Not all triathletes train for a triathlon in the same way.
This is a good thing because actually everybody is different with a unique set of circumstances that they have to work around.
Not to mention that we all have different physiology, goals wants and needs.
For this reason today I will show you 19 ways to train for a triathlon that will make a better training plan for a specific group of people – age group triathletes. Busy ones at that, who may have come from a variety of different backgrounds.
People Train For A Triathlon From A Variety Of Backgrounds
- Single sports backgrounds
- Taken up triathlon at a later stage in life – not from childhood
- Decided that after years of sedentary life that it is time to take on a challenge
- Move to multi-sport as an alternative to single sport due to injury
- Charity fundraising event
- Been inspired by watching it on TV or by a friend
- Milestone such as a birthday or retirement
The fact is, whatever background you come from and whatever circumstances surround you, how you train for a triathlon is going to be different to how say an ‘elite’ full time athlete trains.
Most of us are busy people and the two biggest barriers I see in people are those of time (or lack or time) and motivation or inclination to do masses of training, in particular when it comes to longer races such as Ironman.
The fact is that training for a triathlon doesn’t need to be all consuming.
While traditional training lore has been all about mounting up the mileage, training hours and volume, this may not be the best way for you to train, particularly if time is of the essence.
I differentiate my triathlon training plans from what I call ‘traditional’ plans by considering an intensity based approach (as opposed to a volume based approach). This is the best way to train for a triathlon for ‘most of us’.
There Are Many Different Ways To Train For A Triathlon
I understand this thinking may be new to you because the whole concept of Project Tri is that of quality over quantity, and this means a much lower training volume. This makes some people nervous initially so if this is you, you are not alone.
If you are still thinking that more training is better, please let me explain the reasoning behind my training sessions.
My only focus is to help real world triathletes like you fit effective training sessions into your busy schedule. Not only do you need to do this but you also need superior fitness gains and overall health for a sustainable triathlon career.
What may work well for a full time triathlete may not be best for you. Triathlon has a deep tradition of massive volume of training, very much lower intensity aerobic based. While this has its place, I believe there is a more effective way to train that is less time consuming and more sustainable.
Benefits Of Project Tri Intensity Based Triathlon Training Approach
- Intensity based training periodisation keeps the volume consistent and low for as long as possible before adding volume at the last minute. The variation in intensity based training elicits fitness adaptation and keeps you fresh.
- Focus on one race for no longer than 12 weeks for sprint and olympic distance, and 16-20 weeks for half and full Ironman racing. Immediacy is crucial for motivation an a race a year away is not likely to motivate you. You are likely to get stale, bored and fatigued experience GAS if you train for one race for too long – trust me I have done it myself.
- Periodised nutrition focusing on nutrients and at times based on paleolithic diet plus some adaptations for modern athletes.
- Recovery based weekly so no recovery weeks wasted due to the intensity based periodisation.
- Polarised training week
- 5 step solution is holistic (get your free triathlon guide here or your free e-course in the sidebar or on the home page when you subscribe to the newsletter)
- ROI time effective training sessions to get most fitness from little time.
- Recovery IS RECOVERY! NOT EASY. It’s okay to take a day of rest.
- Swim is not good ROI. The swim, especially for longer races is to short proportionally, the time would be better gaining massive time chunks in the other disciplines. As long as you can complete the swim with confidence, getting faster is exponentially harder maybe saving a minute or two compared to maybe an hour on the bike and run.
- Never run on consecutive days unless planned fatigue. Never run over 3xpw. Never run >2.5h or 20miles even for IM!
- Maximise low impact time and intensity.
- Keep volume as low for as long as possible.
- Build an efficient balanced body.
- Cascade intensity stimulation – intensity is worth more because it stimulates all the energy systems in the body from the top down. It is impossible to stimulate high level systems from the bottom up, and this is a major downfall of traditional training methods. Kill two birds with one stone.
- Increase cruising speed. Make your easy velocity a faster velocity by increasing top end speed.
- Race rehearsal weeks are crucial.
- Fitness is not a vo2max or a heartrate, but the ability to do work by the muscles.
- Annual Training Plan as follows: race specific, transition, intensity based general prep, off season.
- Outseason opportunity to get fast – velocity, intensity! beneficial cascade fitness adaptation.
Pitfalls Of Traditional Volume Based Triathlon Training Method
- You have to earn your right to go fast by doing endless hours of slow training miles first – You must add speed to your sessions once you have added volume.
- You must continually fuel on starches and sugars – traditional athlete food.
- Long training plans can last a very long time – months on end
These methods do little for you as a busy athlete for the following reasons:
- You don’t have the time or the inclination to train long and slow, particularly during the off-season when this type of training is considered to be standard
- Your training volume can fluctuate from under an hour to many hours on a set day depending on the week in your schedule. This makes planning your life very challenging
- Your training plan can take many months or even a year long, making it difficult to keep your mind focused on the goal event, and making boredom and monotony quite likely.
- It creates a catabolic environment in your body, adding negative stress on to an already challenged endocrine system. This can result in slow recovery times, affecting your mental and physical wellbeing.
- Long hours means something will have to give, and that is usually sleep. Getting up at 5am so you can fit a training session in may well mean you spend your working day under performing, and then your boss gets on your back.
- You have to go out for hours every weekend to train, and this can cause frictions with your ‘triathlete widow’ as your spouse and kids begin to get annoyed and resent the whole training experience
- Although recovery is planned it traditionally takes up every 3rd 4th or 5th week, reducing the volume and essentially wasting that training week
- This all piles up and you get grouchy or even injured or ill. You have a poor race performance, or you may well give up triathlon as a sport.
Over the years I have developed a five step triathlon training training plan which I use to coach age group triathletes.
- Assess fitness
I’ve developed and tested this with my own training and that of my clients, and this is a method that works well for the real-world triathlete who has to fit training into a hectic lifestyle.
For me it is very important to promote health and fitness for triathlon. While often people can get fit, unfortunately this can be at the detriment to health, and while they may be linked, health and fitness are different.
The intensity based or fast then far method saves you time, and works more effectively for the real-world athlete, resulting in better fitness and triathlon performance.
My 12 week triathlon nutritional protocol promotes healthy nutritional habits, and steers away from chemical-ridden sports fuels and highly processed traditional sports nutrition.
A Little About Me
Having began my triathlon career from a background in cycling, I have been racing triathlons since 1999. Since then I have competed on all levels and at all distances from sprint to Ironman triathlon. and managed to span the results board, from DNF to winning.
I am passionate about helping you who achieve big goals with little time by focusing on getting the most out of each training minute, so you get much fitter in less time. Don’t be mistaken though, if a session is short that does not mean it will be easy.
I am 100% committed to helping you train for a triathlon by providing you with super simple training methods that are designed for you, the real-world triathlete wanting a zero guesswork and a triathlon plan that works with life. If this interests you then please get in touch or join the triathlon coaching team . Happy training, Nico.