For many triathletes focused on sprint and Olympic distance events, this time of the year is marked by a move to higher intensity anaerobic training. You have built a strong foundation with endurance base training over the winter and spring months, and now it’s time to prepare for those upcoming races by adding intervals in Zones 5b-5c to your training. These intensity levels help to develop anaerobic endurance and the capacity to manage high levels of lactate—that metabolic by-product that accumulates during short course racing.
Below are swimming, cycling and running versions of a workout appropriately termed oxygen debt drills, or OD drills. The point of this workout is to put you into oxygen debt and keep you there while your body tries to manage the high levels of lactate.
For this workout, think quality over quantity. The duration of the work periods is short, but the intensity level is high. With that in mind, be sure to warm up thoroughly; and—even though you may feel like plopping down in a recliner as soon as you finish—warm down thoroughly to clear out the lactate that builds up during the session.
Swim: Oxygen Debt Drills in the Pool
Warm up thoroughly (e.g. 5 x 200 free, kick, non-free, pull, drill). Swim 200 free at maximum effort. Take 20 seconds rest; then go immediately into 12 x 25 maximum effort sprints with a 10 second rest interval. Swim or pull 500 free in Zone 1 for recovery. Warm down (e.g. 200 easy backstroke).
Bike: Oxygen Debt Drills on the Trainer
For cycling, it’s best to do this workout on your trainer, which gives you tighter control over the workout environment. Warm up thoroughly for 20-30 minutes. Bike 3 minutes at maximum effort followed by 1 minute easy spin; then immediately go into 12 x 30 second intervals at maximum effort with 30 seconds easy spin in between. Warm down thoroughly (e.g. 10-20 minutes).
Run: Oxygen Debt Drills on the Track
For running, it’s best to do this workout on a 400-m track (although it can easily be adapted to a treadmill). Warm up thoroughly for 20-30 minutes. Run 600 meters at maximum effort. Then, jog to the beginning of the nearest straightaway and begin 12 x 100 meters at maximum effort with an easy jog across the infield in between to get you to the start of the next straightaway. Warm down thoroughly (e.g. 10-20 minutes).
Oxygen debt drills can be a useful tool in your repertoire as you enter final preparations for top priority short course races—that is, as long as they are used strategically. Don’t OD on OD drills and you will benefit from what they have to offer.
This article also appeared in the Colorado Triathlete.