It is always difficult to right a ‘one size fits all’ triathlon training plan. The reason being is that there is really no such thing. We are all individuals with different backgrounds, different genetics and different levels of experience. So what I have tried to do with this plan is aim at the three different time thresholds and planned the sessions in the last, critical six-week period, required to achieve these goals. This last block of your build-up is completely dependent on what you have done in the previous two months and that training will determine, firstly how much training you will be able to tolerate and also the level of output that you will be able to achieve in these sessions.
The SUB FIVE schedule has both more volume and intensity than the other two schedules. This program is aimed at a committed athlete who has put in the foundation of work in October and November and who has the time to do fourteen sessions a week but also the time and capacity to allow recovery from each session.
In the SUB SIX schedule we cut back on some volume but mainly drop a lot of the mid-range intensity so that the key sessions are done well. So this is aimed at the athlete who has experience in triathlon or a constituent sport but does not have as much time as the athlete following the SUB FIVE schedule or who may not have had the perfect build-up in the preceding eight week period. So they will not be able to sustain the SUB FIVE schedule both in getting in the sessions but even more importantly, recovering from and absorbing all of that work.
In the SUB SEVEN schedule, we cut back on the number of sessions and only focus on the key ones. There is still the requirement that the athlete begins this block of training in good shape and ready to train hard but there is good recovery time between the key training sessions, as they are more spread out, and the overall volume should be manageable for a moderately experienced triathlete.
Within each schedule, there are also options to customise each key session to fit your needs and level of conditioning. My request to everyone is to first focus on getting the intensity level right before doing more. Rather do every rep in an interval set at the required pace or effort than sacrifice form and output to do more.
Warm up and cool downs
To follow we shall focus on the key sets in each session. All of these should be preceded and followed by easier activity aimed at preparing the body for the intensity and then kick-starting the recovery process during the cool-down. The length of these periods in the session will again depend on your level of experience and conditioning. The more advanced the athlete, the longer the warm-up and cool down.
Swim – The warm-up should consist of easy swimming with mixed strokes and also incorporate some drills. Areas to focus on for triathletes are the catch phase of the stroke and developing good body rotation so aim your drills at these aspects. The cooldown can just be a few lengths of easy swimming of mixed strokes again.
Cycle – All rides should start with an easy period of pedalling in light gears allowing the efficient pedal stroke to be ingrained and the muscles to warm up. Generally, a building warm-up is best where you gradually increase the intensity through the period. More advanced athletes might want to add in some accelerations just before starting the intense period of the session where you accelerate in a controlled fashion up to the upcoming intensity level over a period of 30-60 seconds with complete recovery between each one. The cooldown is again just some easy pedalling in light gears at a comfortable cadence and generally doesn’t need to be more than 15-20 minutes for even the strongest athletes. Remember that we are not trying to add volume with these periods.
Run – Much like the cycle, the warm-up is just some easy running that will probably build gradually in speed as the muscles warm-up and the stride stretches out. Some accelerations, up to the desired interval pace of the main set, can be done with complete recovery between each. The cooldown need not be more than ten minutes and is the opposite of the warm-up where your heart rate should gradually drop throughout the cooldown period and you end with a little bit of walking.
S1 – Weeks as follows:
- 100; 200; 300; 400; 300; 200; 100 recovery is rest at the wall between :45 and 1:30 depending on form and condition but it is the same between each interval. Pace varies according to interval length and try and go slightly faster for the corresponding interval coming back down. So your second 100 is faster than your first and so on.
- 500; 400; 300; 200; 100 recovery is rest at the wall between :45 and 1:30 depending on form and condition but it is the same between each interval. The 600 must be at perceived race pace and then try to increase your pace per 100m for each interval as they get shorter.
- 400; 300; 200; 100; 200; 300; 400 recovery period must be the same you chose for Week 1. Challenge yourself in the first 400. Then hold that pace per 100m throughout. This will be comfortable until the second 200 where you will have to start digging deep.
- 100; 200; 300; 400; 500 recovery is the same that you used in Week 2. Start at a controlled pace for the 100 and then hold that pace per 100m for each interval as they get longer. So it is critical to pace that first interval well.
- 25; 50; 75; 100; 125; 150; 175; 200; 175; 150; 125; 100; 75; 50; 25 recovery varies, :20-:30 for the shorter intervals and :40-:60 for the longer ones. Pace according to length of the interval. Start fast, settle into a rhythm and then accelerate towards the end.
