Half Ironman Triathlon Training Plan - 20 Week

author : Coach AJ
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This program should be used for an athlete who has competed in some Sprint and Olympic Distances Races, is looking to move up the Half Ironman Distance.

Who is the plan for?

This program should be used for an athlete who has competed in some Sprint and Olympic Distances Races, is looking to move up the Half Ironman Distance and:

  1. They have a very strong base of 4-6 months of consistent training.

  2. They are well balanced in all three disciplines.

  3. They have trained for at least 8-10 hours per week.

This program is an advanced plan to bridge you from an Olympic Distance triathlon to a Half Ironman with the confidence that you can complete the race without difficulty.

This program can also be used to lead you into the D3 Ironman Distance plan.

Plan schedule

The schedule consists of at least 3 workouts per week in each sport, 1 day of strength training and 1 to 2 days of core work as well. Most weeks have 4 days of cycling. The maximum volume is 14 hours in week 7 and most of the weeks are 11-12 hours with the easier weeks at 9 hours +/-.


Background requirements
You should be able to swim at least 3000 yards in a workout. You should be able to bike at least 1.5 hours, and run at least 75 minutes. If you are a weak swimmer or runner, you can certainly do the best you can on your weaker events but its best if you are already up to the base fitness levels suggested.

Why is Week 5 the highest volume on the training plan?
The plan was for athletes that already have a strong base and are balanced in all 3 disciplines. Because of this I wanted to get the volume up early, then add the speed stuff in. For those athletes that want to get faster at the 1/2, they need to focus on doing tempo and LT work, not just base. So, with the idea that the athlete had already done a good amount of base, I incorporated more race type efforts, which mean less volume.

**Use this plan: If you have maintained some higher volume coming from Olympic distance training and racing, and the first few weeks of volume for this plan are an easy transition for you, you can then use this plan for your first 1/2 IM.

*Don't use this plan: If you haven't or cannot handle the volume of this plan in the first several weeks, see the Beginner 1/2 IM Plan that will steadily and more slowly increase your volume over the plan duration.  You can then use this plan for your second 1/2 IM provided your training volume is higher.

Why three Base weeks, and no Build weeks?
The periodization is pretty basic in that there is a 2 week build, 1 week rest pattern. The 1st 5 weeks are more volume based, then we get into that LT/Tempo work. The only deviation is in the middle where I wanted to give the athlete a bit of break, so there is a rest week (#9), 1 hard week (#10), then a rest week (#11). I was worried about burnout, both mentally and physically. After that it goes back to the 2 week build, 1 week rest until the taper at week 16. That gives the athlete a total of 7 weeks of hard work w/ rest weeks interspersed.

Heart-Rate training
This plan uses heart-rate training zones for intensity specific training.  There are also a few weeks with some additional testing in this plan, see See 'Related Links' at bottom for testing protocol and how to determine and setup your heart-rate zones. 

If you already excel in one of the sports
If you have a cycling or running background and feel the need to add volume to the program, you are welcome to do that as well.

If you are deficient in the sports

On the opposite extreme if you feel as though you need help in one area or the other, you may want to drop a workout that you are strong in, and add an extra where you are weaker. If you feel the need to add a swim lesson in place of a swim workout on the schedule, by all means take the swim lesson and don’t feel the need to make up the missed swim workout.


Skipping workouts

If time becomes a constraint, it is best to skip weight workouts first, skip those workouts where you are strongest. If you skip a workout, or miss one for any reason, do not try to make it up all in the next session. Be cautious and use common sense. The key to this program is consistency. Adding too much to any workout will increase your chance of injury and increase your recovery time.

Other items

The unwritten part of this plan is recovery, nutrition and mental status. Each one of these elements is key to your success. Adequate sleep and proper nutrition will increase your ability to recover on a daily basis. Recovery between tough sessions is critical to making each session count. This will help you stay motivated and mentally focused as the training gets tougher. Having a positive attitude towards the days workouts will increase their productivity.

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.


Good Luck in your 1/2 Ironman Triathlon!
Train Smart,

USAT Coach


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date: October 30, 2005

Coach AJ

USAT Level 1 Coach
"My coaching philosophy can be summed up in two words: listening and balance. By combining these two elements I feel I can help each athlete achieve their full potential."