Training

Top Coaches Provide Plans for Returning to Structured Training

As the world slowly starts to reopen, triathletes are chomping at the bit to get back to “normal” training. Coaches Cliff English and Ryan Bolton give you the blueprints to get back at it.

Alright boys and girls, things are opening up—start your engines! But careful there—much as we’re all raring to go, it’s really important to ease back into training. It’s all too easy to jump in enthusiastically only to end up injured. Patience and consistency are key.

To help you keep that pent-up energy focused, we asked two top-notch coaches for a couple first-week start-up training plans — one tailored to those who’ve been working out minimally, maybe three times a week but not yet swimming, and one for the athlete who’s been active five days a week and doing some swim or swim-like exercise, but not really training.

Cliff English, a four-time Olympic coach and current head coach of Arizona State’s women’s triathlon program, emphasizes, “Keep efforts conservative and lower end, and pay attention to good form and technique.” And English reminds athletes that coronavirus is still with us: “Please remember that while many of us are keen to get back to routines, group sessions, and group rides, it is still important to practice social distancing, good hygiene, and if you do not feel well, then stay home.” 

Ryan Bolton, Olympian, founder and head coach of Bolton Endurance Sports Training, and co-author of a new book, The Triathlete Guide to Sprint and Olympic Triathlon Racing also emphasizes a conservative return to training, with focus on form and building an aerobic base. 

Cliff English’s start-up training plans:

Plan A

Return to training from very little activity

Monday:
Run: 22 minutes lower end
2min walk to walk up nervous system – 8min w-up jog
2min walk
2x (4min run moderate 65-70% EFFORT—1min ez recovery jog)
4min c-d run

Core work:
5min of basic core work.
4x 20 favorite crunches :15 sec rest
2-4x 30sec planks/bridges :15 sec rest.

Tuesday:
Swim: 30 minutes /1400y
200 choice :10
4x 50 kick :10
200 swim w/snorkel to work on symmetry :15
4x 25 drill choice/25Fr :10
4x 50 Fr swim 1-4 :10
200 c-d

Wednesday:
Bike: Trainer 45min w/technical focus
8min w-up easy
4x (30sec cadence builds by :10sec as 1-3 from 90 to 100 to 110rpm on :75)
2min ez
3x (2min @ 70-75% BIG gear strength work @ 60-70rpm—2min @ 100rpm @ 70-75% effort—1min ez)
70-75% is around IM effort

Thursday:
Run: 25min
10min w-up
2min ez stretch
10min lower end aerobic effort 60-65% w/good form and cadence
5min c-d

Friday:
Swim: 30 minutes /1400y
300 choice :10
4x 50 kick :10
4x 25 drill choice/25Fr :10
8x 50 1-4 :10
300 c-d

Core work: 5 minutes (same as Monday)

Saturday:
Bike: 45min to 1hour
20min w-up
15-30min steady 60-70% effort @ 90-100rpm
10min c-d

In week 2:
You can add a run off (5-10min)

Sunday:
Full day off

In week 2: Add a lower-end long run

Coach’s Note: “In order to allow for recovery and adaptation, I recommend sticking to this weekly plan for two weeks and then reassess. If this feels good and there is minimal muscle soreness after two weeks I would consider doing a third build week before doing a recovery/unload week. So your periodization is either two weeks of consistent building and training with one week unload or three weeks build and one week unloading. Your choice. Also, if everything is going great, you could make the Saturday ride a little longer—typically increasing in 20- to 30-minute increments each week. An additional run on Sunday can also be added after successful completion of the first week of training. I do like having that one day off per week, especially when starting up from being off a training routine for so long.”