- 300; 275; 250; 225; 200; 175; 150; 125; 100; 75; 25 recovery is :30-:40 throughout. Start comfortably hard and accelerate through the set as the intervals get shorter.
The SUB FIVE SQUAD – This is the main set. Add a kick set afterwards and then do a set of intervals with paddles and pullbouy of between 750-1000m.
SUB SIX SQUAD – This is the main set of the swim. A warm-up and cool down is all that needs to be added to complete the session.
SUB SEVEN SQUAD – Can drop the longest interval in on each day to make it a little shorter.
S2 – Weeks as follows:
SUB 5 = 20 X 100; SUB 6 = 16 X 100; SUB 7 = 12 X 100
- Recovery time is :30 between each rep.
- Reducing recovery every four reps:
- 1-4 = :30
- 5-8 = :20
- 9-12 = :15
- 13-16 = :10
- 17-20 = :05
- Recovery time is :20 between each rep.
- Reducing recovery in sets of four:
- Rep 1 = :30
- Rep 2 = :20
- Rep 3 = :15
- Rep 4 = :10
- Recovery time is :10 between each rep.
- Each squad drops four reps and swims them at ‘best speed’ with: 45-:60 recovery.
100m splits times should not vary by more than one or two seconds throughout the set. The pace of the 100s should be aimed at your goal time for the race taking into account how good your turns are, that the pool is calmer and that you will be wearing a wetsuit on race day.
S3 – Weeks as follows:
- 400; 8X50; 400; 8X50; 400
- 8X50; 400; 8X50; 400; 8X50
- 400; 8X50; 400; 16X25; 400
- 8X50; 400; 8X50; 400; 16X25
- 16X25; 400; 16X25; 400; 16X25
SUB 5 – Recovery is 1:00 after a 400; :15 after a 50 and :10 after a 25. Add a set of paddles and pullbouy of 750-1000m with a short kick set in between.
SUB 6 – Only do the session in Week 2 and 4. Recovery is 1:30 after a 400; :30 after a 50 and :20 after a 25.
SUB 7 – Only do the session in Week 2 and 4. Drop the last set.
To ride a 70.3 bike leg well we have to develop the ability to ride at an uncomfortable pace throughout. We need the body to become efficient at delivering oxygen and fuel to the muscles and removing waste products while under pressure. These are ‘Threshold Intervals’. We are training at riding at the threshold between going hard enough and going too hard. Keep that in mind while doing these intervals in your week. That is where you want to pitch your effort level. Weeks as follows:
- SUB 5 – 8:00 hard; 4:00 easy; 2 X 4:00 hard with 2:00 easy in between; 4:00 easy; 4 X 2:00 hard with 1:00 easy in between; 4:00 easy; 8 X 1:00 hard with :30 easy in between.
SUB 6 – 2 X 4:00 hard with 2:00 easy in between; 4:00 easy; 4 X 2:00 hard with 1:00 easy in between; 4:00 easy; 8 X 1:00 hard with :30 easy in between.
SUB 7 – 4:00 hard; 4:00 easy; 4 X 2:00 hard with 2:00 easy in between; 4:00 easy; 8 X 1:00 hard with 1:00 easy in between.
Hard = 90-100% of FTP or 80-90% of maximum heartrate. Easy = 50-60% of maximum heartrate.
If this is done correctly you should not be able to go harder as the intervals get shorter. In fact, you should need the extra recovery time in order to achieve the same output from the first interval.
- Overs and unders – 2:00 on / 2:00 off. ON = 85% of your average power for the hard intervals in Week One and OFF = 95% of that average power. OR: 2:00 @ 8/10 perceived effort alternated with 9/10 PE. Heartrate is too slow to react to subtle changes of intensity to effectively control this session.
- SUB 5 = Do an hour of alternating 2:00 on and 2:00 off.
- SUB 6 = 46 minutes.
- SUB 7 = 30 minutes
- As for Week One but aiming at squeezing 5-10W more in the hard intervals.
- As for Week Two but aiming at squeezing 5-10W more in the hard intervals.
- As for Week Three but reducing the recovery time between sets. So instead of 4:00 of easy riding, we will be doing 2:00. The output and intensity of the intervals stay the same as Week Three or a little better if possible.
