Go Triathlete

Train Efficiently With Training Plan Building Blocks

With the popularity of triathlon booming and races filling within minutes of opening for online registration, it’s not hard to plan your training year around your season goal.  

The reality of adults having spouses and kids and jobs is this- training takes a backseat due to time constraints and the commitments of life until the pressure of procrastination raises its ugly head and forces the competitor to train.

Here’s why you need to train early instead of at the last minute...

Whether racing Sprints or Ironman races, the body has to be able to adapt to the workload placed upon it to be able to accomplish the racing goal. When thinking about your season consider short and long term fitness goals. A short-term goal may be a race this season, with a long-term goal of Ironman racing one to two seasons after that.

The purpose of training in endurance sports is to give the body a workload, slowly overload it to the edge of overtraining and then rest. During this resting or recovery period your body repairs itself and adapts to the workload that it just endured. At the end of the recovery period, this overload/adaptation/rest cycle is repeated.  It takes somewhere from 6 to 8 weeks for the body to adapt to the exercise stresses placed upon it.

Sit down with a calendar and break your season in blocks. Count backwards from your most important race by week and number them to the week you are currently in.

Without getting into specifics of how to taper, consider that your taper will be from three to four weeks for an Ironman to about one to two weeks for a shorter race. Pencil those weeks into your calendar before your race.

Now starting back at the current week you are in consider the following blocks. Build your plan backwards from your race date.


The goal of this block is to train to get ready to train. Establish your pattern of frequency in each sport. Volume, or the amount of time put into each workout is not the goal. Do two workouts a day if possible. Fit them in however you can, and learn to adapt your schedule to be able to accomplish this goal.  Workout number one can be done before anyone is out of bed. Workout number two can be done at lunch or after work, impacting family time very little.

The length of this period will depend on your fitness and experience level.

Base Building

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is fitness. The Base Building phase takes time, yet this is step is often skipped or rushed. The goal of base building is to train your body to be able to adapt to an increased workload. This phase requires time effort, and patience. Base building lays the foundation to go fast later in the season.

The body is limited in the amount of muscle and liver glycogen it can store, but has a nearly endless supply of fat for fuel. Train your body to burn fat for it’s primary fuel source and you will exhaust your glycogen stores in a longer amount of time than your counterpart who skipped this phase.

Working primarily at an aerobic level during this phase, the body’s metabolism adapts to efficiently burning fat for fuel, strengthens tendons, muscles and increases capillary density to deliver blood to the muscles.

You’re not only building aerobic fitness during this phase, but you are also building strength. Skip this phase, and go immediately to intensity workouts and you’ll limit how fast you’ll be able to go later in the year. For these reasons an aerobically fit athlete will be able to recover faster than one that has skipped this phase. Only about ten percent of your time working out during this phase should be devoted to intervals.

At the beginning of this phase, a ten-hour workout week may be taxing. At the end of the phase, a ten-hour workout week may be a recovery week.

The length of this phase may be 8 to 16 weeks.

Specific Race Prep or Build Phase

The goal of this phase is building specifically for the race you are working towards and increasing your Lactate Threshold (LT), or the intensity at which lactate (the thing that makes you sore after doing running  hard repeat 400’s) accumulates in the body.

While the volume during this time may decrease slightly depending on your racing goals, intensity and course specific work should be added slowly like spices to a recipe. Too much intensity too soon, and you’ll get hurt and negate your base building phase.

This phase should include race pace work specific to your goal race, increasingly longer tempo work in the aero position, hill repeats and shorter faster very hard intervals.  Your LT will rise, which means you can do harder, longer efforts without getting sore or rubber legged. Your body will also be able to clear lactate from your body more efficiently.

It’s still important during this phase that you continue to do a long aerobic volume, however these longer workouts can include portions of the elements listed above.

Learn as much as you can about your race course through in-person recon, or via an online race profile. If the course is hot, hilly, and windy, you need to take those things into account during this period of your training and make adaptations to your weekly workouts to accommodate these factors.

The length of this phase may be 8 to 16 weeks.


The goal of this phase is to allow the body to recover and adapt from all the previous work that you did. Volume is significantly reduced, however shorter, faster intervals are used to keep neuromuscular pathways firing and to get the body ready for the intensity of racing.

Often times during the early part of the taper, the athlete will feel sluggish and lethargic. Resist the urge during this time to get in “just one more” big workout.  A big workout will ruin all the work that you did earlier in the season. It’s your job to rest and recover. Maintain the frequency of the workouts you have established early on. The sluggish feeling will pass, and on race day you should be firing on all cylinders.