The Time-Crunched Triathlete

I recently read ‘The Time-Crunched Triathlete’ by Chris Carmichael. Chris Carmichael (CM) is a former professional cyclist and was Lance Armstrong’s personal coach during his seven years as Tour de France champion. The aim of the book is to guide self-coached athletes with limited time to ‘race winning’ fitness in a maximum of 8 hours per week. The book has programs for both sprint and standard distance triathlons at both intermediate and advanced levels. There is also a middle distance program i.e. half ironman, as research by USAT has shown a significant number of triathletes move up to this distance within a few years of entering the sport.

I am not aware of anyone in the club that is the heir or heiress to a family fortune that will allow them give up work to train 30 hour plus a week like a pro. I could be wrong though. Fitting in training for the three disciplines within triathlon in a working week can be tough. The book explains how to use low volume, high intensity training with adequate recovery to get the best out of your limited training time. Brick sessions i.e. combining two disciplines in a single workout, are a big feature of the programs.

The first three chapters (A Fresh Outlook for Triathlon, The Science of the Time-Crunched Triathlete Program and Control and Insight: Monitoring Your Training) are very informative chapters. CM points out why traditional training programs do not work for some people, how high intensity training works and the physiological changes that occur as a result and how to use Carmichael Training Systems (CTS) field tests to determine the training intensities to be used in the programs. The field tests are easy to perform with minimal equipment. I did the bike and run tests over the weekend which was an interesting exercise. It’s been a while since I have performed one all out effort let alone three in one day!

The fourth chapter, Integrated Nutrition for Superior Performance, is interesting and provides some very good information but it is plainly obvious the CM is sponsored by GU nutritional products. This blatant plugging of products annoys me! Some of what he has written about hydration e.g. 1.5 litres of fluid per hour on the bike on a hot day, I also feel is excessive. Our thirst mechanism is highly developed. There is a growing body of evidence to support drinking ad libitum or ‘at one’s pleasure’. As far as I am aware, no one has died during a sporting event from dehydration, there are numerous cases of people dying from hyponatremia (generally the result of drinking excessive amounts of plain water which causes a low concentration of sodium in the blood). Of course he does recommend drinking GU Electrolyte Brew to help maintain the correct electrolyte balance!

The next four chapters (Workouts and Training Programs, Racing to Your Strengths, Stepping Up to 70.3 and Strength Training on Limited Time) are also full of sound advice. There are small things that I disagree with e.g. comments made about stroke rate per minute and stroke length, but generally the information presented is both readable and informative. CM is very open about out the limitations of The Time-Crunched Triathlete approach when it comes to middle distance racing in the Stepping Up to 70.3 chapter. He says right from the outset that the program will get you to the finish in good shape but will not result in a ‘race winning’ performance.

If you are interested in learning about the theory behind high intensity training to improve triathlon performance and you would like to gain a better understanding of exercise physiology and nutrition I would recommend this book. I don’t agree with everything written but I still think it is a good read. In the first chapter he writes ‘The triathlon community is one of the most supportive, positive and encouraging environments in all of sport’. I am sure that after the TCR show last week many of you will agree. I’ll bring my copy to training on Sunday and you can have a flick through and see what you think.

This Sunday is our technique development session. Bring those fins, pull buoys and paddles if you have them. The run session is a mix of 10km and 5km pace intervals finishing with the faster ones of course!

See you Sunday. Tim (LFTC Coach)