Triathlon Training: Work all physiological systems

This page is Swim, Run, Bike...the ultimate cross training. Six key training tips for triathletes.

Triathlon magazine advice.

A magazine recently asked me for 5 key pieces of triathlon
training advice to be used in an article. Here was my response.
As my book 10K & 5K Running, Training & Racing: The
Running Pyramid contains five training phases, I'd be a bit silly
(as we'd say in England) to change course now.

However, hydration is the absolute most important training tip.
Start off well hydrated, or over hydrated if you don't mind potty
visits three times in the last hour pre triathlon race or training
session. Then, if the triathlon event is less than an hour, you will
not need to take in liquids.

As many readers know, my five training phases are:
One: Fun exercise. Most of your triathlon training should be
enjoyable. Post triathlon race season and the early build up for
next year should be even more fun. Include long gentle sessions,
cruising at 70 percent of your maximum heartrate, plus plenty of
speedplay or fartlek. 
Running element: 200 to 800 meter efforts, on trails, grass or other
soft surface. Run 10-20 percent of your mileage as speedplay at
about 10K race effort. 
Swimming: Switch your environment. Ocean, lake or a
change. Swim 30-90 second moderate effort surges. 
Biking: Go off-road or to the road. Ride hard up the hills or do
2-10 minute surges.

Phase Two: Strength exercise: You still keep your long runs and
bike rides, but you're now in full triathlon training. 
Hill repeats for runners and biking. Use those trusty resistance
devices for swimming. In all the triathlon disciplines, keep your
cadence and work on form. Do weight training too of
course...twice a week until two weeks before your main triathlon
races. Keep that relaxing fartlek exercise too.

Phase Three: Improve your oxygen delivery system or anaerobic
threshold, while improving exercise efficiency. 
Triathlon running...practice running at 15K to half marathon race
pace with one-two mile repeats and 4-6 mile tempo runs. Run at
80-86 % max heartrate for these sessions.
Biking at about one hour time trial pace means 5-15 minute reps at
that pace. 
Swimming will require 3-5 minute efforts at 90 percent maximum
swimming heartrate. Keep some strength and fartlek sessions too.
You keep those long runs and bike rides.

Phase Four: Improve oxygen uptake capacity (VO2 Max) and
exercise form. 
Use 5K pace for running, (95 % of max VO2), usually as 1-3
minute efforts or 300-600 meters. 
Biking will also need 1-3 minute efforts at 5K time trial pace,
which is closer to 100 % of max VO2 on the bike. 
One minute efforts are more the norm for swimmers; form is so
much more important against the high resistance of water. 
Retain some anaerobic exercise, strength and fartlek sessions too.

Phase Five: Peaking requires resting by 20-40 percent, but only in
the last 2-3 weeks.
The type of training most often neglected is long efforts at VO2
Running 1,000 to 1,600 meters at 5K pace, biking 4-6 minute
efforts, and swimming 2-3 minutes at high intensity places the
muscles, including the heart muscle, in the high training zone for a
greater percentage of the exercise session. The well trained runner
/ triathlete will find 12 x 400 meters at 5K pace easy (after running
it a few times). 
Three times one mile at 5K pace is more demanding, especially if
you only take a two minute rest between reps. Match each session
of long efforts with a session of short efforts at 5K intensity. Keep
some anaerobic threshold exercise, strength and fartlek sessions
too. Never ignore a strength while working on your weakness.

Four weeks of relative rest in phase one should be followed by
about 8 weeks in each of the other four triathlon training phases.
These 36 weeks leave triathletes a 16 week racing season.

David Holtís books include
10K & 5K Running, Training & Racing: The Running Pyramid

10K Running, Training & Racing: The Running Pyramid book summary.
Bicycle training from Running Dialogue
David Holt writes a monthly column for the Internets
Triathlon training books at

Buy Running Dialogue Today! ">Running Dialogue, 280 pages, $17.95, by David Holt. Training for the 5K to the Marathon, for beginners and experienced runners, with extensive injury prevention and treatment advice, nutrition, cartoons and inspirational essays, at
Running Dialogue">Running Dialogue at

Or send $17.95 per book to David Holt at PO Box 543, Goleta, CA 93116. (includes shipping and tax)

Buy 10K & 5K Running, Training & Racing Today! ">10K & 5K Running, Training & Racing: The Running Pyramid, 180 pages, $17.95, by David Holt (plus 3,000 meters, 8K, 12K and 10 mile training advice and schedules for 20-100 miles per week) at
10K & 5K Running, Training & Racing">10K & 5K Running, Training & Racing: The Running Pyramid, at
Alternative Book Ordering options if buying David Holt's running books.
Copyright David Holt 2,000 Any part, or all of this training material may be quoted or reviewed...provided you acknowledge the source...10K & 5K Running, Training & Racing and other books by David Holt, this web page or, and contact me at to let me know the material is being used or reviewed.

This page is Swim, Run, Bike...the ultimate in cross training. Six key training tips for triathletes.