Shimano Xtr Fc bike components, Shimano Cranks, Front Derailleur Direct Mount, parts. Triathlon training is like a cake. If you want to bake a cake that tastes really good, you must first select the right ingredients and then you must combine these ingredients in the right proportions. In triathlon training, the ingredients are different types of workouts that target a range of exercise intensities.
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To maximize the fitness you gain from your training, you need to do some workouts that target low intensity, others aimed at moderate intensity, and still others that focus on high intensity. As for proportions, the best results are achieved when low intensity accounts for 80 percent of total training time, and moderate and high intensity together account for the remaining 20 percent. This is the recipe for endurance fitness.
Stretching our metaphor a little further, suppose a child asked you to help her bake a cake and she proposed that the two of you proceed by identifying the best possible ingredient and making the cake out of that one ingredient. Unless you are an even worse cook than we are, you would probably explain to the child that what makes a cake better than any single ingredient that goes into it is how the flavors of all the ingredients combine.
Again, triathlon training is similar. In the popular media and general fitness culture, low-intensity and even moderate-intensity exercise get little respect, while high-intensity workouts are constantly hyped. Magazine and Internet articles, fitness club franchises, and television advertisements for exercise equipment suggest that high intensity is simply “better” than low and moderate intensity. Implicit in these comparisons is the idea that low-, moderate-, and high-intensity exercise all affect the body in fundamentally the same ways, but the effects at high intensity are bigger.
In reality, different intensities contribute to fitness in diverse ways, just as individual ingredients contribute distinct flavors to a cake. While there aren’t many “experts” who recommend that endurance athletes include only one ingredient namely, high intensity in their training recipe (although there are some), the popular notion that high intensity affects the body in the same way as low and moderate intensity, only more so, does incline many triathletes to undervalue and underutilize low and moderate intensities. A glance at the science shows why all three intensity ranges are essential ingredients in the recipe for endurance fitness.
Another benefit of low intensity is improvement in the ability of the muscles to use fat as fuel. In essence, this gives athletes a bigger fuel tank to draw upon during races, enabling them to go faster and farther without hitting the wall. The capacity to burn fat at a high rate is especially important in longer triathlons, and low-intensity workouts do the best job of enhancing this capacity.
Fatigue resistance is further enhanced by low-intensity exercise through brain-based mechanisms. During exercise, the brain works just as hard as the muscles, because it is the brain that drives the muscles, after all. Hence, the brain gets tired just as the muscles do whenever an exercise effort continues to the point of exhaustion. But muscle fatigue and brain fatigue contribute to exhaustion in different degrees at different intensities. If you swim, bike, or run to exhaustion at a very high intensity, muscle fatigue is greater than brain fatigue. But if you exercise to exhaustion at a lower intensity, a process that takes much longer, it is the brain that is more fatigued at the end.
This is important, because improvements in fatigue resistance come from exposure to fatigue. Just as you must tire out your muscles so as to make them more resistant to tiring out in future workouts, you must fatigue your brain to enhance its fatigue resistance. By exposing the brain to higher fatigue levels, prolonged training at low intensity improves fatigue resistance in the brain more than shorter workouts at high intensity do. And while these changes may have the greatest benefits for longer races, it is likely that they have some effect on performance in endurance races of all distances.
The brain also plays a crucial role in regulating and improving technique in the water, on the bike, and on foot. Every single time you execute a running stride, a freestyle swim stroke, or a pedal rotation on your bike, your brain and muscles are communicating with your brain using feedback from your muscles to look for little shortcuts that will allow you to complete the next stride or stroke or rotation with less energy. This process happens unconsciously and automatically, and it never ceases. Intensity doesn’t matter. What matters is repetition.
Because it takes a lot longer to get tired at low intensity than it does at high intensity, low-intensity workouts offer far greater opportunity to practice and refine technique. Case studies involving elite endurance athletes such as marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe indicate that while VO2max typically peaks in the early twenties in these athletes, efficiency continues to improve for many years afterward, a trend that is associated with accumulated low-intensity training and is largely responsible for improved race performances.