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A logical solution is maximizing your weekends with focused training blocks.
Doing brick workouts on successive days (both Saturday and Sunday) can help you achieve a level of training stimulus that’s otherwise difficult for time-crunched triathletes to reach.
Below is a block we use with busy athletes looking to improve performance in 70.3 events. It requires eight to nine-and-a-half hours—perfect for when you know the week will be hectic in the office and the weekend offers the most training time. This block is also useful for Olympic-distance triathletes focused on building endurance.
Saturday (3–3.5 hours total)
1:00–1:30 moderate-pace bike (Rate of Perceived Exertion=5–7 on a scale of 1–10); 1:45–2:00 endurance run, with 3×10 steady-state intervals (about 70.3 run pace) spread throughout run. Make the second half faster than the first.
Sunday (5–6 hours total)
5-hour endurance-miles ride. Starting 30 minutes into the ride, do 4×15 min tempo (about 70.3 race pace) separated by 15 minutes of moderate-paced riding (not just easy spinning). This puts the intervals earlier in the ride when you have the power for higher-quality efforts. 20–30-minute recovery run off the bike.
Swim on weekdays. Unless you have the opportunity to do a long open-water swim as a race-simulation, runs and rides are the most effective use of your time during weekend training blocks. This is especially true when preparing for anything shorter than an iron-distance race.
Plan for recovery. It’s best to go into the block with 1–2 days of lighter training or recovery (swim on Thursday, rest day on Friday), and you’ll need 1–2 days of recovery afterward as well. Following a Saturday-Sunday block, and especially after a Friday-Saturday-Sunday block, you need to recover. That means a complete rest day on Monday and only light training on Tuesday. Return to full-intensity training on Wednesday, and if you’re planning back-to-back weekend blocks, Wednesday and Thursday will be the only full-on training days during this week.
Customize your weekend training block
Training is not “one size fits all.” Here are two ways to customize your weekend training block:
Add Friday. For 70.3 and Ironman athletes, we often add a third day to the block (and occasionally a fourth). If you include Friday, that workout should be shorter and more strenuous. Choose either a 90-minute ride with four 12-minute lactate threshold intervals (RPE=8, 6 min recovery between intervals) or a 60-minute endurance run with four 8-minute lactate threshold intervals (RPE=8, 4 min recovery between intervals). Follow either up with a 30- to 45-minute swim focused on stroke and kicking drills.
Move intervals to the end of your workout. When you’re trying to target energy systems it’s best to complete interval work at the beginning of workouts because you’re fresher (as above). But placing intervals at the end can also be effective since in competition you’ll need to push through fatigue to maintain your goal pace.