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Training Plan: The Triathlete’s Winter Half-Marathon

Run faster next season with a half-marathon focus now.


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The winter months are your key opportunity to emphasize and improve one aspect of your game. Using half-marathon training plan for triathletes this winter means when you hit the triathlon run leg next summer, you will think, move and feel like a better runner. Sign up for a half-marathon event soon to give yourself a meaningful goal, and to enjoy some winter training while unlocking your inner runner!

About this half marathon training plan for triathletes

This seven-week run program is for the fit triathlete who has wrapped up his or her triathlon race season and has run at least 90 minutes twice in the past three weeks. Although the heart-rate-based program emphasizes running (with up to five workouts per week), there are two complementary cycling and swimming workouts that are aerobic and skill-focused.

Refer to the “How to Determine Your Lactic Threshold” box below to determine your heart rate zones before beginning the program. A well-trained runner will race a half-marathon primarily in Zone 3, though heart rate may creep higher in the last 15–20 minutes of the race. There are two Sunday runs, which provide the opportunity to practice sustained running in Zone 3. For any run over 90 minutes, you should eat a gel (or package of blocks/chews) every 25–30 minutes. The Zone 3 training runs are a great chance to practice your nutrition protocol at a race-specific heart rate.

If this plan requires too much running for you, or you need more recovery from the weekend, consider removing Tuesday’s run. If you have not run intervals in a while, reduce the intensity of the session in week 1 and cap heart rate at Zone 3.

Swimming: Swims are technical and aerobic in nature, with weekend work- outs focused on strengthening the upper body and resting the legs through use of a pull buoy.

Cycling: Bike rides are also aerobic. For the midweek ride, use a high cadence to work on pedal stroke efficiency and to encourage blood flow to recovering muscles. Ride after completing the Sunday long run to ensure fresher legs.

Do the day-to-day sessions in the order listed for maximum gains, and listen to your body to make sure you aren’t getting overly sore or fatigued.

Half marathon training plan for triathletes: Types of runs

Intervals: Varying paces on both flats and hills to develop a faster pace at your target half-marathon heart rate and to build rhythm, strength and an efficient run stride.

Fartlek: Continuous running with fast bursts followed by jogging (recovery) segments.

Tempo: Sustained running building toward Zone 4.

Cadence count: Counting cadence (each foot strike on one side only) helps en- sure you are running at an economical cadence and not over-striding. Optimal run cadence for most athletes is around 90–95 strides per minute.

Strides: 70–80-yard accelerations at 75–85 percent of your top sprint speed. Aerobic base: Aerobic, conversational running.

Half-marathon pace work: Specific pace work in Zone 3—your target half- marathon heart rate.

Half marathon training plan for triathletes: Drills

These three drills will help form the foundation for a smooth, efficient run stride.

A’s
This drill’s focus is on firing your hip flexors in a rhythmic, dynamic manner.
Do it: Stand tall and drive your knee upward as if you were going to knee a soccer ball. Start with skipping and progress to running.

B’s
This drill helps teach you to get your foot strike below your center of gravity.
Do it: Lift your knee in a similar manner to the A’s drill, but extend your leg to almost-straight while your foot has started to travel back toward the ground. The foot strikes the ground directly under your center of gravity. When your legs are traveling downward, there should be a definitive acceleration of the leg/foot. Start with walking and progress to skipping.

C’s
This drill, also known as butt kicks, helps to establish a quick heel lift which contributes to a long, fast stride.
Do it: Run with a very high cadence and slight forward movement as you kick your heels to your butt.

RELATED: Essential Run Drills for Speed and Efficiency

How to determine your lactate threshold

Understanding lactate threshold (LT) training is critical to improvement. Your LT determines how long and how hard you can exert near-maximum effort. There’s a point when the body begins to produce lactate at rates that are too fast for it to metabolize—this is the LT.

RELATED: Dear Coach: What is Lactate Threshold?

To determine your LT, do field tests on the bike and the run on separate days, when your legs feel rested. After a warm-up of 15 minutes (run) to 30 minutes (bike), do a 30-minute time trial on flat terrain where you can hold your hardest uninterrupted effort for that duration (a bike trainer is ideal for the bike test and the track is a good option for the run).

Pace the time trial as evenly as possible. to determine your LT heart rate, hit the lap button on your heart rate monitor 10 minutes into the time trial. The average heart rate for the final 20 minutes is your LT heart rate.

This chart will help you understand the various zones.

