
Other equipment to use includes kettlebells, elastic bands, and a pull-up bar.
A good approach is to minimise the travel time by making a small home-based gym.
Rapid Fire Questions
- What is your favourite book, blog or resource related to running, triathlon or endurance sports?
- What is a personal habit that has helped you achieve success?
- Waking up early
- What do you wish you had known or done differently at some point in your career?
- I wish I hadn't had the mindset of 'I have to win' and I had known that I can't control what happens in the race, only how I respond to what happens.
To maximise limited time training, you need frequency and consistency in your training. These can be short sessions of 30 to 45 minutes. It’s better to do something than nothing at all.
If you don’t have a lot of time to train, focusing on VO2 and Sweet Spot training (in particular on the bike) is important.
For running it’s important to have frequency and some volume in your running before hitting the harder sessions.
Links, resources and contact
Links and resources mentioned
- Working Triathlete - Conrad's website
- 8 indoor bike training software options: overviews and interviews | EP#157
- “How Should I Use My X Hours of Training Time per Week?” with AJ Johnson | EP#134
- Balancing a Big Life with Big Performance - Matt Dixon | EP#60
- Develop swim technique and power with the Vasa Trainer and Rob Sleamaker | EP#46
- Time management and balance with Amy Farrell | EP#37
- Strategies and Hacks for the Time-crunched Triathlete | EP#10
Connect with Conrad
Connect with host Mikael Eriksson
Hi! I'm your host Mikael,
I am a full-time triathlon coach and an ambitious age-group triathlete. My goal is podium at the Finnish national championships within the next few years.
I first started the website Scientific Triathlon in autumn 2015 as a passion project to share my learnings with a larger triathlon audience. Later on, in early 2017 I started the podcast That Triathlon Show.
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