A question I received recently was “I was wondering what your opinion was on long ride/long run workouts back to back (for example: Long ride-brick on saturday, Long run on sunday). I have read mixed pros/cons about doing them back to back and was just wondering what your opinion was about it.”

This is a common question, with arguably no right answer. One advantage of having a coach is you can work with your coach to determine when to schedule these workouts.

I feel that the long workout(s) are the most important ones in the week for endurance athletes. Every workout I write is important, and has a purpose, but if you had to prioritize the workouts the long ones come out on top. If a workout is not important, then maybe it shouldn’t be scheduled because rest is also important. Where to place each workout in the week can be a challenge because it has to fit into your schedule where work, school, or other obligations also have to fit in. Most of these other obligations are not very flexible, so the 5-15 workouts per week need to be fit around everything else.

For a lot of athletes there is more time to fit in long workouts on the weekend. The weekend also is a time when it is generally easier to do group workouts, and long workouts can be much more fun with company. I end up scheduling most of my triathletes for a long ride on Saturday (possibly a brick workout), and a long run on Sunday. This combination works because I really want them to get a lot out of the Saturday workout before being too tired, and then do the long run on tired legs. Triathletes have to be familiar with running on tired legs. After this huge training load I will try to give their legs a rest day on Monday. Rest days are relative to the athlete and where they are in their training, so this might be a complete day off, or a swim, or an easier bike ride.

Is the heavy weekend load ideal? Maybe not. A long run during the week might allow the athlete to get more time on the bike with Saturday and Sunday rides. This can be a good approach especially if the long run has a lot of Zone 3 and 4 running in it where I’ll want the athlete to have fresher legs. If I really want to answer the question of what would be ideal, I would have to assume that there were no other obligations, so that long workouts could occur on any day, and there was time for naps and/or relaxation between workouts. Most competitive triathletes are trying to fit in a lot of workouts with an already busy life.

This challenge isn’t unique to triathletes though. Competitive athletes of any sport can also find themselves doing multiple workouts a day. It is pretty common for swimmers to swim an hour in the morning, and two-three hours in the evening. Runners with high mileage may run an easy run in the morning, and then have a focused run in the evening. Cyclist may need to have several workouts during the week that are two-four hours long in addition to long weekend rides.

The question on when to schedule your long workout becomes much more complicated in that you have to schedule all the other workouts too. There may be drill focused workouts, speed days, tempo workouts, recovery workouts, recovery days, core strength and cross training days. Every coach has some of their own preference, but I have found every athlete has a different schedule that can benefit from having personalized plans written and monitored by a personal coach. If one approach isn’t working, then have that discussion with your coach. Below is a (simplified) sample plan for a triathlete with 11-12 workouts per week.

Mon 

Tues 

Wed 

Thurs 

Fri 

Sat 

Sun 

Swim distance 

Run speed 

Run drill

Run tempo 

Swim drill

Long bike

Long run

Or day off 

Bike tempo 

Swim speed

Bike drill

Bike speed

Transition run

 
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