- SUB 5 – 4:00 hard with 2:00 easy in between; 4:00 easy; 4 X 2:00 hard with 1:00 easy in between; 4:00 easy; 8 X 1:00 hard with :30 easy in between.
SUB 6 – 4 X 2:00 hard with 1:00 easy in between; 4:00 easy; 8 X 1:00 hard with :30 easy in between.
SUB 7 – 12 X 1:00 hard with 1:00 easy in between.
Hard = 90-100% of FTP or 80-90% of maximum heartrate. Easy = 50-60% of maximum heartrate.
This is a lower intensity ride where we build your endurance and capacity to go the distance. This is also where we work on the body’s ability to cover 90km and still have legs to run off the bike, for those who want to run a good split. Weeks as follows:
- SUB 5 and 6 – 3:00 @ 60-70% of max HR but with a 30 minute period in the last hour at goal race pace. SUB 7 – 3:00 total @ 60-70% throughout.
- Everyone – 3:30 total @ 60-70% throughout.
- SUB 5 and 6 – 3:00 @ 60-70% of max HR but with a 40 minute period in the last hour at goal race pace. SUB 7 – 3:00 total @ 60-70% throughout.
- Everyone – 4:00 total @ 60-70% throughout.
- SUB 5 and 6 – 2:30 @ 60-70% of max HR but with a 40 minute period in the last hour at goal race pace. SUB 7 – 2:30 total @ 60-70% throughout.
These rides are aimed at active recovery and adding volume to the week without compromising the quality sessions. When in doubt, leave these out. You would do that if you felt you needed a bit more recovery or you were just pushed for time. These are low on the priority scale. They are done on easy routes or the indoor trainer at light intensity in light gears or resistance and a comfortably high cadence. HR should not exceed 65% of maximum or an hour total.
Zone 3 Tempo
This ride is only in the SUB 5 schedule. Ideally, these need to be done in the morning with the quality run in the evening for the desired training effect. The duration can be anywhere from 1:30 to 2:00. This is a sub-maximal time trial type effort. You want to ease into things for 10-20 minutes using light gears and a comfortably high cadence. During that time you want to gradually accelerate up to about 75-85% of your FTP or 70-80% of your maximum heart rate and then hold that for at least an hour. This should feel comfortably hard. Be careful not to over-gear. Keep your pedalling action fluid and fast and within your comfortable cadence range. Use your gears to control this over and rises in the road, rather than powering over them. Remember you want to save your legs as much as possible for the evening run.
Zone 3 Intervals
These are done as part of a brick session for SUB 5 and SUB 6 athletes. The priority here is actually the run that follows but we want to give the legs a test at running long after the bike, without completely thrashing the legs on the bike. That kind of effort we save for race-day, when we are tapered and fresh. The session is the same for Week Two and Four:
SUB 5 – 20:00 easy @ 55-60% of FTP or 60-65% of Max HR; 5 X 4:00 intervals @ 80-90% of FTP or 75-80% of Max HR with 4:00 easy in between. Followed by a 10:00 period of easy riding. In the intervals adjust your gearing so that your cadence is about 5-10rpm lower than what you maintain during the bike intervals but keep your focus on posture and form and efficient, smooth pedalling.
SUB 6 – Exactly the same as the SUB 5s but only a 10:00 warm-up period and 4 X 4:00.
You want to have your running gear set up before you start this session so that you can transition onto the run within 10:00.
Our run interval day. You can do these on the open road; track; field or treadmill. We are not aiming at building top-end speed here. Rather our ability to hold a good solid pace. Much like the bike interval session, these are aimed at improving our ‘Threshold Speed’ and ability to maintain an uncomfortable pace for longer. You should find that your heart rate will rise gradually throughout the hard intervals and throughout the session as a whole and will correlate with your ‘Anaerobic Threshold’ heart rate in the last third of the interval set. This will be, more or less, the heart rate that you average in a full out 8-10km race.