Zone % of Lactate Threshold Breathing and Perception
1 <80% of LT Gentle rhythmic breathing. Pace is easy and relaxed. The intensity is a jog or very easy run or very easy bike spin.
2 80-87% of LT Breathing rate and pace increase slightly. Slightly deeper breathing, although still comfortable. Running and cycling pace remains comfortable and conversation is possible.
3 88-93% of LT Breathing a little harder, pace is moderate. A stronger cycling or running rhythm, this is "feel good" fast. It is slightly more difficult to hold conversation.
4 94-100% of LT Starting to breathe very hard, pace is fast and beginning to get uncomfortable, approaching all-out 30-minute bike or run pace. This pace should be challenging to maintain.
5 >100% of LT Breathing is deep and forceful. Pace is all-out sustainable for one to five minutes. Mental focus required, moderately uncomfortable and conversation undesirable.

Coaching Abbreviations/Terminology

WU = warm-up | MS = mainset | CD = cool-down | X’= X minutes, i.e. 3’ | X” = X seconds, i.e. 30” | Zn = Zone (heart rate or perceived effort), i.e. Zn1= Zone1 (parentheses) = Time indication for rest in between intervals or tasks, i.e. 4×3’(2’) | RPM=cadence (repetitions per minute) | HR=heartrate

Half marathon training plan for triathletes

Download the PDF version here

Week 1

Planned: Swim: 1:30 Bike: 3:00 Run: 5:40 Total: 10:10

Monday
Day off: Walk and stretch.

Tuesday
Run: 30 mins. 15’ Zn 1, 15’ Zn 2. Include 4-6 x 30” cadence count in Zn 2. Count foot strikes on one leg for 30” and exceed 45 to ensure economical cadence.
Swim: 45 mins. 15-20 x 100, alternate 2×100 freestyle, 1×100 drill.

Wednesday
Run: 1:30, intervals on track, flat road or trail. WU: 15’ easy jog. Drills: 3x(20” A’s, 20” B’s, 20” C’s). 4-5 strides (20”). MS: 6×1 mile (2’). #1-2 HR rises to Zn 4. #3-6 hr rises to Zn 5. CD: 15’ easy jog.
Performance pointer: During speed intervals, focus only on the task at hand. relax your face, shoulders and torso, focus on quick legs and “floating.” Be tough and positive when the burn creeps in.

Thursday
Bike: 1:30, recovery ride on flat road or trainer. Include 8-10 x 1’ (2’) at 100-105 RPM, Zn 2.

Friday
Run: 40 mins, easy run in Zn 1-2. Stop halfway and do drills: 3x(25” A’s, 25” B’s, 25” C’s).

Saturday
Run: 1:00, tempo. WU: 15’ Zn 1-2. MS: 15’ Zn 3, 15’ Zn 4. Cd: 15’ Zn 1-2.
Swim: 45 mins, aerobic swimming. WU: 200 freestyle, 4×50 drills. MS: 3-6 x 200 (30”) with pull buoy. CD: 100 kick, then 100 backstroke or breaststroke.

Sunday
Run: 2:00, hilly aerobic base run. Zn 1-3 (on the uphills), mostly Zn 2.
Bike: 1:30, aerobic base. Zn 1-2, flat terrain at 90+ RPM. Bike after your run so your legs are fresher for key Sunday runs.

Week 2

Planned: Swim: 1:30 Bike: 3:30 Run: 4:45 Total: 9:45

Monday
Day off: Walk and stretch.

Tuesday
Run: 30 mins. 15’ Zn 1, 15’ Zn 2. Include 4-6 x 30” cadence count in Zn 2.
Swim: 45 mins, drills and skills-focused swim, low intensity. 20-30 x 50, alternate 2×50 freestyle, 1×50 drill, 1×50 kick. 400 freestyle with great technique.

Wednesday
Run: 1:30, hill intervals on a moderate grade hill of 3-5% or treadmill at 4% grade. WU: 15’ easy jog. Drills: 3x(20” A’s, 20” B’s, 20” C’s). 4-5 strides (20”). MS: 8×3’ hill (jog down for recovery in 3-4’). #1-3 hr rises to Zn 4. #4-8 hr rises to Zn 5. CD: 15’ easy jog.
Performance pointer: Proper technique increases run economy and your ability to run faster for longer periods of time. take pride in learning proper drills and performing them regularly.

Thursday
Bike: 1:30, recovery ride on flat road or trainer. Include 8-10 x 1’ (2’) at 100-105 RPM, Zn 2.

Friday
Run: 45 mins, fartlek. WU: 15’ Zn 1-2. MS: 10×1’ in Zn 3-4 (1’ easy run in Zn 2). CD: 10’ Zn 1-2.