Plan B

Return from 4-5 activity sessions per week

Monday:
Run: 30minutes lower end
2min walk to walk up nervous system – 8min w-up jog
2min walk rec
3x (4min run moderate 65-70% EFFORT—1min ez recovery jog)
5min c-d run

Core work: 5min of basic core work
4x 20 favorite crunches :15 sec rest
2-4x 30sec planks/bridges :15 sec rest

Tuesday:
Swim: 30 minutes /1600y
2x 200 choice :10
4x 50 kick :10
200 swim w/snorkel to work on symmetry :15
4x 25 drill choice/25Fr :10
4x 50 Fr swim 1-4 :10
200 c-d

Bike: 30min
Active Recovery
10min w-up
15min 60-65% @ 90-100rpm
5min ez c-d

Wednesday:
Bike: Trainer 45min w/technical focus
8min w-up easy
4x (30sec cadence builds by :10sec as 1-3 from 90 to 100 to 110rpm on :75)
2min ez
3x (2min @ 70-75% BIG gear strength work @ 60-70rpm—2min @ 100rpm @ 70-75% effort—1min ez)
70-75% is around IM effort

Thursday:
Run: 35min
10min w-up
2min ez stretch
15min lower end aerobic effort 60-65% w/good form and cadence
10min c-d

Friday:
Swim: 30 minutes /1600y
300 choice :10
4x 50 kick :10
4x 25 drill choice/25Fr :10
3x 100Fr swim as 1-3 :10
6x 50 1-3 :10
200 c-d

Core work: 5min (same as Monday)

Saturday:
Bike : 1hour15min
20min w-up
2x (18min steady 60-70% effort @ 90-100rpm –2min ez)
15min c-d

This long ride can increase in time duration over upcoming weeks up to 2 or 2.5hrs depending on length of upcoming race.

Run Off: 20min
3min ez
4x (15sec pick- ups on :45)
6min moderate 65-70% w/good form and cadence
8min c-d

Sunday:
Long Run: 45min
12min w-up
3min stretch, walk, recover
2x (9min run 65-70% effort w/nice form, body position and cadence—1min ez)
10min c-d

Optional:
Light swim or hike or active recovery spin on choice of bike!

Coach’s Note: “In order to allow for recovery and adaptation I recommend sticking to this weekly plan for two weeks and then reassess. If this feels good and there is minimal muscle soreness after two weeks I would consider doing a third build week before doing a recovery/unload week. So your periodization is either two weeks of consistent building and training with one week unload, or three weeks build and one week unloading. Your choice. Also, if everything is going great, you could make the Saturday ride a little longer typically increasing in 20- to 30-minute increments each week. I would also do the same with the Sunday long run and increase the time duration by 5 to 10 minutes each week.”

Coach Ryan Bolton’s start-up training plans:

Plan A

Athlete who has been working out a few times a week with no swimming (lower volume start point)

Monday:
Core/Abdominal Work or Day Off

Tuesday:
Swim: Mod-easy pyramid (2400)
WarmUp: 6 x 100 (30): Descend 1-3 and 4-6. #3 and #6 should be at near threshold pace.
Main Set: Even intervals are done at 5 seconds slower than threshold pace. Odds are technique focused and aerobic.
100 (20 seconds recovery)
200 (20)
300 (30)
400 (45)
300 (30)
200 (20)
100 (1:00)
Cool Down: 200 with a combination of swimming and kicking.

Run: Strides, 6, count steps (:40)
Strides: Run for about 30 minutes in heart rate 1 and 2 zones. Then, run 6×30 left-foot steps on grass or soft surface. Goal = 19-20 seconds. Walk recovery between each stride (approximately 1 minute). Perfect form!
Zone 1 cool down for 5 minutes

Wednesday:
Bike: Aerobic ride with 90 second accelerations (1:30)
Ride aerobically for 45 minutes as a warm up. Then do 6 x 90 second accelerations at Olympic distance race pace
Easy spin for 3 minutes after each
Easy ride for the duration after the last one

Thursday:
Swim: 2500 Total
WU:
200 swim (30)
100 kick (20)
200 pull (1:00)
4 x 50 drill (15)
Main Set:
3 x 200 at threshold pace plus 10 seconds (20)
1 x 100 Kick
1:00 rest
X 2
300 Pull (1:00)
100 C.D. (Choice)

Strength: Light strength program (1:00)

Friday:
Run: Easy, aerobic run. (:20)
Very light and easy. 1 zone only. Perfect form!

