Few sports can challenge and develop total body strength and endurance like triathlon, especially if you are intentional about keeping strength training in the mix. The rub for most folks with triathlon is the time component: you are juggling three sports instead of one, which is definitely challenging if you don’t have much wiggle room in your schedule. Thankfully, there are ways to make the most of limited time, enjoy the sport, and still be able to conquer land and water at the end of the day.
Before jumping into the workouts, it is helpful to have an understanding of how to gauge your efforts. “RPE” refers to rate of perceived effort, which works on a scale of 1-10. 1 is essentially lying on the couch, 4-5 is an all-day, conversational pace, 7-8 is an intensity you can only hold for about an hour at best, and 9-10 is close to all-out over shorter efforts (think 3 minutes or less).
Ready to get started? We’ll go in the typical order of events here:
This quick little swim workout is an excellent way to get in some speed work while also practicing elements you will see in open water swimming.
Goal: Improve the skill of dealing with changes of pace, or having to recover under pressure from something unexpected in open water conditions.
- 400m warm up (swim with a pull buoy if possible)
- 8x50m fast (RPE 6-8), 50m recover.
- 4x100m fast (RPE 6-8), 100m recover
Do not rest between the fast and the recovery sections. For example, you should swim continuously through 50m fast, right into 50m recovery. You can recover after that, or string them together. Your choice.
This tough bike workout will challenge you to the core, while helping you build power and speed. It is also great for getting you more accustomed to dealing with changes in pace.
Goal: To help you better maintain efforts at and above threshold for extended times.
- 10min warm up
- 3min zone 4/RPE 8
- 3min recovery
- 1min just above lactic threshold/FTP
- 1min just below lactic threshold/FTP
Note: If you don’t know your lactic threshold heart rate or your FTP, alternate between RPE 6 and RPE 8.
Recover 5min, then repeat the over-unders. Cool down for 5min.
Run: 400s and 800s
This workout is tough, but does a really great job of building speed, power, and the higher leg turnover you need to kill the run on race day. Do this workout on a track or a course measured out with a GPS device. Either is fine, as long as you nail the distances.
Goal: To work on quick leg turnover and increasing running speed at threshold.
- 1 mile. Include several 30 second bursts in the second half to get your heart rate up.
- 400m best effort, 200m recovery
- 800m best effort, 400m recovery
Easy 800m and stretch.