Top pros share some of their favorite hammer sessions
By Matt Fizgerald
Feb. 21, 2008 -- What makes pro triathletes like Normann Stadler and Belinda Granger so strong on the bike? Obviously, natural talent is part of the equation. But even these genetic lottery winners wouldn’t be able to crank out such stunning bike splits if they didn’t train effectively.
You can’t borrow the pros’ genes, but you can take a page from their training logs. With this idea in mind, we asked five of the strongest cyclists in triathlon to share one or two of their favorite workouts. While not all age groupers will benefit from doing these workouts precisely as the pros do them, every athlete can gain by adapting these sessions to suit his or her unique goals.
Faris Al-Sultan (GER)
Strength-booster: “If there are no mountains around, put on the hardest gear you have and push for a certain time. At the beginning of the season, do 3 x 8 minutes. Build up to 3 x 30 minutes at the end of the season. Spin easy for five to 10 minutes between intervals, and maintain a high cadence between intervals. Stay in the saddle, or even better, in the aero position.”
Ultra-long ride: “Don't think about swimming or running for one day. Take a day and just ride your bike easy but long—up to 300km (186 miles). Take enough money and bars and gels with you.”
Belinda Granger (AUS)
Strength-endurance session: “This session was suggested to me by mountain biker extraordinaire Paul Rowney. It’s basically a strength-endurance hill repeat session with a 20-minute time trial to finish. After an easy 25km (15.5-mile) warm-up ride to the base of the climb I am ready to perform six hill repeats in descending gears, each climb under seven minutes with a recovery spin back down the hill after each climb.
I begin in the 53-23 and then perform two in the 53-21, two in the 53-19 and the last one in the 53-17. All are done seated, and every other work interval is done in the aero position. After completion of the last ascent I go straight into 20 minutes of time trailing on the flats. Once I am back to my starting point, I spin 25km back home.
I like this session because it really, really hurts, and let’s face it, we triathletes love to hurt ourselves. I also think it makes you incredibly strong.”
Michellie Jones (AUS)
Tough trainer set: “The trainer is very time-efficient. In one hour you can get a great workout that would take a lot more time to duplicate on the road. I love doing 5 x 5 minutes with 5 minutes’ rest between efforts. You can modify this workout for Olympic-distance races by making sure each effort is close to 80 to 85 percent of your max heart rate. Or, for Ironman training, you can do these efforts between 65 to 70 percent of you max heart rate. Warm up and cool down for 10 to 20 minutes, so your total workout is between 65 and 85 minutes.”
Normann Stadler (GER)
Ironman-distance hammer: “My main workout every week during the season is a 180km (112-mile) ride. During the ride there is no talking, just hard riding. The average is about 36 to 37km per hour (22 to 23 mph) on a not-easy course. It’s like the group ride in San Diego every Wednesday. I only stop quickly for a drink, and that’s it. The main reason I am good on the bike is that I love pushing hard and feeling the pain (and seeing other guys suffering)!”
Emma Snowsill (AUS)
80km negative-split ride: “Ride 20km easy, 20km at a moderate pace, 20km at a moderately hard pace and 20km hard. I use this session more in the off-season. It is good on the days when you are feeling tired and do not feel like being a slave to the stopwatch. This session should be done by feel and teaches you to pace yourself. It is good for building strength also.”