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Book review: Friel’s new book 'Your Best Triathlon' is a great reference tool & guide to smart training

Posted Jan 18 2011 9:09am

Joe_frieL Joe Friel’s new book “Your Best Triathlon: Advanced Training for Serious Triathletes” takes his Training Bible series to a new level of sophistication and detail. Friel writes from a coach’s perspective, tackling all race distances in a well-organized, easy-to-follow format.

Friel, a veteran coach of more than 30 years, offers a vast knowledge of coaching in the book, but he also recognizes that the field of exercise science is constantly evolving and stays current with what’s working now. Thus, “Your Best Triathlon” offers a lot of updated information since his last Training Bible book, including modified approaches to training (more emphasis on recovery, sport psychology and so on).

What’s more, I think Friel does better than ever at balancing the science and art of coaching in this book in a way that makes sense. On one hand, the book is a guide on creating a scientifically sound annual periodized training program with all the nitty-gritty daily workout details. On the flip side, Friel grasps the art of coaching and goes beyond practical material to discuss common issues triathletes face and what it takes to achieve a higher level of success—.

What results is a highly informative, comprehensive book that’s a must-have for self-coached triathletes, coaches and all triathletes for that matter.

So how about a little more of what’s you’ll find in the pages…

The Science

The layout of the book itself represents the progression of a well-planned season: The majority of chapters are divided into training phases that together make up an annual season in a periodized fashion. Friel goes by a fairly traditional periodized format and the phases include: Prep, Base 1-3, Build 1-2, Peak, Race and Transition.

Within each phase he provides the phase length for each type of athlete, objectives, actual workouts, testing and more.

Sample weekly training plans for each phase are presented at the end of the chapter (a regular week and recovery week Monday through Sunday for all distances). Make sure you learn his unique jargon to distinguish types of workouts prescribed—i.e. muscular endurance, speed skills, aerobic endurance, force, etc. Don’t worry, the basics are covered in Chapter 2 and throughout. Plus, he uses symbols and special formatting for added ease of understanding.

Friel also provides an easy way to create individual training zones based on lactate threshold heart rate tests. This is different and arguably easier than some tests presented in the Training Bible books. There are charts throughout the book (and in the appendix at the end) where you line up your LTHR to find your HR range for a particular zone.

One thing to note: Friel lays out a stringent training plan in terms of volume and intensity. His training time per week range from eight to 14-plus hours just for sprint racing, and nine to 16-plus hours for Ironman. This requires a basic knowledge of one’s self—i.e. you should basic understanding of what your body can and can’t handle so you don’t do too much or too little. Which takes me to the art side of things…

The Art

With his years of experience, Friel knows there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all plan. That’s where the art comes into play. Friel lays out the guidelines and coaches you on customizing your season and training based on your needs. His goal as “your coach” is to facilitate quality training and develop a well-rounded athlete.

That said, Friel discusses tons of issues triathletes will probably face at some point, and he gives solutions. This begins starting in Chapter 1 then continues throughout chapters in a section called “Coaching Tips.” Among the topics included: effective race planning, the art of peaking, training/racing terrain, weather concerns, dealing with holidays, nutrition, weight management, getting sick, missing workouts, training partners, pacing and so on.

Of particular note is a reoccurring topic of “Mindset” where Friel addresses sport psychology with ways to improve your mental game and achieve greater success.

He also drills in certain messages, such as the critical value of consistent and smart training (only a coach will understand how some triathletes will inevitably lack motivation sometimes while others will want to go hard 100 percent of the time). But he lays it all out in real terms: why you should maintain consistency above all and why you shouldn’t make every training session a race.

By now you might be thinking, what hasn’t he covered? I agree

Final Thoughts

First: My only problem with this book is with how some of the information is presented. I do like how the bulk of the chapters are organized into training phases. However, the actual day-to-day workouts are too scattered about within each chapter. I would have liked to see a “workout library” for each phase or in the appendix. Plus, you have to have a solid understanding of Friel’s unique workout jargon in order to understand his weekly plans—that got a little confusing for me at times.

Second: Friel’s plan is no joke. It’s truly geared toward the serious triathlete and lays down a serious training regimen—to follow it to a tee you have to have time and freedom to let training rule your life for months on end. That said, I think most everyday triathletes will probably need to modify schedules because “life happens.” However, it’s important to see what an “ideal” training plan looks like.

Third: Whether you’re a self-coached athlete or a coach, this book is worth checking out. Friel addresses the latest in coaching, exercise science and triathlon—all of which are constantly evolving. For the athlete, this book is a great reference tool and guide to smart training; it will help you discover more about yourself and grow as an athlete. For the coach, it gives a perspective on how a veteran coach is doing it and will help know what to look for and address with your athletes.

"Your Best Triathlon" is available online at HERE at Amazon.com, or HERE at VeloPress, or at a book store near you.

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Velo Press (December 1, 2010)

Tawnee Tawnee Prazak is a Triathlete, USA Triathlon Coach, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (NSCA), personal trainer, exercise science grad student, freelance writer.

You can read more of her knowledgeable advice on her most excellent blog HERE .

Follow on twitter @ everymantri or view latest videos on YouTube .


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