Why am I not getting fitter/faster?

Aug 1, 2021

The question coaches get asked, why am I not getting fitter or faster? There are a few reasons for this and I ask these questions:

  1. How may sessions for each discipline are you doing a week?
  2. Are you consistently training every week?
  3. Are you doing too much training?

I am going to start with number 2 – consistency! This is the most important aspect for improving fitness, training consistently every week. If you are constantly missing training sessions week on week or training one week then nothing the next week or very little, you will not improve, in fact you will lose fitness, rapidly! If you use Training Peaks, look at your CTL figure (fitness) and how quickly it decreases on the weeks with a lot of red sessions (sessions not done).

Now to number 1, if you are only doing one or two sessions a week in a discipline you will only maintain your fitness in that discipline (unless you are new to exercise or the specific sport). You need to do three or more per discipline to improve. This can be done a number of ways: if you have more time to train then adding an extra one or two sessions in that discipline a week should help it improve (as long as you are not doing too much to be too fatigued). If you are short of time then you can reduce one or both of the other disciplines to one or two sessions a week, for a month or two, to maintain and add extra sessions (three or more) in the one you want to improve, then once it has improved you can drop it to maintenance (one to two sessions) and add a session in the other discipline that you want to work on to bring it up to three or more a week.

We also need to progress fitness each week to improve. If you do the same thing every week you will just maintain your fitness. The body needs to be stressed so that it can repair stronger, if it is not stressed then it has no need to repair stronger as it will already be strong enough to cope with the demand of exercise you are doing. But doing too much high intensity sessions or junk miles can cause too much fatigue & cause the body to break down, causing overtraining, this can completely stop you being able to train or cause your body to be too fatigued to perform & improve.

Training also needs to be specific for the sport/s or races your are participating in to become fitter. If you are only doing yoga but you want to do a triathlon, then all the yoga is not going to prepare you for that triathlon, you need to be swimming, cycling & running and making it specific to the distance of the race you are doing, so if you are doing an Ironman then you need to train your long endurance, if you are doing a sprint then you need to train your speed endurance. Also adding in brick sessions, training at your race pace, on specific routes that have similar elevation to your race, practicing nutrition/hydration strategies or if your goal is just to get round, making sure you can achieve the distances required.

All of this is my job as a triathlon coach, I write progressive training programs targeting athletes goals, strengths and weaknesses and building them to be specific to the race/s they are doing, making sure they peak at the right time and are tapered to perform their best for that race/s. I can manipulate their weekly training to make sure their fitness gradually increases by using a training stress score (which uses heart rate, power or pace data to determine how hard the session is and score it) as long as they do the sessions to the intensity I’ve planned for that week, fitness should improve. Coaches also monitor & can manipulate how fatigued their athletes are, remember we have to stress the body for it to repair stronger, but we need to make sure we do not fatigue it too much that they become overtrained.

It takes dedication to increase fitness but it also needs to be fun, finding a buddy to train with can really help & fire up that competitive nature as well as having a laugh along the way and having that accountability of not letting your training buddy down, or club sessions they are always fun as well as pushing you to work that bit harder, or even online platforms like Zwift or virtual classes to just have others to bounce off.

One final reminder, whatever way you choose to improve your fitness, whether that’s getting a coach, using club sessions, following generic online programs or just doing your own, you need to be consistent, progressive & specific & make it fun of course, this is a hobby after all 😃