General Questions and Answers on Silver/Gold Plans

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Information compiled on various plans from the most common user questions.

What is the difference between an HR and an RPE based training plan?
An RPE training plan (Rate of Perceived Exertion) has training zones based on 'how you feel'.  RPE plans are more suited towards the beginner triathlete or a triathlete that likes to keep things simple or inexpensive without a heart-rate monitor.

An HR-based plan is for those that have a heart-rate monitor.  You will calculate your HR-zones based on Lactate Threshold testing (LT).  The training plan will give bike and run specific target heart-rate training zones per workout to target.  These HR-based training plans are the majority of the plans offered.  HR-based training is a lot more precise than RPE and you can make more gains on a plan with heart-rate training zones.

See more on HR and RPE training zones.

What if I need to switch around the workouts during the week due to scheduling?  Is there any leeway in some re-organization?
The basics of the plan is that it's to be executed the way it's laid out (that is, in a perfect world) - but I know that’s not always going to be the case. The best thing you can do is give yourself 36 hours between hard workouts (long ride, long run, hard swims, hard runs, hard bike, bricks etc). For example if you do a hard swim/bike or run on Tuesday, your next hard workout should be on Wed. night at the earliest. That means you can still do an easy workout in between but that's all it should be.

Can I jump into the plan at the appropriate week so that the taper coincides with my race?
As long as you think that you can meet that weeks requirement when you jump in, then sure. But I would err on the side of caution and really take it easy - maybe even start with a lower HR than normal the first few weeks just to make sure you don't overdo it.

When looking at the swimming directions in the training are they referring to meters, yards or feet?
They refer to yards or meters depending on what the pool you're swimming in is measured. This is a standard convention for swim workouts because lap pools in the US typically come in one of 3 lengths: 25 yards, 25 meters or 50 meters. 

What if there is no 'rest interval' written in the swim plan?
Example: Main Set - 4x750, RPE 4
Swim sets that have no written rest time will just mean to take as much rest as you need to get your heart-rate back down so that you can continue with the next interval with good form.  This can be anywhere from 10-60seconds.  Harder, more intense intervals will take longer rest to recover.  Shorter, less intense intervals will take less time to recover.

So with the above example, you would do 4 sets of 750 yards/meters and take enough rest to get your heart-rate back down for the next set.  This is at RPE 4, which is still considered and 'easy' effort.  So anywhere from 10-30 seconds rest between 750's would be appropriate for this workout.

What if there is no 'pace' or 'effort level' written for a particular swim set?
Example: Main Set
- 20x100 on 20" rest
Swim sets that have no written effort level or pace will just mean to go as fast as you can for each interval (in this case each 100) where the written rest interval (20seconds) will give you just enough time to lower your heart-rate to perform the next interval without a breakdown in swim form.

Remember, it's not 'as fast as you can', but just fast enough to get rested with the rest interval to complete the next set.  It's supposed to challenge you!

What if I'm a slower swimmer and it takes me a lot longer to do the distance?
Yes, the times associated with the swims are only estimates and your times will vary by +/-25%.  Limit the swim to 1:15 so if you get to 1:10 and you aren’t done with a particular swim workout, just swim a nice cool down the last 5 minutes. 

How important is the core and strength sessions? What will I stand to gain/lose by doing/not doing them?

Core Strength is the backbone to everything we do in triathlon and is an absolute must. Weight training is a great way to improve limiters and gain strength for the hills. If time is a limiter, then focus on the core work, and make weight training less of a priority.
If I don't have a stationary bike to do the spinning drills that are usually once-per-week, what is a suitable replacement? Can I instead just ride the distance? And if so, what general intensity?

If you don’t have a stationary bike, try a spin bike and if that doesn’t work, then biking outside is ok – but still do the drills as they are presented.
If I can't do a workout due to time, should I make it up or or forget about it?
Once you miss a workout, it’s gone. Move onto the next workout in your schedule. There is no need to ‘make up’ workouts.
In general, if I have to eliminate a sports workout during the week, which is a better one to eliminate? The shortest one? The mid-distance one?
If you have to eliminate a workout during the week, the best one to eliminate is your strongest event. The longer workouts are key so it’s important to get those done each week of the plan.

The times given per workout - what parts of the workout is included?

All times are estimates – I usually call it ‘estimated time’ – it doesn’t need to be exact. Actual workout time includes wu, cd and the main set (ms).

On days when there are multi sport workouts listed, is there any time when I can't split those workouts into different parts of the day? Are there any workouts that you really shouldn't split and must do them back-to-back? 


I don't see any problem with splitting up all workouts. The only ones I consistently do back to back are the swim/weights b/c it's easier time management wise. The only time you shouldn't break up workouts during the day is when it's a brick - it will be denoted so in the workout. 


On days when there are 2 workouts and it doesn't say brick workout, is it bad if I do them back-to-back? Sometimes its just a kids/mom/time issue and its less stress to just go to the club once and get it over with. Is this a bad thing?


No, it is fine to do the workouts back-to-back if that is what your time allows. However, if you have a quality session scheduled - i.e a speed/hill workout - along with an easy/moderate workout; or it's a long workout, try and do the quality/long session first and the other sport/session after. This will allow you to get the most benefit from the "quality" session.


Can I convert a plan from RPE to HR zones or vice versa?  If so, what are the conversions and how do the zones match up?

See the HR/RPE Zone Chart


Since I can't swim that fast... YET, What would be a good rest countdown in between my sets?

Use 30", 25", 20" etc and then hold the same pace throughout.

