The basics of any triathlon training program should consist of a balance between sessions in each discipline/sport (swim/bike/run) over an allotted timeframe. Sounds simple, but it is not always easy to accomplish with life’s normal responsibilities.
3X3 at a minimum!
A likely way to organize a training schedule is to take the three sports that make up triathlon and spread workouts over a seven day period.
Rotate each sport on a daily basis with an occasional two-a-day session and you will meet your minimum goal of three sessions per discipline each week.
If that proves to be too easy, then add an additional session in one or more of the sports and you will increase your total mileage and most likely your race performance.
Watch Out for Overdoing It
When do you draw the line of doing too much? The first signs of overtraining are: being lethargic, lack of motivation and getting injured.
It’s a fine line though because the training volume that can make you better is also very close to what will bring on overtraining and worse, injury.
The theory is to use Periodization training as the key to segment your annual program into periods that place emphasis on the following: Base, Build, Intensity, Taper, Peak (Race).
A quality triathlon training program could consist of Three (3) distinct workouts that would have a short (Intensity), medium (Base) and long workout (Build) in each of the three (3) sports, each and every week. Consider most workouts will be 45-60 minutes in length; your weekly time allotment will be nine to ten hours at the minimum. Eventually you would want to add a workout in a specific sport each week that will provide an emphasis to a single sport. For athletes choosing to race at the longer distances or build a larger Base of endurance, you will want to add a workout to have four or more sessions per sport for your base if you have the opportunity.
Along with being consistent in the 9-10 (or more) workouts per week, you need to ensure that you incorporate Intensity and avoid being in a monotonous middle-level heart rate zone. Consider training at 70-75% for your long and middle distance rides/runs (swimming is different) and then only going higher once every week or two weeks. This would be like doing a track workout for running and the intensity should be near a race pace effort for shorter durations.
Most training programs are general in that triathletes or single sport athletes do their long run and ride on the weekend when they have more time and fillers during the week. Swimming, weights and other supportive activities may fit your schedule best Monday through Friday so that you can ensure you have the weekend focused on longer bike and run sessions. This does not mean that the swim and other activities aren’t important; they simply have less time requirements for what is required to be competitive on race day
Try a Mid-Week Vacation Day
One proven training plan that I used for a decade of Ironman racing was to take a mid-week vacation day for about 8 weeks leading up to the event. This allowed me to get the training in without disrupting family obligations since I would have been at work anyway. With just one day away from my job, I was not missed too much and I could easily pick up from the day prior. With today’s connectivity, you can stay updated on most things during your ride or run if you choose to. The Wednesday workout not only allowed me to build a large base of miles, it took pressure off my weekend training since anything that I was able to do on Saturday or Sunday was a bonus. With a Wednesday long brick and weekend long ride and run, the three days could easily be the majority of your Ironman training. If you can ensure you get your swims during the week and a few other easy workouts, you are set for a successful Ironman. The distance with this type of plan can easily average: 10,000 yards swimming, 250 miles riding and 40 miles running. Those are good goals for a working Ironman competitor.
Just a Taste of the Pro Lifestyle
Of course this time focus is not required for participating in shorter distance events but for the time strapped athlete leading up to an important event, the plan would still allow you to do the majority of your training in a three-day period with fewer requirements placed upon the rest of the week. It may even allow for some extra sleep and post workout relaxation on your vacation Wednesday. Consider scheduling in a few vacation days to see what a Pro Triathlete’s life is like. If you string too many together you may just be happy that you don’t do it for a living!
About the author: Doug Marocco is a nine-time (9X) Hawaii Ironman finisher with a PR of 9:23:04. He has excelled at short distance triathlons as well winning two (2X) USA Triathlon National Age-Group titles and four (4X) Military National Championships among his 47 overall wins. An accomplished Marathon runner, Marocco has a PR of 2:33 in his 37 finishes at the 26.2 mile distance.