This review comes well overdue, but conveniently at a time when many of us are drafting our 2013 training schedules.
I picked up this book during a trip to Toronto in the fall of 2011. I had never made my own training plan before, just kind of did what my friends were doing, and what I had time for. Having signed up for my third half ironman, Mont-Tremblant 70.3, I wanted a good race, and knew I needed to teach myself how. I strolled into Chapters, and this title caught my eye. Yes, Mr. Friel, I would like to compete in my “best triathlon”.
The decision to purchase this book was a good one, and if your curious, yes, it did help me train for and race my best triathlon.
Joe Friel is a household name in the triathlon world. He literally wrote the bible on training for triathlon. This book, his most recent treatise on the subject, is arguably his best yet. The book thoroughly explains the method behind the principles of triathlon training. Starting from the moment you pick your race and set your goal in Part I, Friel’s book is written from the perspective of your coach. In Parts II, III, and IV, the various training blocks (“Prep”, “Base 1”, “Base 2”, “Base 3”, “Build 1”, “Build 2”, “Peak”, and Race”) are first explained, and followed by a 4 week training plan for Sprint, Olympic, Half Iron, and Ironman distance triathlons. Each training plan follows the principles of periodization, meaning the closer in time you get to your race, the more race-like the workouts become. The book is chalk full of essential information for understanding the objectives behind each periodized training phase. All of the bases are covered; from how to troubleshoot training interruptions, to how to prepare your mind for the race, to nutrition, to strength, to transitioning between races… Friel has left no stone unturned in this book.
My approach to using this book was to read Chapters 1-3 (“Your Race”, “Your Fitness”, “Your Training”, respectively) first, and then to read Chapters 4-11 as I began each respective “block” of training.
The chapters all follow the same layout: overview of the block, objectives, coaching tips, workout descriptions, and a 4 week training plan for each distance. Generally, the training plans are as follows: MWF strength, TThSat Swim + Run, WFSun Bike. As training progresses, optional workouts in each sport are added, making the training plans flexible for athletes tight on time, such as myself.
At the end of every 4 week training block, Friel advocates threshold testing in each of the three sports, so that training for the next block can be adjusted properly. The tests are not always the same. For example, an early block may call for a 20 minute run test as hard as possible, taking a heart rate reading in the final 10 minutes. The next block may require a 20 minute aerobic time trial, or measuring pace against a given heart rate.
Every workout within the block, and within the weekly schedule (“Microcycle”), has a purpose – to improve on the basic abilities required for triathlon. These are: aerobic endurance, speed skills (cadence, etc), force, muscular endurance, anaerobic endurance, and power. The prescribes workouts are given in time and sets, and according to heart rate. Friel is big on heart rate, and advocates this (and sometimes power) as a measure of your training progress.
This book taught me more about how to train for a triathlon than anything I had ever read. It is a complete guide; a great reference.
I had this book with me everywhere I went for the months leading up to Tremblant. It is a great reference. Friel is “there for you” through every aspect of your training. In the days leading up to my race, I would leaf through the book to get advice on what I should be doing in my final pre-race workouts, and how I should be mentally preparing for the race.
Training with a purpose increased my motivation to never miss a workout. Friel helps you understand that each workout; each week; each block, are pieces to the puzzle. Understanding how they fit together to form your fortress of fitness is key to building fitness.
I personally found that while heart rate training is excellent for running, and helps the time pass quickly on the trainer, it is totally impractical for swimming. I prefer to swim by feel, and for time. Whereas one of Friel’s workouts may say to do a set of 5 x 200m at “Zone 4”; I would much rather do 5 x 200m at a moderately hard pace, on a 4:00 interval – something like that. But the great thing about the book is it’s all adaptable.
Some athletes prefer to open a book up to a table of training plans, and just do the work prescribed. This book requires you to first read to understand, then complete the workouts. If you simply tore out the training plans and did the workouts, you would be cheating yourself.
It worked. I had a personal best half ironman this year at Tremblant. It wasn’t a perfect race, and I have a lot to work on, but it was my best triathlon. I did buy some new training books this fall based on recommendations from friends, but I will continue to use Friel’s template and methods this year in training for Timberman 70.3 next August.
I would give this book 5 stars, and highly recommend it to compliment your arsenal of training tools.
I paid full cover price for my copy of this book, and these comments are my personal opinion and interpretation. I did not receive any kind of endorsement from anyone, but if you are interested in picking up a copy, Amazon has these books on for $16 CDN which is a steal.