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14 Day holiday training challenge/program

Are you up for a two-week fitness challenge?

Photo by: Getty Images

Everyone is familiar with the 12 days of Christmas swim and spin sets, but here at Triathlon Magazine Canada we’ve decided to hit you with 12 actual days of challenges PLUS two very special days that some of you will find nearly impossible to do – making this the 14 Days Holiday Challenge.

Let’s see how you do! We’ll create a special Holiday Challenge Hall of Fame for any of our Triathlon Magazine Canada readers who can complete all of these workouts! Share your progress with us through social media and make sure to use #14daysoftri

Note: For those who can’t access a pool over this time period, substitute one of these band workouts for the swim sessions.

Day 1: December 21

Clint’s Swim Test Set – do a timed 400/ easy 200/ timed 200/ easy 200/ timed 100 – add the 3 times and divide by 7 – this is your 100 test time. Everyone loves having numbers to quantify their fitness. This is one of my own invention that I’ve found to be quite telling. We’ll repeat this effort at the end of the 14 days to see if there’s been any change.

Kevin’s 8/12 Run: 8 km at pace – after a 2 km w’up, do 5 km at triathlon race pace for either a standard- (Olympic) or half-distance race depending on your fitness level.

(Note: Back in my running days our coach Don Mills from TrackWest used to have many of us do what he called the 8/12 challenge for anywhere from four to six weeks heading into cross country season. For us that meant alternating 8 miles at as close to race pace as possible followed by 12 miles at a tempo effort the next day for six straight days – the day off was very much appreciated. We’re going to modify that for our Holiday challenge – we’ll used km instead of miles and take a day off in between our efforts.)

Holding an aero tuck on the Daytona International Speedway. How long can you hold your aero position? Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

Day 2: December 22

Make some piece of tech actually work.  Technology is the bane of many a triathlete’s existence, but nothing feels better than actually making that power meter work or getting that heart rate strap to actually connect to the watch!

Bike: PTO 2020 Championship challenge. How long can you stay in the aero bars pushing a moderate gear (85% of your FTP)? 20 or 30 mins? This will give you a little idea of what those pros went through down in Florida on the Daytona International Speedway. Flat doesn’t always mean easy and one must train for the level field – not just the bumpy. If you can hold it for 60 min then call it a win and check your box.

Day 3: December 23

Run: 8/12 challenge – 12 km at a tempo effort. Try to make this a bit faster than your normal easy pace.

Swim: Endurance Challenge. Some folks are getting lanes for 45 min while others are getting the full hour. Whatever you’re able to get, the challenge here is: how many meters can you cram into that time slot? This is Thunderdome swimming – no rules! All toys are legal (mind that some pools are prohibiting the use of snorkels.)

Day 4: December 24

Bike: Endurance day. Movie Fartlek. Pick the movie of your choice – alternate 5 mins in aero position, 5 mins sitting up for the duration. Bonus challenge: Increase effort every 10 mins for 60 mins, then decrease effort every 10 mins for the rest of the movie. (Repeat twice if you picked the Irishman as your movie selection)

Day 5: December 25

Take a complete day off. This means no Christmas Day Run! For some people this will be the toughest challenge on the list! While the writers of this article admit they’ll have no problem with this challenge, they concede that getting their partners to rise to the challenge will be an entirely different matter.

Day 6: December 26

Run: 8/12 challenge – 8 km at pace

Day 7: December 27

Zwift Race. Are you using an on-line riding App like Zwift or Fulgaz – how about commit to a race. There’s a massive amount to choose from. Find something that’s 60 minutes or less. You’ll be glad you did it.

Day 8: December 28

Run: 8/12 challenge – 12 km at pace

Swim: 500 meters of band only. Band only is one of the few swim drills that pretty much works for every swimmer out there and, while we should all be embracing this wonderful little circle of rubber, far too many swimmers would rather pound nails in their feet than swim band only. Break this down to 25s if you must, but get it done! Get with the band.

Day 9: December 29

PTO 2020 challenge REPEAT! How far did you get the first time? Well, go farther.  If you made it the full hour then go 61 minutes and see if you can add 3-5 watts to your average!

Day 10: December 30

Run: 8/12 challenge – 8 km at pace

Swim: Endurance Repeat! How far did you get before. Well, find another 50 to 100 meters!

Day 11: December 31

Day off – Can you do it?

Photo: Getty Images

Day 12: January 1

Run: 8/12 challenge – 12 km at pace

Day 13: January 2

Easy tune up swim (prep for Epic Sunday). No more than 2,000 m. Here’s a nice little 1,800 m tune up set:
2 X

  • 100 swim
  • 100 kick
  • 100 pull
  • 100 as 25 easy/ 25 strong
  • 200 pull/small paddles moderate effort @ 20 Seconds Rest Interval (SRI)
  • 3 x 100 progress effort 1-3 (easy, moderate, strong) @ 15 SRI
  • 2 x 50 fast @ 20 SRI
  • 100 easy
  • 100 gentle kick
  • 200 easy

Easy tune up bike (prep for Epic Sunday)

45 minute set

  • After 15 minutes of easy spinning
  • Do 3 x 30 seconds single leg on each leg with 15 seconds both legs between
  • Do 4 x 20 seconds fast legs-easy gear/ 20 seconds easy spin
  • 3 minutes moderate strong/ 1 minute easy
  • 2 minutes a little stronger/ 1 minute easy
  • 1 minutes strong
  • Easy spin to make 45 minutes

Day 14: January 3

A hard little triathlon day.

  • Swim Test: Repeat Day 1 – see if you can bring down your final 100 test time.
  • Virtual Bike Race again – find another one 60 minutes or less. If you’re not using one of the online apps then it’s the Real FTP effort for you! That’s 60 minutes best average! Go!!
  • Finish up the day with a Timed Mile – the most storied of distances.  Find a track if you can and throw your mind back to days of Bannister and Landry. Four times around that track plus 9 meters. Last I heard about 1,600 runners have beaten the 4 minute mark. Maybe you can make it 1,601?

Good luck to everyone who gives this a go and make sure you let us know how you do!

Clint Lien is a regular contributor to Triathlon Magazine Canada and is the head coach of Victoria’s Mercury Rising Triathlon. He’s also an assistant swim coach for the Canadian national triathlon team.

Kevin Mackinnon is the editor of Triathlon Magazine Canada and has been coaching triathletes, cyclists, swimmers and runners for over 30 years through his Mackatak Triathlon Club.