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Single-Sport Focus: 4 Week Run Training Plan for Triathletes

This four-week block will help functionally build run strength while safely building run volume.

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A single-sport block can have innumerable benefits, especially during the off-season. This is your four-week run-specific plan. (See swim and bike at the bottom.)

Bobby McGee has been coaching athletes for 32 years, including renowned elite runners and triathletes. It’s noteworthy, then, that his four-week plan focuses on building aerobic endurance at the lower zones, going so far as to recommend walk breaks in scheduled runs, and hiking as a workout. This is not a beginner-only philosophy. His elite athletes spend a surprising amount of time in the winter doing very easy runs, with spectacular results.

“Running at tempo (Zone 3), threshold (Zone 4), and VO2max (Zone 5) can only be done for a finite period,” McGee said. “The better the base work, the longer these quality blocks of training can be sustained.”

It’s important to build aerobic endurance in the lower zones. It creates economy, i.e., the ability to do more work with less oxygen, and critically, it strengthens the lower limbs. This all equates to increasing overall training capacity. You’re building a stronger base to support even more high-level training. In triathlon, given that the run is the last event, you’re never going to be running fresh. The goal, then, in the build months is not to get faster, but to build capacity to hold speed for longer.

McGee said this four-week block will help functionally build run strength while safely building run volume. He emphasized that the run durations listed in this plan are guidelines only and you should start with no more than a 10% increase of your average weekly mileage from the previous six weeks. And when it comes to pace, he said: “Elite runners typically do their easy and endurance miles 40-plus seconds per mile slower than their long-distance race pace. This is where age group athletes can get into trouble, as their easy endurance miles are often at their race pace.”

Tip: To keep your heart rate low, consider using a run/walk/run strategy. For every 6–8 minutes of running, do 30 seconds to 1 minute of walking.

Training Plan PDF

KEY

H: Hiking PWH: Power-Walking Hills AH: Alactic Hills SEH: Speed Endurance Hills AS: Alactic Strides
Need not be hard, but should be on challenging terrain and same duration (or longer) than runs. These should aim to build hip, back, and leg strength. Aim to do these on 10%+ grade with purpose—push yourself. Recovery between should be easy, light quick steps. Controlled sprints for 8-9 seconds on 4-6% grade. Start gradually and only start the 8-9 seconds when you’ve reached sprint pace. Recovery should be a slow walk back to start. Similar to alactic hills, but 30 seconds in duration. Rest for 30 seconds at top, then walk slowly back to start, rest another 30 seconds, then begin next interval. Similar to alactic hills but on the flat. Pick up pace to your fastest speed, hold for 8-9 seconds, recover for 30-45 seconds between reps.
DAY 1 DAY 2 DAY 3 DAY 4 DAY 5 DAY 6 DAY 7
1 50 mins + 6-10 x 1 min. PWH 50 min. 40 min. + 6 x AH 75 min. + H
2 55 min. + 8-10 x 1 min. PWH 50 min. 45 min. + 6 x SEH 85 min. + H
3 50 min. + 8 x 45 sec. PWH 50 min. + 6 x AH 40 min. 75 min. + H
4 60 min. + 10-12 x 1 min. PWH 50 min. 50 min. + 8-10 x SEH 90 min. + H

The Importance of Single-Sport Focus Training

4-Week Swim Training Plan

4-Week Bike Training Plan