How To Use Your Custom Triathlon Training Plan

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This will be a guide on how to do your workouts for your custom training plan.

How to use this plan

This training plan can be used in two ways:

  1. Purely as a 'minutes-only' plan where all training is done in heart-rate zones 1-2 = Beginners
    *Note that 'm' = 'minutes'
  2. As a template where a person with more than one year in the sport can put in specific workouts (intervals, etc) into the given time.

Program Structure

  • Each discipline has a short, med and long session per week.
  • In general, the short session will be 60% of the long session, the medium 80% of the long.
  • Every third or fourth week will have a 'rest' week where volume is reduced.
  • In general, your volume every week is increased about 10% a week.  A golden rule.
  • The beginning of a new 3 or 4 week cycle starts off at the prior months week before the rest week - so we don't automatically start increasing duration after a rest week.
  • The last month incorporates your peak duration followed by 1-2 weeks of tapering so your body can appropriately rest and heal to get ready for your race day.  YOU WILL NOT LOSE PERFORMANCE!  So don't worry.  This tapering is very necessary.

As a beginner, all training should be done in heart-rate zones 1-2 for your first year.  This equates to a 'conversational' pace.

RPE Zone HR Zone (based on LT )Description
0 Z1Complete Rest
1 Z1Very easy; light walking
2 Z1Very easy; light walking
3 Z1Very easy; walking
4 Z1Still easy, maybe starting to sweat
5 Z2Starting to work just a little and you can feel your HR rise
6 Z2 UpperWorking but sustainable, able to talk in full sentences

Remember, this program IS JUST a volume-builder.  If you are new to endurance, its recommended to focus on only volume for your first year, the following years you can start adding intensity-specific workouts as you will have a good base.


If you are a beginner that can't swim a lap or two without gasping, the best way to build endurance is to use 'active recovery'.  It works and is how I went from gasping at half a length to swimming 1500 meters by the end of the summer.  Assuming you have a passable forward crawl (freestyle) - the hard stroke - and you can easily swim back, breast or sidestroke - your easy stroke, here is how you can combine the two to build volume.

Start out swimming five lengths of your 'easy' stroke and on the six length go into the forward crawl for only one length.  INSTEAD of stopping to rest and breath, go back into doing five lengths of your easy stroke for active recovery.  REPEAT this for the duration of every swim workout of the week. 

IF you were able to do the prior weeks workouts of one length of freestyle + five lengths of 'easy' stroke comfortably, then for the next week, try to add one more length of the forward crawl so you will be swimming four lengths of your easy stroke and then go into two lengths of the forward crawl, repeat.  In essence you are decreasing the amount of your 'easy' stroke and increasing the amount of your 'forward crawl'.

As you get more comfortable with swimming multiple lengths of the forward crawl, you keep increasing the ratio of forward crawl lengths to your easy stroke lengths.  Before you know it you will be swimming all freestyle.  This can take anywhere from one to three months. This will be HARD WORK. 

*You do not have to keep trying to add another length of freestyle every week if you have not gotten comfortable with the prior weeks freestyle:easy stroke ratio.

For breathing, just focus on breathing every stroke until you can comfortably swim a workout in all freestyle. Then you can work on bilateral breathing.

  • Optimal cadence for biking is 85-95 rpms.  You usually don't want to be 'grinding away' at 60-80 rpm's - these ranges are only reserved for certain workouts.
  • Warmup - Start out in an easy gear (light on the pedals) at a higher cadence of 80-90 rpms for 10minutes (higher revolutions per minute) to get the blood flowing to your muscles.   Transition to your regular cadence and workout staying in heart-rate zone 1-2.
  • For the main part of your ride, work on cadence 85 to 95 rpms (revolutions per minute), this builds efficiency, try to keep your pedal stroke even and circular. A cycling computer will aid you greatly so your spinning is consistent.  
  • For cool-downs, slow your pace and increase your cadence for the last 5-10minutes.  Get off your bike and walk for 10-20minutes.  Cool-downs eliminates lactic acid, brings your heart-rate to normal and prevents muscle cramps.


  • Get fitted for a proper running shoe at a dedicated running store FIRST!!!  A lot of injuries can be avoided this way...just ask us.
  • If at all possible, avoid running on asphalt or concrete....find a good, smooth trail.  The edges of roads are 'cambered' to allow water to flow off, always running on the same side can cause injuries.
  • A good warm-up is imperative to a safe run.  A recommendation is to start with a 5-10min walk, 3-5minute light, slow jog, THEN start your run.  
  • If you find that you start getting tired midway through your run, add some walking intervals BEFORE getting tired.  Example:  On your 30 minute long run, you get tired at the 15minute mark.  Try this: warm-up, run 10min, walk 2min, run 10min, walk 2min, run 10min, cool down.  Break your long runs up into 1/3rds or 1/2's with 2minute walking intervals before you get tired.  Trying to push yourself through a tiring last part of your run is a recipe for injury.
  • Cool-down.  Very important.  Cool-downs eliminates lactic acid, brings your heart-rate to normal and prevents muscle cramps.  Walk for at least 5-10minutes.  The more the better.
Bricks - Race Specific Training
  • As your volume starts peaking leading up to your race, you will want to mimic the bike-to-run transition back-to-back.  This is your race specific training.  Bike-to-run will be the most difficult transition and many people associate this as a 'rubber legs'. 
  • These sessions should be done at your zone 1-2 pace or 2-3 modified RPE.  We want these EASY.
  • Also what helps others for the bike-to-run is to tack on about 5-10minutes of running at the end of your bike rides using zone 1 or zone 2-3 modified RPE...a light pace. 
Strength Training
  • Weights are very important and most often overlooked for triathlon training.  We need to keep our bones, tendons and joints strong!  Strength training two times per week is great injury prevention.
  • For your schedule, fit two days of strength anywhere in the program...just leave a day of 'no strength training' between them. 
Heart-Rate Training - Is it for you?
If you are new to endurance sports or maybe have been out of training for at least a year, then I would recommend the following:
  • Don't worry about it if you have no problems restraining yourself from going fast.  If you can maintain an easy conversational pace, then there is a good chance that you are training appropriately in heart-rate zones 1-2 and not pushing to hard.
  • WORRY about it if you find yourself always pushing too fast, inconsistent pace, you tend to 'die' near the end, sweating buckets or exhausted after your workout. 
  • Of course, if you have a years worth of base under you, then HR training will make you more competitive by training your body through the different zones throughout the week.  Essentially cycling volume with intensity.  This will increase your average pace as you will be doing tempo/threshold and interval HR training...HR rates above the endurance and recovery zones.  Typically you would train in zones above your endurance zone on your short and medium sessions while saving your long session for the lower endurance easy pace.  This method is called periodization training and lots of info can be found.

Missing a Training Day

There are always questions whether to make up or skip a missed training day.  It's best just to skip it an move on.  Though if you find you are missing a session or two per week, it's best to re-evaluate your goals and program.  I like to follow the 80/20 rule.  If you can hit at least 80% of your workouts every week, you should have no problem.


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date: May 31, 2010