Triathlon Training Schedule – Issue #82

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Triathlon Training Schedule Newsletter

Dear Friend,

Time management has always been a challenge to me. Lately I feel like time is flying by…even within the day!

One of the biggest challenges of triathlon is figuring out how to squeeze in the right amount of training for all 3 sports, plus do a little strength training and some flexibility work too!

Without a plan, you probably will feel like you are always “behind” on your training, and never doing enough. I’ve been looking for something that elminates the time management problem of triathlon for years, and finally found a great resource.

Read on for an article by Patrick McCrann (7-time Ironman Finisher!) on efficiency in training, a preview of his new book- Triathlon Training in 10 Hours a Week.


“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
– Aristotle

Less is More – Top Triathlon Training on 10hrs a Week

Most athletes have schedules that prevent them from training as much as they would like, as much as they really need to or as much as all the printed guidelines suggest. Yet with the clear strategy of the 10 hrs a Week training system, you can improve and realize your season goals. In some ways you are better off than your friends who have unlimited amounts of time to train – they might not have the same discipline to focus and may instead end up logging a lot of garbage miles.

Using the 10 hrs a Week training system, a basic training week might look like this: two sessions in each discipline, a weights session, two core sessions, a flexibility session and a rest day. With your limited time, it’s hard to address all aspects of your training in a single week. Instead, you can incorporate ‘focus weeks’ into your training plan – specific periods where you concentrate on a particular discipline – to boost your fitness and race performance.

Step 1: Determine Goals for Your Next Race

With limited time to train you don’t have the luxury of racing every weekend. In fact, you might only get a handful of solid races in. If so, you need to make every one of them count. Start your season right by sitting down and listing your goal races and ranking them as ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’ – ‘A’ being top priority, ‘C’ being lowest priority. In most cases, athletes ‘train through’ their C and rest for only a few days before B-level races. For you, these races represent important building blocks in your season as you prepare for A-level events.

Step 2: Establish Your Limiters for Your Next Race

The next step is to take a quick walk down memory lane. How did you perform last year in your A events? Where did you notice shortcomings in your performance – Climbing hills? Bike power? Open water swims? Running endurance? Make a list of all your limiters in the left hand column (See Chart A). Then list the next A-priority event that you have selected for the year. Think about the distance, the course, the conditions, etc. How do they map to your limiters? Take a moment and rank each limiter. This chart will give you a clear picture of which limiters you need to work on for each part of your season.

Event Name

Limiter 1

Limiter 2

Limiter 3

The Focus Week

During a focus week time-limited athletes will spend 40-60% of their overall time on a particular discipline. So for an athlete with ten hours a week, a swim focus week could mean 4-6 hours of swim work. Build your focus weeks by using Chart A (above). If your first A-level event is a sprint triathlon with an ocean swim that has you concerned, you don’t need to schedule a run focus week during that particular training cycle.

Focus Week Samples

While each focus week is concentrated on one discipline, the type of work you do is determined by number of weeks remaining to your next A-level event. If you are in the base phase of your training, for example, your bike focus week could include one 3-hour ride, one 2-hour ride and two 30-minute drill sessions.

Technique limiters can and should be addressed throughout the season. This can range from an entire drill-focused workout to incorporating some drills into a longer, steady state effort. Work on endurance limiters during the base phases of your training, when you are building your aerobic capacity through longer and more consistent efforts at a moderate pace. Force limiters such as hill climbing can be integrated into your early-season base work; work intervals can get longer as you enter the build phase.

Sport-specific strength limiters can be addressed at the end of your base and beginning of your build periods (for example, big gear work done on your bike). If it is work in the weight-room you need, you should consider twice weekly weight workouts in your base periods with once-a-week efforts throughout the rest of the season for maintenance. Speed limiters are best addressed in the build and peak periods of your training – incorporating high speed (and usually high-effort work) too early in your season can cause injury or overtraining.

What to do with the other disciplines during a Focus Week?

You should maintain a basic level of work in each sport. In addition, you should consistently include strength training and flexibility in your training plan. A bike focus week of six hours leaves you with four hours. With one hour being allocated to strength training and 30-minutes for a quality flexibility session, the remaining 2.5 hours could be split up as a master’s swim session (60′), a steady run (45′) and a transition day (swim 30′, run 15′).

Focus Week Rules

  • Reverse the Tri: When planning a particular period of your training plan, start with the run, then the bike, and then the swim. You can enter a swim focus week a bit tired, as a swim week can be technique-focused. Entering a run focus week when you are tired will cause your form to suffer. You will not only most likely be unable to reap the benefits of the focus week, you could well end up over-trained or injured.
  • Keep it Simple: Focus on one discipline for this week. These are your key workouts you can’t miss. Review your limiters and give each workout a specific task: will you work on technique, group riding skills, or increasing your turnover?
  • Start Easy: Your first focus week can be four hours (don’t want to overload your system!), eventually building to six hours.
  • Don’t Stack Your Focus Weeks: Give yourself a break between focus weeks, especially as a beginner. If you are on a four-week cycle, for example, your first and third weeks can be focus weeks. Remember that focus weeks require a lot of physical and mental energy and you need to have both to complete each week successfully.

In summary, only having ten hours a week to train isn’t the end of the world. With the right strategy and execution, you can position yourself to achieve your goals come race day.

Patrick McCrann, Head Coach and Founder of Performance Training Systems, is a member of Joe Friel’s coaching group and is USA Triathlon certified. He may be contacted at

Workout of the Month: Try this one for a good time!

Cruise= an interval you can comfortably make 100-yard or meter swims on with 5-10 seconds rest between each.
Descend= get faster throughout the set
DPS= Distance Per Stroke

WARM-UP: 3×100’s
#1) Kick on your side
#2) Swim With Fists
#3) Swim

DRILL/BUILD: 4×75’s done with Freestyler Paddles (use code ‘aggies20’ for discount)
4×75’s: Build each to 80% effort

MAIN: 4×100’s @ Cruise interval
4×50’s Descend 1-4
4×200’s @ Cruise interval
4×50’s Descend 1-4

BREATHING: 400, breathing every 3 or 5 strokes. Intermediate/Advanced swimmers use Freestyler paddles


TOTAL: 3100