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Couch-to-Sprint - 12 Week - RPE Training Plan

Plan description Plan workouts calendar volume graph
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Who is the plan for?

This program should be used for an athlete who is coming off the couch! No prerequisites required!

This program is a basic plan to get you to complete a sprint distance triathlon with the confidence that you can complete the race without difficulty.

This program is very basic and is a ‘get me by’ type of program.

Plan schedule

The schedule consists of 3 workouts per week in each sport, 2 days of strength training and core work too. The maximum volume is around 7 hours per week

Background requirements

You should be able to swim at least 25 yards straight. You should be able to bike at least 15 minutes and run at least 5-8 minutes It’s ok if you have to use the run/walk method for the running (more on that below).


Rate of perceived exertion (RPE) training
This plan uses RPE zones for intensity specific training.  See 'Related Links' at bottom for testing protocol and how to determine and setup your RPE zones.


RPE vs HR training for a 'Couch-to-Sprint' plan

I think RPE is the way to go. With bigger people or the out-of-shape,  my experience is that they need to ditch the HRM on the run as the HR is out of control. Once they are running for 3-6 months, then they can use a HRM. Even for myself, this time of year, when I am starting to get back into a training groove, I don’t use a HRM. The numbers don’t mean anything since I am going to run my normal effort but the pace will be slow, and the HR will be high. After a few weeks, everything comes back around to normal and I can put the HRM back on.

If you have a swimming background and you want to add distance or repetitions to the workouts, you are more than welcome to do that.


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.

If you can complete both the swim and bike workouts, but you are a weak runner and you need to use a walk/run plan that is perfectly ok. I have many runners who use an 8/2 method. This is where the athlete runs for 8 minutes and walks for 2, getting their RPE back down. I have had marathoners use this method that run in the 3:00 range for 26.2 miles, so don’t feel like you are less of a runner if you use this method. ?

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 Sprint Distance Triathlon!
Train Smart,
Mike Ricci
USAT Level II Coach
USAC Expert Coach