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Half Iron to Full Ironman Bridge - 12 Weeks Training Plan

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Who is the plan for?

This program should be used for an athlete who has been following the progression of the Half Iron Distance program and is 12 weeks out from their first Iron distance race. This athlete is looking to complete the race in anywhere from 12 hours and up. They have a very strong base of 4-6 months of consistent training.

  1. They are well balanced in all three disciplines.

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

  3. The athlete is in good health with no outstanding injuries.

  4. The athlete has consulted his/her doctor and/or sports medical professional before starting any endurance sport program.

  5. The athlete has an idea of proper training zones.

This program is an advanced plan to bridge you from a Half Iron to Full Iron Distance race with the confidence that you can complete the race.


You should be able to swim at least 3,000 yards in a workout. You should be able to bike at least four hours, and run at least 1:45. 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.

Plan schedule

The weekly hours will vary with each individual; however, the key long workouts need to be achieved so that ample endurance is built up for the race. During the “Base/Build” phase, stretching, increase in protein, massage, appropriate vitamin intake (consult your nutritionist) and sleep should be encouraged to stave off injury from overuse, and promote recovery.

For a beginner, it is a better idea for time sake, and injury prevention, to focus on either the long bike or long run each week, alternating the long workouts. While the athlete is doing a long bike one weekend, they are resting their running legs by just doing maintenance work during that week. While they are focused on a long run at the end of the week, they are resting their legs from the incredibly long hours of the bike week. This promotes recovery and quality of workout that the traditional long bike/long run (on the same weekend), does not. That is virtually too much for the body to recover from, especially for a beginner. While this may work for highly experienced professionals with many Ironman races, it is a recipe for injury for a virgin Ironman racer.

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 almost 16 hours and most of the weeks are 11-15 hours.


Heart-Rate training

This plan uses heart-rate training zones for intensity specific training, see 'Related Links' at bottom for testing protocol and how to determine and setup your heart-rate zones. 


There is generally no testing in this program as the athlete is pretty far along in their season and they are pretty aware of what their HR zones are. There are some swim time trials sprinkled in, and for the most part these are long swims that give you an idea of what it’s like to swim a straight swim.

On swimming

There are swim workouts provided, but the swim time should be spent mostly with a Master’s swim group, providing motivation through socialization. There will always be faster swimmers, and a coach, that will be able to help you with your technique. Pull either the coach aside, or a faster swimmer at the end of the workout, to give you pointers on technique. You may even find an experienced Ironman athlete among your group that has done the same race you are training for. Then they would be able to provide you with information such as how to dress for the weather, the terrain details, course details, etc. The point of Master’s swim group should be focusing on technique, so move into a slower lane and focus on that, rather than making the time intervals of a high-intensity swim set.

Biking and running

There will be a gradual increase in both the run and bike times, for their key workout of the week. That key workout is known as the “Long Run or Long Bike.” This is usually done on the weekend because most people have the weekends off from work. It is often good to have a companion about the same speed for the run and bike. The bike can be done with a friend or group ride. Part of the group ride can be done, and just have some time added either at the start or back end of the group ride in order to reach the prescribed goal times. The social aspect as well as honing of bike handling skills can be of great benefit to the athlete. Training zones should be closely watched as the Ironman distance race they will compete in will likely not (and should not) exceed Zone 3.

If you already excel in one of the sports or want to add volume

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. One of the easiest ways to gain fitness while minimizing your chance for injury is to add bike volume. The bike volume maxes out at around six and ½ hours in this plan, but if you feel the need to add to it, you certainly can.

If you are deficient in the sports

On the other extreme, running too long or too much can lead to injury if you are not prepared for it. I have maxed the runs at two and half hours and I wouldn’t recommend adding to this but instead adding another day of running just to improve your run durability. 

Also, 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.

Time constraints

If time becomes a constraint, it is best to skip weight workouts first, and/or 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 important items

The unwritten part of this plan is recovery, nutrition and mental status. Each one of these elements is a 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 when getting ready for a tough session 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. 

Train Smart,
Mike Ricci
USAT Level II Coach
USAC Expert Coach