Getting Faster on the Bike

author : Ali Winslow
comments : 0

Is there an 8-12 week plan to improve technique and strength on the bike, with some running in it as well?

Member Question

I am using the Sprint to Olympic Bridge 12 week plan. I finished my A race for the year at the end of September.  I then did a sprint two weeks later.  Now I have a fun Muddy Buddy partner race in November, nothing scheduled Dec thru Feb.  I have a B race that I signed up for in March 2012.  My strongest event is swimming.  I know I need to improve on the bike and the run. 

My question is, is there an 8-12 week plan to improve technique and strength on the bike, with some running in it as well?  I am looking for some speed work and some stay-fit runs per week, plus swimming to keep the feel of the water added in on my own?  I want to get faster on the bike, faster on the run and lose 10lbs, which should help with speed goals. 

Answer by Ali Winslow

Dear "Soon to be Faster,"

It sounds like a structured plan worked very well for you over the past.  A well balanced plan, that includes run, bike, swim, strength and nutrition information is definitely the way to go.  Something you can think about, is creating a plan that has more workouts to focus on what you need, and less focus on what you are already strong (swim). 

For example, a structured plan may include 2-3 runs per week, 2-3 bike or brick workouts/wk, 2-3 swims per week and 1-2 strength workouts per week.  This is all dependent upon the phase of training that you are in at the time.  So, if you don't have a race that is coming up shortly, and your ultimate goal is to get more speed on the bike and run, you can have "sport focused" training weeks.

In the 'winter maintenance' section of the silver training plans, there are 8 week 'sport focused' plans that could serve your purpose.  Specifically to your question, the 8 week 'bike focused' silver plan could be what you need to improve your bike while just maintaining the swim and run.

Getting faster on the bike

In order to get faster on the bike, you need to improve upon different aspects of cycling.  Are you a good hill climber?  Do you need work on the flats?  How are you at descending safely with speed?  These are all facts to consider when training on the bike.  Have you tried doing any fitness or power tests on the bike to see what your training and power zones are on the bike?  The "meat and potatoes" of biking considers cycling technique, power output (force) and endurance.  If you improve all three of those variables, you will get faster on the bike portion of triathlon.  So, you will need to include 3 workouts per week: a technique workout, an endurance workout, and a "power" workout (this can be speed or hills). 

Running Workouts

The same holds true for running.  The first question to ask yourself, "have you tested your running pace and heart rate?"  Without knowing where you are at currently, you don't know what you may or may not be capable of.  So, you must assess what is your current level of running fitness and then develop your plan from there.  You can do a fitness test easily on a track or a flat stretch of road (something you can repeat).  To do your fitness test, you must first make sure that you are well rested and healthy.  You will need a HR monitor and if you also have a Garmin or GPS device, that is helpful.  You will warm up easy, and then make sure that your HR monitor and GPS watch are working accurately.  You will then run, as fast as you can, for 30minutes.  You will start your monitor and watch at the beginning of your run, and then 10minutes into your run, you will push the "lap" button.  You will continue to run, as fast as you can, for the next 20 minutes.  At the end of 30 minutes total, where you have "lapped" 10minutes into it, you will hit the "stop" button on your device.  You will continue to cool down as needed, either walking or easy jogging.  The information that you are looking for - what is your average HR and pace (if you have it) over the last 20minutes of your 30minute all out run.  This information can be your guide as to what your LT HR and speed/pace is.  Once you have that information, you can structure your run workouts the same way as your bike workouts.  You will need an endurance run, a LT/speed run, a strength run (hills).  It is not necessary to add in an easy recovery run, as you can use a swim for recovery workouts.

Swim workouts

In terms of putting swim workouts in your schedule, swimming 1x week will allow you to keep your swimming ability constant and continue to allow you to have the "water feel."  Make sure that you give yourself a swim workout that addresses technique/form, endurance and speed all in one workout.  That way you will be sure to have all three essential components of swimming in your weekly workouts.


Finally, your nutrition.  This is probably the most important part of your training and crucial to obtaining your goals.  In order to lose weight while training, you need to have a caloric deficit.  It takes 3500 calories to equal 1 pound.  In order to lose 1 lb per week, you need a 500 calorie deficit per day, on a 7 day training cycle.  That means, it should take you approximately 10 weeks to lose 10 lbs if you are careful about the 500 calorie deficit.  This means you need to write down what you are going to eat, when you are going to eat it and how much exercise and other activities you will do during that day.  The best idea is to consult a nutritionist who can help you devise a plan, or research a plan that works for triathletes.  The most important thing to remember is that good nutrition is essential to your training recovery, and your training preparation.  If you are not recovering well from workouts, or you are not getting adequate rest, ultimately, all your good planning will result in failure.  Make sure to outline your nutrition the same way that you outline your weekly workouts, and you will have success!

Good luck and I hope you achieve the best racing season yet.


Coach Ali Winslow

Ali Winslow is a triathlon and strength coach in the Boston and Metro South area.  She's competitive in the national age group arena, earning honorable mention award for 2011, and competes locally in sprint to half iron distance races.  She trains clients and teams in group format as well as online coaching and private strength training.


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date: February 20, 2012

Ali Winslow