Intermediate Full Ironman Triathlon Training Plan- 20 Week
Who is the plan for?
The following basic plan is for a beginner who has:
Completed a Half-Ironman, and is in the process of training for an Ironman with 20 weeks to go.
Has been training a minimum of 10 hours per week.
Have an idea of proper training zones.
*As opposed to the 20 Week Beginner IM plan by HR, this plan has fewer 'total rest weeks' but follows the principle of alternating weeks of long bike and runs. If you find that you need more defined 'rest' weeks, then the 20 Week Beginner IM plan by HR will be more appropriate.
**You can use this Intermediate plan for you first IM if you have maintained a higher training volume of 10 hours per week. If you haven't been, the Beginner plan by HR will be more appropriate as it starts off at 7 hours per week.
Since our athlete has already competed in a Half-Ironman distance race, we must find a starting point at which they have run and biked. It is likely the athlete has already run 1 hour 30 minutes (1:30). It is also likely they have biked 3 hours (3:00). These will be our starting points. There will be a gradual increase in both the run and bike times, for their key workout of the week. That key workout is known as the “Long Run or Long Bike.” This is usually done on the weekend because most people have the weekends off from work.
It is often good to have a companion about the same speed for the run and bike. The bike can be done with a friend or group ride. Part of the group ride can be done, and just have some time added either at the start or back end of the group ride in order to reach the prescribed goal times. The social aspect as well as honing of bike handling skills can be of great benefit to the athlete. Training zones should be closely watched as the Ironman distance race they will compete in will likely not (and should not exceed Zone 3).Plan schedule
This basic 20 week plan is a quick ramp up in overall volume, but with 20 weeks to train only, it is a gradual and safe approach because of the alternating weeks of the long run/bike. The weekly hours will vary with each individual; however, the key long workouts need to be achieved so that ample endurance is built up for the race. Example, you wouldn’t train for a marathon by only running 200 meter sprints would you? So the time needs to be put in, there is no way around it.
During the “Base/Build” phase, stretching, increase in protein, massage, appropriate vitamin intake (consult your nutritionist) and sleep should be encouraged to stave off injury from overuse, and promote recovery.
Regarding the bike/run
For a beginner, it is a better idea for time sake, and injury prevention, to focus on either the long bike or long run each week, alternating the long workouts. While the athlete is doing a long bike one weekend, they are resting their running legs by just doing maintenance work during that week. While they are focused on a long run at the end of the week, they are resting their legs from the incredibly long hours of the bike week. This promotes recovery and quality of workout that the traditional long bike/long run (on the same weekend), does not. That is virtually too much for the body to recover from, for a beginner.
While training long in BOTH the bike and run weekly may work for highly experienced professionals with many Ironman races, it is a recipe for injury for a virgin Ironman racer. In fact, I still use this method for training, even after 16 Ironman events I’ve competed in. I’m healthier, and happier, and lead a more balanced life because of it, and it is rare that I have injury.
The swim should be spent mostly with a Master’s swim group, again, providing motivation through socialization. There will always be faster swimmers, and a coach, that will be able to help you with your technique. Pull either the coach aside, or a faster swimmer at the end of the workout, to give you pointers on technique. You may even find an experienced Ironman athlete amongst your group that has done the same race you are training for. Then they would be able to provide you with information such as how to dress for the weather, the terrain details, course details, etc. The point of Master’s swim group should be focusing on technique, so move into a slower lane and focus on that, rather than making the time intervals of a high-intensity swim set.
A word on tapering
Tapering is of utmost importance, the athlete will want to begin taper at three weeks out from the race. Week 18 should have a maximum ride time of three hours (3:00), Week 19 a max of two hours (2:00). The run times should be dropping off as well, dropping to an hour (1:00) for Week 18 & 19. Early in the Peak/Race week, the longest bike ride should be no more than 90 minutes, and the longest run should be no more than 45 minutes. All preferably less than this—the point is to be fully rested, and stay away from any training that will put you in an energy deficit for race day.
Weights, they will provide the overall conditioning and strength for competing in the three disciplines of triathlon. However, taper off of them around four or five weeks before the Ironman. Weight tears down muscle quickly, and you should begin focusing on healing from all the training you have done in past weeks. If you do your long bike/run workouts on the weekend, you will have Tuesday as a weight day, because it gives a day of easy/lighter training on Monday. Last thing you want is to lift weights on exhausted muscles. Same goes for weights on Thursday, there is no point in tiring your muscles out the day before the KEY workout (bike or run) on a Friday, so making Thursday your second weight day will allow you to take Friday completely off of any training.
I hope this information helps the transition from a Half-Ironman to a full Ironman in a 20 week period a little easier. The key long workouts and injury prevention are achieved only through the motivation you are willing to put forth. Use your resources wisely to motivate, prevent, and learn, then you can call yourself an Ironman one day.
Weight Training and Core Strength
The program that I am using this time around is adapted from The Training Bible and has been tweaked to include some exercises that I think are important. The program should be fairly balanced between core and strength training.
See 'Related Articles' below on more plan details and links to terms, core strength and weight training.
Good Luck in your Iron Distance Triathlon!