Season Planning & Execution

author : Brandon Heflin
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So how do you plan for a season? Below, I’ve created a simple five step process to use as a primer for season planning.

By Brandon Heflin

With races selling out sometimes a year in advance, it’s becoming more important to plan ahead for your triathlon race season. If you’re a seasoned veteran this may be a regular practice, but it can catch many by surprise, from Iron vets to sprint first-timers. So how do you plan for a season? Below, I’ve created a simple five step process to use as a primer for season planning.

Step 1: Plan Your Race Schedule

This should be done as soon as possible. I suggest plotting your races in the off season, as we tend to have a clear head and will not be tempted to register for every new race to come up, falling victim to racing based on peer pressure. If you enjoy racing with your friends as I do, than perhaps planning with them is optimal. If the race date has not been posted for the next season yet, then an approximation based on which weekend of the month it historically falls on will work fine for your training (an email to the event director may provide additional reassurance). I recommend selecting races and/or events with a prioritization such as:


“A” Race – This is a highest priority race. For most, more than 3 A races in a calendar year is not an option for many reasons, so limit your “A” races to no more than 3. You are rested, peaked/tapered and trained specifically for this race.


“B” Race – This race should support your “A” race and season goals. You may be rested for a few days but are not tapered for a “B” race. You will test your race day fitness. Have “B” race goals such as:

  • Smooth & efficient transitions

  • Effective bike to run pacing

  • Swimming relaxed and exiting fresh

  • Running without stopping

  • Good execution of nutrition plan

“C” Race – This can be a race or simply a training event. Keep these events very fun without any critical performance goals. “C” races or events can be at any point in the season, but usually fall in the winter off season months or after “A” races. Be careful not to blow your season goals by taking “risky” actions during C races. Nothing will throw off your season faster than a bad injury.

Step 2: Time
How much time do you have available to train? For amateurs with jobs and lives (most of us), it’s best to divide the week into weekday time and weekend time. It’s important to have realistic goals and to be realistic with your training time. Remember, your training must support your season, race distances and goals. Example: Triathlete X has to be at work at 8 am Monday through Friday and leaves work at 6 pm. His commute takes him 30 minutes each way. Triathlete X needs to sleep 8 hours, leaving 5 hours in the day. Triathlete X has a spouse and 2 children, friends and occasional social commitments. Sound familiar? So let’s ball park the weekday training time at 1.5 hours per day totaling 7.5 hours of weekday training time. One example of how your weekday training schedule may look is illustrated in the chart below:





























Session done before work



Sessions done after work


Day Off

Workouts are optional, easy skills sessions


Illustrated times are examples only. Actual times can vary depending on experience, race distances you are training for and other variables.
As you can see, some days will be more challenging to manage than others. I have a phrase that has become an inside joke with my athletes… “Life Happens”. The world will not stop rotating because you’re a triathlete so it’s important to make good decisions, seek good advice and avoid making up skipped workouts. More on this later…

That leaves the weekends. I don’t put a time limit on weekend training as the nature, duration and volume will change throughout your season and vary depending on race distances. Below is one example of a training weekend:








BT/Intervals/2'-3'/or medium duration ride

Long/Brick/2.5'-6' (Duration Varies)






Start early, finish early


Optional afternoon session

Step 3: Goals
There are all kinds of goals… easily as many goals as there are athletes. Goals should be geared towards fun and supporting a lifestyle rather than purely performance based. Goals should be reasonable and obtainable. A few examples include:

  • Stay injury free

  • Finish first triathlon

  • Climb a new mountain pass or run a new trail

  • Try a new race

  • No stopping on the run

  • Place in top 10% of age group

  • Increase endurance

These are just a few examples. Goals should challenge you within the context of enjoying the sport and triathlon/endurance lifestyle. Set goals that you are excited about accomplishing as that will help maintain proper motivation in your pursuit.

Step 4: Training Plan
Once you have established your goals for the season, you’ll need a training plan that supports those goals. Your plan should include a workload to be performed within a schedule such as the one illustrated above, training events that support goals such as race rehearsals and both passive and active rest such as easy intensity and recovery days. An easy model to follow is: swim 3 times, bike 3 times, and run 3 times per week within 6 days, leaving one day for recovery. You can get as complicated and geeked out as you want… the industry has certainly provided enough toys to keep us amused; however, I suggest the “KISS” (Keep It Simple Stupid) methodology. Have a plan that enables you to get the most benefit from the least effort, and supports your goals. This does not mean that you should take risks, but rather train smart with the time you have available by focusing on your developing attributes and maintaining your strengths. Take advantage of the resources available to you such as triathlon clubs, message boards, books, articles, clinics, coaching services the wealth of knowledge that your training partners have. I learn from every athlete I meet in one way or another.

Step 5: Execution
You’ve heard the saying before: It’s better to show up 10% under trained than 1% over trained. Well… it’s true. One rule I give all of my clients is don’t play the make up game. If you skip a workout, just consider it rest and approach your next session fully committed to executing a quality session. If the session that you must skip is a key session such as a race rehearsal, long run, long bike, etc., then look at your week and see if you can move it to another day. This takes a good amount of discipline as it means finding a day that will not compromise other key sessions. Note that there is a difference between moving a key workout while eliminating a maintenance session and making up a skipped session. Training is as much mental as it is physical. You must train the body and the mind in order to progress towards your goals. Keep it fun; maintain discipline and play an active role in your continuing education and you will see mental and physical improvements.



Coaching Discount Code:
Interested in coaching options by Brandon? Then reading this article just made it more affordable for you. Simply send an email to [email protected]  with “6/05 Planning Article Offer” as the subject and receive 1 month free on personal coaching or 15% off personal training plans. Minimum commitment of 6 months required.

Brandon Heflin is the owner of TriCentric Training, a Crucible Fitness Triathlon Coach, USA Triathlon certified Level 1 Coach, USA Cycling certified Club Coach, competitive age group triathlete and endurance sports enthusiast. With a passion for triathlon, teaching and serving the needs of the endurance community, Brandon is a founding board member of the Pasadena Triathlon Club and active leader in its development. With a focus on individual excellence and goal achievement, Brandon has coached triathletes to success in every distance in the sport, from sprints to Ironman. He is recognized by his clients and peers for his hands on approach to overcoming obstacles in the pursuit of excellence and leadership in the triathlon community.


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date: July 17, 2005

Brandon Heflin

Triathlon Coaching, Racing, training, Long Cycling (best in the mountains), mtb biking, snowboarding, meeting cool folks in the sport and cooking... always cooking :-)

avatarBrandon Heflin

Triathlon Coaching, Racing, training, Long Cycling (best in the mountains), mtb biking, snowboarding, meeting cool folks in the sport and cooking... always cooking :-)

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