For some, the season is well underway, so adding speed work now will help boost your performance. In order to race faster, we need to spend more time at race pace which will allow our bodies and brains to adapt to the effort. Your brain establishes a limit on how much pain it will endure. So the more time you can spend at that level the easier it will feel. Speed work is always a very delicate matter to bring up. Most athletes do not need it and if you enjoy racing ½ ironman events or longer it may not be worth the added recovery and risk of injury with the larger volume of training required. If you do race shorter events speed work will give you a huge boost, but you need to be cautious.
In order to improve fitness an athlete needs a mix of volume and intensity. Finding the proper mix for each athlete is the key. For many the ability to train long hours is not an option. So after about 3 weeks of hitting your maximum volume, that your lifestyle will allow, your body has adapted to the stress and will hit a plateau. So the next step is to train more, which most cannot do. The other option is to slowly add in some speed work, not to exceed 10-15% of total weekly volume. The key here is doing it slowly and allowing for extra rest. You will need to cut back volume first to ensure you absorb and recover from the speed sessions. Below are a few ideas to help incorporate speed into your training.
The goal of triathletes is to be able to swim the distance with as little energy expended as possible. Focusing on technique, proper navigation and drafting will translate into a good swim time. For many speed work may not even be necessary. Avoid trashing yourself in the pool and going into your bike or run sessions tired. If you are a front of the pack swimmer then you are familiar with speed work. The important issues will be proper race execution and using race pace simulation workouts. Race simulation sessions should prepare you for the all out race start, stop and go traffic at turns and bridging the gaps between swim packs.