BY: LIZ ELLIOTT
The first and most simple reason for benchmark sets is to give you a starting point of where you are with fitness, strength and speed in each, and give you a measure on which you will see improvement. A good training program, coach, team or club will have athletes complete benchmark sets about every 5-6 weeks.
Another purpose is to help set your training levels and distances appropriately. If you are training harder or longer than your fitness or skill level, you will only get injured. Complete bench- marks to set your interval and repetition paces. Benchmarks push your pace, and show your threshold at the time of completion. When you do the same set again in 5-6 weeks, you will see progress if you are staying with the program.
Benchmark sets also help you set goals. Benchmark sets are completed a couple times each season, and should be done the same way each time to show the most accurate improvement.
Basic benchmark sets:
“º Swim: 10 minute swim for distance. Count your lengths. This gives you a number from which to build.
“º Bike: 8 miles for time. Be aware, every bike benchmark set for a season must be performed on the same stretch of road each time for accuracy. Choose a four mile stretch of fairly flat road, or loop course, with the least amount of cars and no stop lights or signs. Do twice.
“º Run: 2 miles for time OR 20 minutes for distance (Complete the latter if you can not currently run two miles at or under 20 minutes.)
All benchmark sets should be done at a pace so that you feel completely spent at the end, but not going so hard at the beginning that you can not finish. In general, don’t worry about your times the first time. The more you can treat a benchmark practice as any other practice, and relax into the feeling you experience, the better you will do.
Liz Elliott was an All-American collegiate swimmer and is the head coach at Tri-Valley Triathlon Club.
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