OLYMPIC TRIATHLON PROGRAM
This 16-week program is designed for beginner to intermediate triathletes who have their sights set on an Olympic distance race (swim: .93 miles/1.5K; bike 24.8 miles/40K; run: 6.2 miles/10K). There are 9 to 10 weekly workouts (2 swims, 2-3 rides, 2-3 runs, 1-2 strength training sessions) that build a strong, capable foundation to go the distance in all three disciplines. The workouts are far from basic: nearly every ride and run has skill or speed development, while the pool workouts are rarely repeated.
If you are a more experienced triathlete going for a time goal or simply want more time in your weaker discipline, there are three weekly optional sessions (1 run, 1 ride, 1 swim) that can be easily added to enhance your preparation.
THE PREREQS: At a minimum, you need to be able to swim 100 yards (back, forth, back, forth) in a pool without touching the bottom or hanging on the edge. It doesn’t have to be pretty, and you don’t have to keep your face in the water the whole time. If you can’t do that but are intent on this plan, enrolling in an adult swim class and/or private lessons is a great idea.
For the run and bike portions, being injury-free is necessary. Ideally, you have completed a sprint triathlon—or at least run a 5K and 10K—before taking on an Olympic distance race, but if you’re starting from scratch and just can't bear not doing an Olympic distance this season, this 16-week plan can help you get to the finish line happily and injury-free.
EQUIPMENT: We’ve compiled a full gear list here, but if you’re new to the sport of triathlon, we’re all about keeping it minimal and cost-effective. Ride your old bike or borrow one from a friend. Rent a wetsuit, if you need one. The only pieces of equipment that might feel are unusual is a stability/Swiss ball and hand weights for the strength circuits; most gyms have these.
TRAINING BASICS: Most of the mandatory weekday workouts are an hour; if you do the optional runs off the bike and/or the bikes out of the water, they inch closer to 75-90 minutes. (Remember: they’re optional.)
The weekend workouts range from 60 minutes to 2 hours, 30 minutes; one day typically has a bike/run brick and the other is either bike or run with an optional swim. The longer weekend workouts will get you ready, both mentally and physically, for an Olympic-distance triathlon, which typically takes most beginner triathletes three to four hours to complete.
A FEW MORE TIDBITS:
—During Week 8, you will do a weekend workout of all three disciplines in a row to get you familiar with race situation and transitions.
—Swims range from 1,100 to 2,300 yards; rides range from 35 minutes to 2 hours (or 25 miles); runs range from 40 to 90 minutes.
—One day weekly is a total rest day. (On the plan as written, it's a Friday, but you can easily rearrange the plan to accomodate your schedule.)
STRENGTH TRAINING INCLUDED? Yes. You will have one to two (mandatory) strength circuits a week. These require hand weights and a stability ball.
A SAMPLE WEEK:
Workouts indicated with a star are optional, and all the workout specifics are explained in great detail in the plan.