Training for triathlon is no easy feat, much less when you add working out with a job and a family. So we thought who better to turn to for advice than the people that have successfully balanced the juggling act than the fastest age groupers in the world. In our first installment of workout Wednesday features, we lucked out with advice from both an accomplished athlete and a successful triathlon coach. Stephen Farrell served as the New Zealand High Performance Director from 2004 to 2008 and last year won his age group in London. Check out his favourite swim, bike and run sessions to add some flavour to your weekly workouts.
Stephen John Farrell
How did you get involved in triathlon?
Off-season training for basketball at the Les Mills Triathlon, Auckland, NZ, back in 1983. I swam breaststroke for the swim leg
How often you train?
Most days, two or three sessions per day - with one or two very easy days per week.
Best training advice:
Take the time to seek out a good training group or some good training partners. It’s good to train alone occasionally but training with others makes it so much more fun, pushes you more and makes you more accountable.
What motivates you to race?
Tweaking the training programme, trying new things, testing them during a race… all these things add to the fun of racing. Fundamentally though, I like training and being fit and healthy as much as (maybe even more than) racing. The racing is just the “icing on the cake.”
Picking my favourite workout is a tough call. I like the workouts leading into racing season because of the excitement of a race just around the corner but I also like the off-season when we can forget about racing and chose from a multitude of adventure runs, road rides, or mountain bike rides around the upper North Island of New Zealand. The three workouts below are some of my many “favourites”.
This is a workout we do during our Saturday morning swim/bike/run workout while we’re training through the winter in our build-up to the ITU World Champs (always at the end of the European summer/Southern hemisphere winter). We’ll usually swim this set in the transition from base to speed work. We train in a 33-metre pool but the same set can be done with 50m recovery in a 25 or 50m pool. Our fast lane of elite athletes will easily get through this in an hour and our slow lane will get through five or six reps of the main set before the warm down.
Warm up - 400m easy
3 x 66 bands only (Rest 15 second)
3 x 66 as: 33 fly / 33 free with butterfly kick with bands – fins optional, rest 10 seconds
8 x (200 free at 1500m race pace, 66 easy recovery as below, rest 10-20 seconds)
1, 4, and 7: 33 back / 33 free
2, 5, and 8: 33 breast / 33 free
3, and 6: 33 double arm back / 33 free
warm down 200m
Saturday morning summer criterium - For six months of summer our Saturday morning swim/bike/run training moves from the pool to Takapuna Beach on Auckland’s North Shore. My favourite cycling workout is a 30 minute criterium we do most Saturdays during summer, after the swim. We cycle from the beach for about 15 minutes to a fairly flat 3k box course with one sharp hill that gives anyone the chance to attack. Those that are feeling good can go straight to the front and attack the whole ride. For those who aren’t feeling so sharp or having an easy day; just sit in the bunch and watch all the action! The fast bunch almost always gets in six laps within the 30 minutes (unless there’s a howling south-west wind). Their reward - an extra lap at pace! (spoken like a true coach)
It’s hard to beat this one during the transition from base to speed work. We usually do this on the same circuit close to home. It’s a mix of hills and flat which means we get some strength work on the uphills and some leg speed on the downhills. If I get it right, I’ll negative split the three efforts. If I get too excited and try to stay with the young ones, I’ll blow apart on the last rep and then it’s not my favourite run workout anymore!
10 minutes - warm up
3 x 10 minutes at half marathon pace with 5 minutes easy jog between