Saturday
Run: 30 mins, easy run in Zn 1-2. Stop at halfway and do drills: 3x(25” A’s, 25” B’s, 25” Cs).
Swim: 45 mins, aerobic swimming. WU: 200 freestyle, 4×50 drills. MS: 6-12 x 100 (20”) with pull buoy. CD: 100 kick, then 100 backstroke or breaststroke.

Sunday
Run: 1:30, half-marathon pace work. WU: 10’ Zn 1, 5’ Zn 2. Stop and stretch. MS: 60’ Zn 3, on terrain that simulates your goal race. take 5’ to reach Zn 3. Pace this evenly. Cd: 15’ Zn 1.
Bike: 2:00, aerobic base. Zn 1-2, flat terrain at 90+ RPM.

Week 3: Running Recovery Week

Planned: Swim: 2:00 Bike: 4:00 Run: 2:30 Total: 8:30

Monday
Day off: Walk and stretch.

Tuesday
Swim: 1:00, drills and skills-focused swim, moderate intensity. WU: 8-12 x 50, alternate 2×50 freestyle, 1×50 drill, 1×50 kick. MS: 10-15 x 100 freestyle (20”), at a strong effort, focused on your best technique. CD: 200 as 50 backstroke, 50 freestyle, 50 breast stroke, 50 freestyle.

Wednesday
Run: 45 mins, easy run in Zn 1-2. Stop at halfway and do drills: 3x(25” A’s, 25” B’s, 25” C’s).

Thursday
Bike: 1:30, recovery ride on flat road or trainer. Include 8-10 x 1’ (2’) at 100-105 RPM, Zn 2.
Run: 1:00, hilly aerobic base run. Zn 1-3, mostly Zn 2.

Friday
Day off: Walk and stretch.

Saturday
Bike: 2:30, aerobic base. Zn 1-2, rolling terrain.
Swim: 1:00, aerobic swimming. WU: 200 freestyle. 4×50 drills. MS: 2-3 x [400 (30”) 200 (20”) 2-4 x 100 (15”) all with pull buoy]. CD: 100 kick, then 100 backstroke or breaststroke.

Sunday
Run: 45 min, fartlek. WU: 15’ Zn 1-2. MS: 5×2’ in Zn 3-4 (2’ easy run in Zn 2). CD: 10’ Zn 1-2.
Performance pointer: Think “loose shoulders, light heels”—visualize being relaxed and having quick, light heels as your legs come through on each stride.

Week 4

Planned: Swim: 1:30 Bike: 3:00 Run: 6:10 Total: 10:40

Monday
Day off: Walk and stretch.

Tuesday
Run: 30 mins. 15’ Zn 1, 15’ Zn 2. include 4-6 x 30” cadence count in Zn 2.
Swim: 45 mins, drills and skills-focused swim, low intensity. 4-5 x (2×100 freestyle, 50 drill, 50 kick, 50 drill, 50 backstroke).

Wednesday
Run: 1:30, intervals on track, flat road or trail. WU: 15’ easy jog. Drills: 3x(20” A’s, 20” B’s, 20” C’s). 4-5 strides (20”). MS: 3×1 mile (2’), HR rises to Zn 4. 5’ easy jog. 4x800m (2’) HR rises to Zn 5. CD: 15’ easy jog.
Performance pointer: A relaxed body goes faster. between intervals, check your shoulders, neck and face for tension. exhale well before the start of each interval.

Thursday
Bike: 1:30, recovery ride on flat road or trainer. Include 8-12 x 1’ (2’) at 100-105 RPM, Zn 2.

Friday
Run: 40 mins, easy run in Zn 1-2. Stop at halfway and do drills: 3x(25” A’s, 25” B’s, 25” C’s).

Saturday
Run: 1:00, tempo. WU: 15’ Zn 1-2. MS: 10’ Zn 3, 20’ Zn 4. Cd: 15’ Zn 1-2.
Swim: 45 mins, aerobic swimming. WU: 200 freestyle. 4×50 drills. MS: 6-8 x 150 (20”) with pull buoy. CD: 100 kick, then 100 backstroke or breaststroke.

Sunday
Run: 2:30, hilly aerobic base run. Zn 1-3, mostly Zn 2.
Bike: 1:30, aerobic base. Zn 1-2, flat terrain at 90+ RPM.

Week 5

Planned: Swim: 1:30 Bike: 3:30 Run: 5:15 Total: 10:15

Monday
Day off: Walk and stretch.

Tuesday
Run: 30 mins. 15’ Zn 1, 15’ Zn 2. include 4-6 x 30” cadence count in Zn 2.
Swim: 45 mins, drills and skills-focused swim, low intensity. 4-5 x (2×50 freestyle, 2×50 drill, 2×50 kick, 1×50 backstroke, 1×50 breaststroke).

