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British triathlete Vicky Holland reveals her top 10 tips for eking out the maximum gains in the minimum time, so work, weather and fading daylight hours never hamper your fight for fitness


With three disciplines to juggle, even professional triathletes soon discover that time can be their toughest adversary – especially when the harsh British winter closes in. To help you stay on track, Leeds-based triathlete Vicky Holland – who represented Great Britain at London 2012, earned an individual bronze medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games (plus gold in the mixed triathlon team relay for England, to add to her world relay titles for Great Britain in 2012 and 2014); and won the Cape Town edition of the 2015 ITU World Triathlon Series in April – reveals 10 ways to optimise your triathlon training time.

1: It’s time to get organised

“The biggest thing as we head towards winter is to be more conscious of your time: you get limited daylight hours so scheduling your day is really important. If you stick to a weekly routine it will ensure you don’t miss key training sessions and you don’t lose any balance between

your swim, cycle and run training. You don’t want to cram your sessions into one or two days, just because the weather might be better, because it is harder to refuel and recover and you will get tired. I normally swim in the morning, cycle in the middle of the day and run later on. Figure out your own schedule based on your work and lifestyle.”

2: Bolt on more brick sessions

“For amateur athletes who have to manage training sessions around job commitments, brick sessions are a fantastic way to get great gains when you don’t have much time. Throughout the summer we do a hard bike-run session and some people do a swim-bike session too. If you have an hour in the evening, try mixing up a high-intensity bike session with a short, hard run. It’s a really high-quality session and it doesn’t need to last more than an hour or an hour and a half.”

3: Focus on your swim technique

“The best way to make progress in relatively little time is to focus on your swimming. A lot of people have not done any technical training since they were kids and you can make massive gains by getting input from swim coaches or by joining a swim club. A lot of training venues have “endless pools” (small, self-contained training pools in which you swim against a current), so you can have your technique monitored by video analysis. It’s not just for professionals any more. A good swim technique will really improve your performance in a short space of time.”

4: Team up with a chain gang

“As a professional triathlete I am lucky enough to cycle 16 hours a week over winter but once a week we also do a chain gang and it’s a really good way to train if you’re short of time. Most local clubs have some form of chain gang: you meet later in the day, about 6.30pm, so it’s after work, and you put in a good hour of training in a group. It will improve your fitness because you are working hard in a group – normally in a ‘through and off’ sequence, with everyone taking turns at the front – but you will also improve your bikehandling skills so you get a really high-quality training session and technical gains too.”

5: Hit the hills for vertical gains

“Hill reps on the bike are a really good way to improve your strength and fitness without taking up too much time. Try to mix them up. They can be longer hill reps of 8-10 minutes to build strength and an economical technique, shorter reps of 3-4 minutes to build power, or intense 1-minute intervals for explosive power and speed.”

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6: Pump up your pace with plyometrics

“For most age-group athletes a good way to quickly improve your running performance is to do plyometric work. You can start with just bouncing on the spot, trying to keep your knees relatively straight as you do so. Then you can progress to bounding and hopping, focusing on using the elasticity of your tendons as opposed to your calves and feet. These plyometric drills help initiate the correct motor processes for good technique when you run and increase your stride length.”

7: Speed up with intervals

“When you’re running, make the most of whatever time you have by doing intervals. I tend to do hard sessions in the morning or the evening so I mix it up a bit. Even on a short run if you do interval efforts of 4 minutes, 3 minutes, 2 minutes and 1-minute, with a short recovery in between each effort, it’s a really good quality session.”

8: Galvanise your body against injury

“Every triathlete knows that if you start getting injured you lose even more training time. I do two structured sessions in the gym every week and the main aim is injury-prevention. A lot of it is about glute activation to prevent lower-limb injury. A glute circuit might be four minutes of clam holds and cycling crunches. You can introduce a Theraband to make it harder. Core exercises are also important: V-sits, Swiss ball holds and side planks will all help to keep your core strong so you can maintain good form.”

9: Never run out of fuel

“If you are short on training time you need to make the most of each session – and that means eating well. The night before I train I will have maybe risotto, spaghetti Bolognese, chilli, jacket potatoes, or fajitas – I might even go wild and make a pie. Make sure you are always getting enough fuel for

your training so you can go out hard.”

10: Have fun with friends

“If you’re going to train when maybe the weather isn’t so good, you have to enjoy it. I like to train in a group and we often go for bike rides to a coffee shop in the Dales where I enjoy a flapjack, a scone or a cake. If you keep your training fun with friends you will find it easier to get out and give it your best.”

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Vicky Holland was speaking ahead of the Vitality World Triathlon London in Hyde Park.

Words: Mark Bailey Pictures: British Triathlon