Tag Archives: triathlete

Are You Ready to Tri? Series: Training for a Triathlon


Welcome back! This is the second installment of my, Are You Ready to Tri?, blog series. You can catch up by reading the Introduction and Triathlon 101.

This week the focus is on training for a triathlon. There are several things you want to keep in mind as you train for your triathlon; what distance are you racing, what’s your threshold, how many weeks/months before the race are you starting your training, etc. You want to establish good training rhythm, triathletes tend to be too intense and train too hard. This is very true for myself and I have to keep myself in check from developing training ADHD.

To train properly for a triathlon you want to use a systems approach; strengthen the chain, don’t break it! What I mean by this is you want to include your muscular, skeletal and cardiovascular systems in your training.

Let’s start with the stress/adaptation curve.


When you train you accumulate both fatigue and fitness. Many people don’t realize that the fatigue that accumulates over the course of a training cycle itself hides the fitness gains that are made. However, fitness persists about 3 times longer then fatigue. This means that when all traces of fatigue are gone from a bout of exercise or a cycle of training, the fitness gained will persist for 3 times as long as the fatigue. That’s why most people make gains when they take a few days off from time to time.

So how should you train in order to gain the most fitness?

Mesocycle-which means month, is your chronic training load. Here we train hard for the first 3 weeks three times per week so that we never ever are completely recovered from any workouts. Then, on the 4th week we train only once or twice the entire week at a low intensity and low volume. During the 4th week we’re allowing fatigue to dissipate so that we can display the fitness we’ve gained from the previous 3 week’s of training. During this low intensity/low frequency week, the physiological indicators we’ve stimulate the previous 3 weeks “rebound” back up and above where they were before.

Microcycle-which means week, is your acute training load. Each week you will want to find a balance for both volume and duration. I suggest taking at least 1 to 2 days off per week for rest and recovery.


When you are training for a triathlon you want to train at the zone that you are going to be racing in, so if you are doing a short distance triathlon, you should train in the zone you can maintain for the duration of your race. For a sprint distance triathlon this could vary from 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours depending on your fitness level. For Ironman distances, you would want to train at a lower zone since that distance is significantly longer. The first thing you will want to do is determine your target heart rate. To attain optimal cardiovascular fitness, exercise between 60-90% of maximal heart rate (50-85% of heart rate reserve). You can find a target heart rate calculator here:


Triathletes who are new to the sport, 1 to 3 years, will see the most gains when basing their training on endurance and form. Find your threshold and build your target intensity.

How many days per week should I train for each sport?

Ideally you should train for each discipline twice per week, that means running two days, swimming 2 days, and cycling 2 days. If you can fit in three days for each sport, that would be even better! However, for most of us, triathlon is a hobby, not a career. It is important to find balance and integrate training with your life, especially if you have a job and family to take care of as well.

What about increasing duration and intensity?

During the training season you should increase your duration and intensity about 10% per week. As always, listen to your body and don’t push yourself to do more than you are ready for.

What about bricks? When do I start those?

Bricks can be incorporated into your weekly training plan at any time. If this is a weak area for you, then incorporate them earlier on during your training plan.

I’m a weak swimmer (runner, cyclist), what do I do?

Swimming is my weakest sport for triathlon so I do an extra day of swimming each week. I run two days, bike two day and swim three days. If running or biking is your weak sport, spend extra time training for that portion.

What about transitions? Can I train for those?

Certainly. Choose one day that you are doing a brick workout and practice your transition between those two events. Simulate race day as closely as possible. There are lots of tips and tricks to make transitions as quick and seamless as possible. I can address those in another post if you are interested.

Most importantly, stick to your training plan! Don’t develop training ADHD!!

Any other questions? Did I miss something you’ve been wondering about?


There is NO off season!

I began my journey in January 2012 in an effort to lose about 15 pounds of weight I had slowly gained over the past couple of years. As my journey progressed I began to pay more attention to what I ate and decided to try a vegetarian diet which progressed to a vegan/plant-based diet. I’m happy with this decision and have stayed on this path since May 2012.

Along with changing my diet I also began to exercise. It was simply walking at first with an occasional “game” on the Kinect. I signed up for a 6K as a means to keep myself accountable after “The Biggest Loser” at work competition ended. Things kind of snowballed from there and I did several more 5Ks, adventure races, bike races and triathlons. I was addicted!

My exercise schedule during the racing season/summer months was determined by the next race. The typical week consisted of 2-3 days of swimming, 3-4 days of running and usually 2 days of biking. I took a rest day on Sundays (except if that was race day, then my rest day was Monday).

I did my final triathlon on September 23rd and my final 5K on October 6th. Race season was over, now what?

I didn’t need to train as intensely as I had been over the past 6 months, but I also couldn’t just stop! It was time to re-evaluate my exercise schedule. I read a bunch of articles online about off season training/maintenance plans. Based on those, I put together my own plan/schedule. Nothing formal and very flexible. (A must with three young kids!)

Since I don’t particularly like swimming all too much, I decided to take a break from doing laps at the pool. I plan on resuming at least 2 days per week swimming schedule in the New Year, I haven’t decided yet when I will actually do it!

I still run at least 2 days per week, sometimes three. I go to spin class 2-3 times per week. I’ve also resumed some weight training/flexibility type stuff.

I have plans on doing the local Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning as well as the Polar Bear series through the local YMCA. Beginning the first weekend in January there is a race every other weekend through March. The first two races are 5Ks, then two 10Ks, a 10 miler and then a half marathon as the final race. By the time that series is over, it’ll be time to get serious about my triathlon race season for 2013!

Here’s what my typical week looks like:
Monday: Spin Class @ YMCA
Tuesday: Strength/Flexibility routine (I like Fitness Blender YouTube videos) or Running
Wednesday: Spin Class @ Allegheny Endurance
Thursday: Day Off
Friday: Running
Saturday: Spin Class @ YMCA
Sunday: Running

For my running days I follow this schedule; Easy Run (20-30 minutes, usually about 5K), Intervals (these vary in intensity and duration), and a Long Run (45-60 minutes, typically 10K)

I tend to be a bit OCD about training and log all my food and exercise. I use Beginner Triathlete as well as MyFitnessPal. I am also reading a lot of articles and subscribe to the Short Course Triathlon Seminar through Endurance Nation.

What’s your off season training plan?