The intensity of the intervals should be slightly faster than 21.1km goal pace (not in a triathlon) and the splits should not vary by more than a second or two. So that should not be hard to maintain for the first interval but should get harder and harder as the session progresses because the recovery period is always 200m. For SUB 5ers that is done at a jog and for the SUB 6 and 7 athletes, done as, 100m of brisk walking and 100m of jogging. Weeks as follows:
- SUB 5 = 15 X 400
SUB 6 = 12 X 400
SUB 7 = 8 X 400
- SUB 5 = 12 X 600
SUB 6 = 10 X 600
SUB 7 = 6 X 600
- SUB 5 = 10 X 800
SUB 6 = 8 X 800
SUB 7 = 6 X 800
- SUB 5 = 8 X 1000
SUB 6 = 7 X 1000
SUB 7 = 5 X 1000
- SUB 5 = 6 X 1200
SUB 6 = 5 X 1200
SUB 7 = 4 X 1200
- SUB 5 = 6 X 400
SUB 6 = 5 X 400
SUB 7 = 4 X 400
Here the recovery period is longer at 150 walk / 150 jog.
The ‘Tempo Run’. This is done on Thursdays to compound the training effect of the previous two days so that we do this run on weary legs, as we will at 70.3. Easy into your session with 5-10 minutes of easy running. Start this very easy and allow the speed to gradually pick up as the legs warm-up and stretch out. The effort should be constant through the warm-up though and you may even find that your heart rate drops slightly. When you start your tempo period, ease into that as well. Avoid going from an easy jog to a hard effort in a few strides. Take a minute or even two to get yourself up to your desired pace. Also, remember that heart rate takes a little while to ‘catch up’ to your effort so don’t try to force it up too quickly.
The tempo pace and effort should correspond with about 90% of your anaerobic threshold heart rate. So, if you average around 170bpm for an 8km time trial or 10km road race, done at your maximum. Then you want your tempo period today to be between 155-165bpm. Once you are up to that effort level, focus on keeping things controlled and efficient. This may sound counter-intuitive but you want to run as easily as possible at this effort.
Always end this session with another 5-10 minutes of very easy jogging.
We are doing these over five weeks and the tempo period of the run should be: 20; 30; 40; 30; 20 minutes for both SUB 5 and SUB 6 athletes.
This is exactly as it sounds. We are just exposing the legs to the transition from bike to run. So the run is only 10 minutes for everyone but it must be quick, off the bike. Just pop on your running shoes and run in your cycling kit. Try to keep the transition time below 5:00 and the pace is easy and relaxed.
This is an advanced session and it is done, as quickly as possible, off the Z3 Interval bike ride. I suggest changing into running clothing if you did the ride in cycling kit. You could of course, do this in a tri-suit making the transition even quicker but under ten minutes is what we are looking for, so make yourself comfortable.
We want to run for an hour in this session. Obviously the expectation is that the SUB 5 athletes will cover more distance in that time than the SUB 6ers.
Start easy and find your running rhythm and stride. This is how I suggest you approach this transition in the race as well. Once you are comfortable running and your legs have transitioned from a circular motion to a back and forth movement, you can focus on lifting your effort gradually. You want to aim at running at your 70.3 goal pace for at least 20-30 minutes of this run. Allow yourself 5-10 minutes of easy jogging and gradual slowing at the end of the run to cool down.
Not too much explanation needed for this one I am sure. Here we are training to go the distance. Keeping in mind that the distance is a bit harder to go on race day as we will have done a 90km bike beforehand. I realise that some will prefer to switch the Saturday and Sunday sessions around for logistical reasons but if at all possible it would be better to do them this way so that you are running on slightly tired legs from the day before.
This is a nice, easy, controlled pace throughout and one that should have you finishing feeling like you could have run harder and/or longer. It is also dependent on you coming into this final six=week period with some good training under the belt.
SUB 5 and SUB 6 athletes alternate these with a brick run. Again we are assuming that the guys and girls aiming at the faster times will cover more distance in the same time:
- 1:45 @ 60-70% of maximum heart rate
- 2:00 @ 60-70% of maximum heart rate
- 1:20 @ 60-70% of maximum heart rate
SUB 7 athletes will progress more gradually as we are assuming that less training has been done leading into this six week period:
- 1:15 60-70% of maximum heart rate
- 1:30 60-70% of maximum heart rate
- 1:45 60-70% of maximum heart rate
- 2:00 60-70% of maximum heart rate
- 1:00 60-70% of maximum heart rate
Exactly as it sounds, nice and relaxed for frequency. These should be between 20-30 minutes on an easy route, field or treadmill and your heartrate should not exceed 65% of your maximum heartrate.