Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
The key is creating a balanced and simple short-term plan that you can realistically execute week after week.
A successful half-Ironman race requires the intersection of peak fitness, a recovered body, proper race execution—and a dash of good luck. The 70.3 Basic Week explained here has been refined through the training of thousands of triathletes since 2007. The goal is to bring you several years up the self-coached triathlete ladder of experience, redefining your understanding of endurance training, freeing you from outdated methodology and preparing you for a great season.
You can use this 70.3 Basic Week as the training template to effectively and efficiently manage your training throughout the final eight weeks of your training cycle. Only after you have this foundation should you begin managing the details of each individual workout.
How a Basic Week Works:
Your training shouldn’t be any more complicated than required: The simpler your plan is to understand, the easier it is for you to complete it; the more you complete, the fitter you’ll be. Your goal is to create a training week that fits within your personal/professional/social framework. This is a plan where your Monday works with your Tuesday works with your Wednesday, etc.
Your training must fit into your life. The biggest mistake triathletes make is framing their training based on the desired outcomes they want on race day. The faster they want to go, the more training they think is required. But this “more is more” mentality leads to very costly decisions, such as limiting recovery time and cutting out valuable sleep.
By using a Basic Week, you’ll not only be able to do each session, but you’ll also be able to absorb the work you’ve done in each session. Success in triathlon isn’t a function of what level of personal sacrifice you can make; it’s a direct result of how fit you are. Fitness requires hard work and plenty of time for recovery.
Fitness is defined by your ability to do work. The purpose of your training is to impart training stress on your body, forcing it to adapt and make fitness gains. We use intensity as the primary tool to introduce overload and encourage adaptation. This allows us to remain on a very fixed schedule and still see significant fitness gains.
Some triathlon coaches focus on volume, which is why many triathlon training programs show a regular progression of training hours. A weekend long run, for example, might increase by 10 minutes each week, building to a volume or distance target. But add this same methodology to your cycling and swimming, and that innocent plan you started a few weeks ago is now a giant black hole of triathlon swallowing all of your free time.
As you review the workouts here, note that the workout description is for the main set only. Your schedule and physical fitness will dictate the length of the warm-up and just how long you can extend the remainder of the session. Also the time marked in parentheses refers to the rest interval.
Key Race Preparation Workouts
Outside of this Basic Week, you will have a few key workouts to dial in your race pacing, nutrition strategies and more. These will happen approximately four and two weeks before your target race. Typically the swim is done on a Friday, with the ride and run combined on Saturday with the Sunday off.
Race rehearsal swim (1.2 miles/2,100 yds)
Goal of this swim is to determine ideal internal pacing of race effort, as well as an approximate race time for planning your overall day. Do your best to note time per 100 on the pace clock to see where and how your pacing degrades as you fatigue.
• Warm-up: 100 easy swimming.
• MS: Swim the full race distance as a time-trial effort. Record total time for this effort.
• Cool-down: 100 easy
Race rehearsal brick (56-mile bike/6-mile run)
Goal here is to reinforce proper pacing for the first portion of each discipline and overall nutrition. Create a pace plan and do your best to execute against it so you can incorporate lessons learned to improve for race day. Track heart rate, power and pace as you are able.
• Bike: 56 miles; first 30’ in Zn1 to Zn2 effort. Remainder of ride at top of Zn 2/bottom of Zn 3.
• Run: 6 miles; first 3 miles in Zn1, last 3 miles in Zn2.
Sample Workout Options
70.3 Training Plan Key:
’ = minutes
” = seconds
hr = hour
MS = main set
HR = heart rate
(X’) = recovery interval
Zn = heart rate zone
• Ms1: 5×200 (20”) as build effort, going faster each 50. Count your strokes to help you focus on form. Set total: 1000.
• Ms2: 3×100 (20”) fast. repeat for total of six. Set total: 600.
• Ms3: 8×25 (15”) as odds fast, evens easy. Set total: 200.
Total target distance: 2400
Modifications: Focus on improved speed across the given distances. If you are progressing properly, your 200 repeat times should improve slightly from week to week.
• Ms: 2×1 mile (2’) at Zn 4.
Total target time: 45–60’
Modifications: Increase to a total of three miles of total interval work, alternating between mile and half- mile increments. you should see incremental speed gains across each week.
Bike (Interval session)
• Ms: 10’ (4’), 15’ (4’), 10’ (4’), all at Zn 4.
Total target time: 60’
Optional brick run
• Ms: Negative split as Zn 1 out, Zn 2 back.
Total target time: 30’
Modifications: Goals here are to focus on great form and cadence only.
• Ms1: 20’ at Zn 2, 15’ at Zn 1.
• Ms2: 3×5’ (5’) at Zn 3.
Total target time: 90’
Modifications: as you progress each week, you can increase the Zn 2 work and reduce the Zn 1 recovery of Ms1, maxing out at 35’ of Zn 2 time. reshuffle the Zn 3 time of Ms 2 to a maximum combined time of 20’.
• Ms: 2×500 (20”), 2×400 (15”), 2×300 (10”) all at max sustained speed.
Set total: 2400.
Total target distance: 2900
Modifications: your goal will be to see improved performance in either overall average interval time or reduced stroke count per 100.
Run (Race pace)
• Ms: run at Zn 1 out, Zn 2 back. Total target time: 30’
Bike (Race Pace)
• Ms1: 2×12’ (4’) at Zn 4, then 10’ Zn 1.
• Ms2: 4×12’ (4’) at Zn 3.
• Ms3: remainder at Zn 2.
Total target time: 180’
Modifications: over the course of your training, you will build your interval time while keeping the overall duration of this ride at 180’. Increase the Zn 4 work to a total of 40’ (2×20’ is standard); increase the Zn 3 work to 90’ (3×30’ would be the high end).
Bike (Tempo ride)
• Ms: spend as much time at Zn 3 as possible. Take short recoveries as needed (eat, drink, etc.), otherwise it’s time to work!
Total target time: 2 hr
Modifications: This ride will always be two hours, but the amount of time you spend in Zn 3 should increase each week of your race preparation training.
Patrick McCrann has coached thousands of age-group triathletes through Endurance Nation. Endurancenation.us.