Wednesday
Run: 1:30, hill intervals on a moderate grade hill of 3-5% or treadmill at 4% grade. WU: 15’ easy jog. Drills: 3x(20” A’s, 20” B’s, 20” C’s). 4-5 strides (20”). MS: 6×4’ hill (jog down for recovery in 4-5’). #1-2 hr rises to Zn 4. #3-6 hr rises to Zn 5. CD: 15’ easy jog.

Thursday
Bike: 1:30, recovery ride on flat road or trainer. Include 8-12 x 1’ (2’) at 100-105 RPM, Zn 2.

Friday
Run: 45 mins, fartlek. WU: 15’ Zn 1-2. MS: 8×1:15’ in Zn 3-4 (1:15’ easy run in Zn 2). CD: 10’ Zn 1-2.

Saturday
Run: 30 mins, easy run in Zn 1-2. Stop at halfway and do drills: 3x(25” a’s, 25” b’s, 25” c’s).
Swim: 45 mins, aerobic swimming. WU: 200 freestyle. 4×50 drills. MS: 8-14 x 100 (20”) with pull buoy. CD: 100 kick, then 100 backstroke or breaststroke.

Sunday
Run: 2:00, half-marathon pace work: WU: 10’ Zn 1, 5’ Zn 2. Stop and stretch. MS: 90’ Zn 3, on terrain that simulates your goal race. Take 5’ to reach Zn 3. Pace this evenly. CD: 15’ Zn 1.
Bike: 2:00, aerobic base. Zn 1-2, flat terrain at 90+ RPM.
Performance pointer: Be systematic about replenishing your carbohydrates. Athletes who take in calories while training finish their long runs stronger and therefore receive a greater training effect.

Week 6: Running Recovery Week

Planned: Swim: 2:00 Run: 2:35 Bike: 4:00 Total: 8:35

Monday
Day off: Walk and stretch.

Tuesday
Swim: 1:00, drills and skills-focused swim, moderate intensity. WU: 8-12 x 50 alternate 2×50 freestyle, 1×50 drill, 1×50 kick. MS: 5-8 x 200 freestyle (30”), at a strong effort, focused on your best technique. CD: 200 as 50 backstroke, 50 freestyle, 50 breast stroke, 50 freestyle.

Wednesday
Run: 45 mins, easy run in Zn 1-2. Stop at halfway and do drills: 3x(25” A’s, 25” B’s, 25” C’s).

Thursday
Bike: 1:30, recovery ride on flat road or trainer. Include 8-10 x 1’ (2’) at 100-105 RPM, Zn 2.
Run: 1:00, hilly aerobic base run. Zn 1-3, mostly Zn 2.
Performance pointer: Embrace hills during your training runs. look to the crest and run up and over the hill with rhythm, using arms slightly more to drive the knees up the hill.

Friday
Day off: Walk and stretch.

Saturday
Bike: 2:30, aerobic base. Zn 1-2, rolling terrain.
Swim: 1:00, aerobic swimming. WU: 200 freestyle, 4×50 drills. MS: 2-3 x [200 (20”) 2×100 (15”) 4×50 (10”) all with pull buoy]. CD: 100 kick, then 100 backstroke or breaststroke.

Sunday
Run: 50 mins, fartlek. WU: 15’ Zn 1-2. MS: 5×3’ in Zn 3-4 (2’ easy run in Zn 2). CD: 10’ Zn 1-2.

Week 7

Planned: Run: 1:25 Total: 1:25 + Race

Monday
Day off: Walk and stretch. No swimming and cycling this week to rest up for Sunday’s race!

Tuesday
Run: 30 mins. 15’ Zn 1, 15’ Zn 2. include 4-6 x 30” cadence count in Zn 2.

Wednesday
Run: 35 mins, tempo. WU: 15’ Zn 1-2. MS: 5’ Zn 3, 5’ Zn 4. CD: 10’ Zn 1-2.
Performance pointer: During this run, think ahead to running on race day, how you want to feel and move during the race.

Thursday
Day off: Walk and stretch.

Friday
Day off: Walk and stretch.

Saturday
Run: 20 mins. WU: 10’ easy jog, Zn 1. MS: Drills: 2x(25” a’s, 25” b’s, 25” c’s). 5’ Zn 2 build to Zn 3. CD: 5’ easy.

Sunday
Race!
WU: 10’ easy jog, 3’ at race pace. 4 strides. 2’ easy jog. CD: Walk 5’, jog 5’, walk 5’.

This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Triathlete Magazine.