'Stride' Workout question:  For this workout: "50min run with 8x30" strides. These are best if done on a slight downhill on a dirt path. Warm up for at least 10' before the first stride. For your recovery, you can walk back to the starting point. Strides are quick bursts that are as fast as your 5k pace."

-When I look at that I don't see a full 50' in there so when do I throw in the 8x30" strides?

Always run the time given. For this workout, basically, you have a 50' run, with At LEAST a 10' warm up, then 8x30" strides. So if you take a 2.5minutes easy jog between each stride, that would give you 24 minutes for the stride work, 10 minutes for the warm up and leaves you with 16 minutes for cool down. OR you could do a longer warm up and a shorter cool down. The key is to run the time and get the strides in, that's it.

What if I train indoors during the winter on a trainer?  Does it require a different LT test?

The best way to do a test for LT is to do the same as outside, unless you have a Compu trainer and then the test would be different. The key is to get a good warm up, do some sprints to get the HR up, and really work up a sweat before starting. Personally, I don't use a fan on the trainer either, and usually wear a long sleeve shirt. This helps me stay warm and get the HR up into the right zones. 
Once you have the results, these are the HR numbers you'll use in your indoor workouts


Why should I strength train? Why keep track of it?
Simply put, improving your strength can help you gain valuable 'free speed' when it comes to racing and training. While there are many studies that like to say there is no correlation between strength in the weight room and endurance performance, I would beg to differ. First and foremost strength training keeps tendons and ligaments strong, thus decreasing the chance for injury. This alone will allow you to train more consistently, and we all know that consistency is a big part of getting better at all three sports.


Tudor Bompa, who is known as the ‘Father of Periodization’ after spending time observing the Russians in the early 1960’s, is a major proponent of strength training and likes to say: “Strength equals speed. If you want to go fast, get strong”. There is no secret that the stronger you are, the faster you will climb a hill, power through swim waves, or fun faster into the wind. Take two athletes of equal ability, one who has spent time in the weight room and one who hasn’t: my money is on the one who has been in the weight room, busting their butt.


Training your core is another important aspect of strength training that sometimes gets overlooked. Everything you do from picking up a cup of coffee to riding your bike, involves your core. It IS the stabilizer of your entire body and it should be worked on like everything. If you are short on time you can always do the basics to keep your core and muscular strength up to par: Pushups, crunches, dips, reverse dips on a bench or chair, standing squats, box jumps, one leg squats, lunges and so on. So, don’t use the excuse that you don’t have time – and if you did think that at all while reading this intro, you should drop and give me 20! – Happy Strength Training!

I've been on a 2 week taper for a race that will occur in 3 days. I have had some very short but intense training during this time but today I felt very lethargic and didn't perform very well during my brick workout; 15min swim, 20min bike ride, 15 min run. The swim went well although slower than I had expected, bike portion was not bad. However, I could barely run 5mins without gasping for air. I am well hydrated, eating nutritional foods.

I have this urge to break my taper and resume my intense workout just to "shake it out". Can someone help explain what's going on, this is really making me nervous. I was feeling strong, fast 2 weeks ago prior to this taper.

Typically when we taper we allow our muscles to regenerate - this means they refuel with glycogen - and this takes energy - which usually translates into some fatigue while training b/c you are asking your body to do two things at once - train and regenerate - so this is 100% NORMAL - it happens all the time to me during taper and it sucks and you feel like all your training was for nothing - you should have kept with your plan etc - yada yada yada - but stick with the plan you'll do just great.

My training plan has me doing all three sports, including 1200m swim, the day before my race?? The bike & run are short, but the swim seems excessive.  Is this normal? I'm just worried about being too pooped on race day.


The Oly distance is about a 2-4 hour race - so the taper doesn't have to be as long as say something like a HIM or IM. Secondly, the day before an OLY, doing all three events is just a tune-up - you don't have to swim 1200 yards, but swimming anywhere from 15-25 minutes is NOT going to hurt. If you are following one of our plans, you'll be ready to do the race on back to back days if you had to, never mind doing a short swim/bike/run the day before. You'll be in great shape come race day and swimming 1200 yards isn't that big of a deal.


However, if you feel as though it will take away from your race, then just swim up to 15-20 minutes. They key is to keep the body in tune with what you are doing on race day.


The other option is to do this workout before you leave and have the day before the event be your day off. Typically I like to have 2 days before the event off and like I said, a short s/b/r the day before to keep things fluid. If you are worried about travel and all that, then do what is easiest and make it as least stressful as you can.


Hello, my Half Ironman (HIM) training starts the end of Jan.  I noticed that the first 3 days have 2 swims (1 hr long) that are 3100 and 3500 yards?  That's almost 2 miles for the 3500 one?

What is the rational behind swimming way over the required swim distance for a HIM, especially during the first few days?  I notice that many of the swim workouts are longer than the 1.2 mile swim during a HIM.

Thanks for the question – it’s a common one. A few things to keep in mind:

1. Since you are starting the HIM plan, you should have a certain level of swim fitness going in.

2. The easiest way to increase your aerobic capacity while lowering the chance for injury is through swimming.

Those two things being said, let’s look at the concept of “over distance training”:
Over distance training is a concept that’s been used for a long time to increase aerobic capacity. The key aspect of this is to increase the efficiency of the lactate buffering system. The more pathways you can create with the capillaries the better your system will buffer lactate and help you be able to perform at a harder effort for longer. So, in theory, the more aerobic capacity you have, the longer you’ll be able to go at a harder effort while racing.

In turn, if you were to be over distance running or cycling this time of the year, you’d be increasing your chance for injury. For this reason alone we like to see the base aerobic capacity built through the swim. This type of training philosophy has long been successful and if followed will give you your best chance for success come race day.



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date: June 4, 2006