April 26, 2011

Triathlon Training Plan

This past week I kicked off training for my biggest triathlon endeavor yet, the Vineman 70.3 in July. I've struggled with putting together a training plan, partly because this is very unfamiliar territory for me (well, two-thirds of it is) and because my constantly changing work schedule makes it hard to plan and accommodate a set schedule. Also, I'll admit that as I was scouring the web for training plans and resources for beginners, I became a little intimidated and was afraid I'd bit off more than I could chew. The majority of the plans advocate 4-6 months of training to successfully complete the 70.3 distance, and most of them also strongly suggest that you have several Olympic distance races under your belt and that you have a decent base in all three disciplines before starting their plan. Well folks, I definitely don't fit those requirements! While I do have a strong history and base for running, that is only one part of three. My cycling experience is negligible, and my swimming is admittedly pathetic for someone with aspirations to swim 1.2 miles in just under 3 months.

I allowed a little bit of doubt (and quite honestly, fear) to creep in and I seriously asked myself if I have what it takes to do this. And while the jury is still out on that one, I won't be backing down that easily. I admit, I do tend to jump in head first, taking on one challenge after the next, often giving myself little to no time in between - case in point: running my first 50 miler and then starting long-course triathlon training a week later. I'm sure many people even think I'm foolish for taking on the half iron distance with only one triathlon under my belt, and a measly sprint at that. Not to mention that I'm giving myself just 2.5 months to prepare.
80 days and counting...
And while I started to doubt and freak out a bit, I was reminded of how I felt back in January when I was trying to wrap my head around running ultras and trying to figure out how to train for them. Similarly, much of the info I found declared that it would takes months and myriad miles to tackle such an extreme distance as 50 miles. And while I certainly did work my butt off, I did it my own way, without a structured training plan, and in less time than the "experts" claimed I should (granted I was coming off marathon training). And so I've decided to take a similar approach to my triathlon training. My big goal for the season is of course to successfully complete the Vineman 70.3 race, but along the way I hope to also complete my first Olympic distance race, find more balance in my fitness routine (no more "all running, all the time"), and hopefully see my body and overall health benefit from the complimentary relationship swimming, cycling, and running share.

If one good thing came out of this brief phase of doubt and panic, it's that I'm no longer as naive about how much of a challenge this race will be and how much work it's going to take to conquer it. But, I WILL DO IT. I truly do believe that I will cross that finish line on July 17th, and in the meantime, I'm ready to put in the time and work so I can give it my best effort. Coming off such a long and arduous running training cycle my body and mind are ready to change things up and after just the first week I'm already enjoying the new workouts. And although I'm inexperienced and a total tri newbie, I'm not going into this blind. Like my ultra training plan, I have a general outline and certain key factors I plan to incorporate into my training, but I won't be assigning exact workouts to specific days in advance since a more flexible and short-term plan fit my work schedule better. And so after rambling in much longer than planned, here goes:

the rule of three
Three sports, three times a week. This is my goal, and I'll be loosely following the set-up of this plan. However, I also want my schedule to be flexible since life happens. Swimming gets priority, followed by biking and then running. At the moment I'm really not running at all, but I hoped to add it back in gradually very soon. Until then I'm focusing on my weaker disciplines in the pool and on the bike. If you looked at the plan I'm using as my guide, you will notice that to follow my rule of three I'll have to incorporate "two-a-days" in which I run and swim on the same day, probably morning and evening respectively. I can already anticipate that this will be a challenge for me, perhaps more mentally than physically, but I'm going to really try to stick with it. As far as specifics go, 2/3 workouts in each sport will probably be shorter and more intense with one longer workout (primarily biking and running). I hope to work up to 55 minutes of swimming, 4 hours of biking, and 2.5 hours of running

open H2O & masters swims
Hands down my weakest leg of triathlon is swimming. It's the single biggest factor that was causing me to freak out about Vineman, and so it will also be the discipline that requires the most work. I only allowed myself to freak out for a bit and then I went and joined a gym and started swimming. So far it is hard, much harder than I anticipated, but I know with practice I will see improvements. The gym is only 10 minutes from work and is open late so I can go after work which fits well with my schedule. I plan to swim at least 3 times a week, focusing on both form and endurance. In another week or so, when I hopefully feel semi-comfortable in the water and my chance of embarassing myself is minimal, I plan to also attend a masters workout once a week. I think it will be fun and beneficial to have a structured workout and be able to get some feedback on my form. As my training progresses and I get closer to race day, I also plan to replace one swim a week with an open water swim. Anyone who knows anything about triathlon will tell you how crucial these are to race day success. For me, the biggest benefits are being able to practice swimming without walls to rest on, learning how to sight effectively, and getting used to a wetsuit along with getting used to things that lurk in an open body of water : )

I may be a novice but I'm not a complete fool, and so brick workouts will be a common occurrence in my training. For those of you who don't know, a brick is a back-to-back workout, usually either a swim immediately followed by a ride or, more commonly, a ride followed by a run. The idea is to prepare your body to effectively switch disciplines and shorten the time our bodies need to start feeling more "normal". Personally, I plan to do far more bike-run bricks because I think it's the hardest transition in triathlon and will hopefully allow me to run a strong half marathon. When I was training for my one and only sprint last summer, I included a couple bricks and was glad to experience the heavy, jello-like legs beforehand so I knew what to expect and how to work through it. Since I'm not running just yet due to my knee issue, these will be something I add in after a few weeks of "base building".

tune-up races
I have at least one, possibly two, shorter distance triathlons that I plan to complete as tune-up races to practice race day strategies and execution on a smaller scale. These will also act as long training days for me and give me a good idea of where I'm at with my training. So far, on my calendar I have a tentative sprint in Auburn, although I may be nixing it because it is ridiculously expensive ($130 for a sprint?! are you kidding me?). Then I have my first Olympic distance race that falls about a month before Vineman which will be perfect for assessing my abilities and mentally preparing me for the big race.

strength training + yoga
In the last week I've started doing some strength training, including a nice little reunion with the sometimes-scary Jillian. I'm really digging the good sore feeling I got after and I would love to continue to incorporate this into my schedule. Although it would certainly be beneficial, the challenge will be fitting it in with the rest of my workouts. I'd also love to fit in some hot yoga once in a while, but this may end up being wishful thinking. I guess time will tell!

And so friends, there it is. Of course a lot of this may change as the weeks go by, but that's kind of the idea. A flexible schedule is what I need right now, but I feel like if I can stick to these key factors I will be prepared come race day. If anyone has any tips, advice, etc. please let me know since it's pretty clear I barely know what I'm doing! I'll be back tomorrow with a recap of my first week of training : )


  1. Good luck! It may be hard to truly "race" a half ironman after a shorter training period than recommended, but I think you'll have no problem getting to the finish line. The biking is what intimidates me, which is why I'll be sticking with sprint distance for a while (if I ever actually sign up for a race)!

  2. Oh man, I can only dream of doing this someday. But hey, if you can do a 50 miler, I have no doubt you will conquer this. Good luck!

  3. The main purpose of triathlon training plans is that prepares your body and improve your skill gradually from there as a beginner as well as it avoids you in getting risk of injury.

  4. You should measure your body weight before and after training and intake equal amounts of fluids during your training. You must have a balanced diet because you require the energy to preserve the demands of a solid training. A balanced diet is one that has a good combination of carbohydrates and proteins. Always take a protein rich diet during the training because it helps in muscle building, particularly in gluts and guards. Also, take proper amount of carbohydrates (found in many sports bars and drinks) because it helps your body in absorbing the protein.

    training for a triathlon