Bike: Aerobic Recovery Spin (:45)
Easy, aerobic ride in the 1 and 2 zones
Light pressure on the pedals and a cadence in the 80 to 90 range

Saturday:
Run: Long run, pure base (1:00)
All aerobic long run in the 1 and 2 zones
Focus on good form and a good cadence (90 foot strikes each foot per minute)
Keep the heart rate aerobic

Swim: Form and Drill Work (1700)
Swim several long, easy sets
6 x 200s or 4 x 300s, 30 seconds recovery after each
Focus on form and keep it very aerobic
Cadence should be in the range of 55-70 strokes per minute
6 x 50s drill for your technique limiter, 30-second recovery each
Finish with 200 of a combo of swimming and kicking

Sunday:
Brick: Pure base ride with light run off the bike. (2:15)
All aerobic ride of 2 hours on flat to rolling terrain
Transition to a 15-minute aerobic run
Like the bike, this should be very smooth and in control

Coach’s Note: “Gradually add volume (10% overall workload gain weekly) and intensity over the next few weeks.”

Plan B

Athlete who has been working out five + times a week and has been doing swimming/swim like training (higher volume start point)

Monday:
Core/Abdominal Work or Day Off

Tuesday:
Swim: Descending 300s (2500)
WU:
100 swim easy (20)
50 kick easy (20)
100 swim easy (20)
50 kick moderate (20)
100 swim moderate (20)
50 kick fast (1:00)
MS:
3 x 300 (30) (#1: light and aerobic, #2: threshold plus 5 seconds per 100 pace, #3: near threshold pace).
Kick 150 easy (1:00)
2 x 300 (30) (#1: threshold plus 5 seconds per 100 pace, #2 near threshold pace)
CD:
200 drill
200 easy swim

Run: Moderate run with 200 striders (:50)
Moderate run in the 1 and 2 heart rate zones
Near the end, do 6 x 200 meter strides where you build from slow to fast within each one
200 jog recovery between each
Allow for 5 minutes of cool down after the last one

Wednesday:
Bike: Spin Ups (1:30)
Ride aerobically for 50 minutes
8 x spin ups—start at a low cadence (50 rpm or so) and spin up to a high cadence. When you start bouncing in your seat, back off and recover for 2 minutes

Swim: Form and Drill Work (1800)
Swim several long, easy sets
6 x 200s or 4 x 300s, 30 seconds recovery after each
Focus on form and keep it very aerobic
Cadence should be in the range of 55-70 strokes per minute
6 x 50s drill for your technique limiter, 30-second recovery each
Finish with 300 of a combo of swimming and kicking

Thursday:
Swim: Variably paced 75s (2700)
WU:
300 swim (30)
100 kick (30)
300 pull (30)
100 kick
MS:
4 x 75 (10): 25 fast, 25 slow, 25 fast.
1:00 rest
4 x 75 (10): 25 fast, 25 slow, 25 fast.
1:00 rest
4 x 75 (10): 25 fast, 25 slow, 25 fast.
1:00 rest
4 x 75 (10): 25 fast, 25 slow, 25 fast.
1:00 rest
8 x 25 fast (30)
CD: 500 easy with a focus on form.

Strength: Light strength program (1:00)

Friday:
Run: Strides, 6, count steps (:40)
Strides: Run for about 30 minutes in heart rate 1 and 2 zones. Then, run 6×30 left-foot steps on grass or soft surface. Goal = 19-20 seconds. Walk recovery between each stride (approximately 1 minute). Perfect form!
Zone 1 cool down for 5 minutes

Bike: Aerobic Recovery Spin (1:00)
Easy, aerobic ride in the 1 and 2 zones with light pressure on the pedals and a cadence in the 80 to 90 range

Saturday:
Run: Aerobic long run on a rolling course (1:15)
Heart rate zones 1-3 on a rolling course, let the heart rate build into the 3 zone on the hills, otherwise, keep it in the 1 and 2 zones

Swim: Drills, 6×50 fast form (2000)
WU:
800 meters choice.
8 x 50 drills for your technique limiter (20)
6×50 fast form (30)
500 easy cool down.

Sunday:
Brick: Tempo Bike with aerobic run (2:30)
Aerobic ride for 75 minutes followed by 60 minutes of tempo riding
Lock into a steady, moderate pace and hold steady and strong
Straight from the tempo segment transition to an aerobic 15-minute run—aerobic and very much in control
Walk for 5 to 10 minutes after the run to cool down

Coach’s Note: “Gradually add volume (10% overall workload gain weekly) and intensity over the next few weeks.”