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The Hour-Twenty Workout

By Marty Gaal

trail runMost triathletes are grown adults with multiple commitments, family duties and time constraints. I have been working with this population as a coach for almost ten years and have worked with highly motivated world class amateur athletes who have careers and families, as well as beginner/intermediates who do not have nor want competitive goals. Both types of athletes present different challenges.

My experiences have led me to believe that the most realistic training plan for a certain type of athlete is simple and repeatable. The athlete that this particular approach works for is extremely time constrained and highly motivated or someone who is not as competitively motivated but wants a healthy and realistic training plan.

I call this the hour-twenty training plan. It consists of roughly one hour and twenty minute workouts three to five days per week and one longer workout with a day off - in essence, do both weekend workout time slots in one day and take the other day off.

This is a workout that most of you can knock out no matter what time of day, with minimal interference from work or other commitments. There are no double days in this training plan. One and done is the approach.

This training plan is appropriate for sprint to international distance triathletes. It would not be a viable plan for anything longer. If you are very busy or not a triathlon die-hard, there is not much reason for you to race longer distance. If you plan to race 70.3 to Ironman, you must make time for longer training sessions.

The key to this type of training plan is that most days will consist of two disciplines. The weekend workout will be the major endurance session of the week. The time allotment to each discipline will vary depending on the strengths and weaknesses of the athlete.

One hour and twenty minutes is enough time to work the various training elements in any training plan – aerobic endurance, anaerobic endurance, lactate threshold, drills and skills, and power. It is enough time to burn roughly 700 calories. It is also enough time to burn off life-related stress and spend a little time on yourself.

The table below illustrates a week sample for the motivated and experienced athlete - in this example, motivated 40-year-old female with 10 years experience (distances will vary depending on your skill level, time is the same):

Table I. Advanced / motivated hour-twenty example training plan:

Monday

Swim 30 minutes

Run 45 minutes

5 minutes transition

Swim 30 minutes –

  • 400 easy swim
  • 100 easy kick
  • 8 x 100 mod-hard on :15 rest
  • 100 cooldown

Run 45 minutes

  • 15 minutes easy warm up
  • 25 minutes comfortable fast
  • 5 minutes easy

 

Swim muscular endurance

 

 

 

Run aerobic endurance

Tuesday

Bike 80 minutes

Ride 1 hour 20 minutes –

  • 30 minutes easy
  • 5 x 6 minutes hard (lactate threshold effort) with 3 minutes easy between each
  • 5 minutes very easy cooldown

 

Bike endurance/ muscular endurance / anaerobic endurance

Wednesday

Strength 20 minutes

Swim 55 minutes

5 minute transition

Core strength workout 20 minutes –

  • standing or jump squats
  • pushups
  • planks
  • pullups
  • crunches or situps

Swim 55 minutes

  • 600 easy
  • 6 x 300 descend 1-3 and 4-6 so 3 and 6 are fast on :45 rest
  • 6 x 50 drills on :15
  • 100 easy cooldown
  •  

Power/balance

 

 

 

 

 

Swim endurance and muscular endurance

Thursday

Bike 60 minutes

Run 15 minutes

5 minute transition

Ride 60 minute

  • 20 minute easy
  • 30 minute moderate hard steady
  • 10 minute easy

Run 15 minute steady effort off the bike

 

Bike muscular endurance

 

 

Specific running

Friday

Run 50 minutes

Swim 25 minutes

5 minute transition

Run 50 minutes – 15 minutes easy / 10 x 400 on track (or 1:30 on road) at 5k pace with 200 jog easy between / 10 minute easy

Swim 25 minutes easy continuous

 

Run anaerobic endurance

 

Swim endurance

Saturday

Day off

 

 

Sunday

120 minute ride

20 minute run

Ride 90 minutes to 2 hours solo or with a group, steady moderate effort

Run 20 minutes off the bike steady effort

 

Bike endurance

Run endurance

Specific training

The total amount of training time for the example above is about 8.5 hours. Depending who you talk to this is either quite a bit or a piece of cake. You don’t need to compare yourself to everyone else all the time. This sort of plan is effective and works well. The Sunday workout could be a longer run and a shorter ride every couple of weeks.

Table II illustrates the same approach for a newer or less-motivated athlete - in this example, a 25-year-old male getting back into shape:

 

Table II. Beginner / newly-motivated hour-twenty example training plan:

Monday

Swim 45 minutes

Run 30 minutes

 

Swim 45 minutes –

  • 400 easy swim
  • 100 easy kick
  • 4 x 50 drills on :15
  • 8 to 10 x 100 moderate on :15 rest
  • 100 cooldown

Run 30 minutes –

  • 15 minutes easy
  • 10 minutes moderate
  • 5 minutes easy

 

Swim muscular endurance

 

 

 

 

Run aerobic endurance

Tuesday

Bike 75 minutes

Ride 1 hour 15 minutes –

  • 30 minutes easy
  • 5 x 3 minutes hard (lactate threshold effort) with 3 minutes easy between each
  • 15 minutes very easy cooldown

 

Bike endurance/ muscular endurance / anaerobic endurance

Wednesday

Day off

 

 

Thursday

Run 50 minutes

Swim 25 minutes

5 minute transition

Run 50 minutes – 20 minutes easy / 6 x 400 on track (or 2:00 on road) at 10k pace with 200 jog easy between / 10 minute easy

Swim 25 minutes easy-steady continuous

 

Run anaerobic endurance

 

 

Swim endurance

Friday

Bike 50 minutes

Strength 20 minutes

Ride 50 minute

  • 20 minute easy
  • 20 minute moderate hard steady
  • 10 minute easy

Core strength workout 20 minutes –

  • standing or jump squats
  • pushups
  • planks
  • pullups
  • situps or crunches

 

Bike muscular endurance

 

 

Power/balance

Saturday

Day off

 

 

Sunday

90 minute ride

20 minute run

Ride 90 minutes to 2 hours solo or with a group, steady moderate effort

Run 20 minutes off the bike steady effort

 

Bike endurance

Run endurance

Specific training

The plan above is just under seven hours.

There are many challenges I face as a coach when planning for training and racing. Helping motivated athletes avoid injury and burnout while challenging their limits is their biggest challenge.

Keeping newer or less-motivated athletes consistent with a plan that helps to build their endurance, confidence, and ultimately improve their speed is their biggest challenge.

Each athlete is different, entering into a training plan with strengths and weaknesses. My purpose in writing this article is to detail a method for triathlon training that does not require a lockdown on all your free time while still producing solid results for short to intermediate distance events.

The proliferation of 70.3 and Ironman racing, while great for the sport, has many newcomers and even some veterans thinking that they aren’t a “real” triathlete unless they compete in long distance events or take part in multi-hour sessions several times per week. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Sprints and Olympic distance triathlons are challenging endurance races. You can suffer greatly and adequately build your character in one or two hours as well as twelve.

Marty Gaal, CSCS, is a USA Triathlon certified coach. He has been competing in triathlon since 1989. He qualified for and raced the Ironman World Championships in 2005, but really prefers sprints and Olympic distance races because he can still walk and talk after. He coaches both long and short course age group triathletes and co-owns One Step Beyond Multisport with his wife, Brianne. You can find out more at www.osbmultisport.com.

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