Moving from active rest to full-fledged training can be challenging – too much training, too soon can lead to injury or burnout. Here’s a four-week plan that will help make the transition much smoother.

By Kerry Hale.

After taking some well earned rest after a long triathlon season, the build back to fitness should gradual. You should start with what we call “Active Recovery” as you get back into fitness – four to 12 weeks of light, unplanned exercise away from triathlon. Work out at an easy – moderate intensity and consider taking two full rest days per week during this phase.

There’s an important step between that time of doing active recovery and your regular triathlon training – what we call the Prep Phase.

Now is the perfect time to embark on this phase as you gear up for the 2020 race season.

The Prep Phase:

This four to eight week phase in your training is designed to provide an easy, gradual return to proper training rather than preparing to race. The weekly volume is 40 to 50 percent of what might be performed later in the year. Most (not all) of the training is at an easy intensity.

The length of the Prep Phase depends on the length of time before your target race. If there are 40 weeks until your a race, perform eight or 12 weeks of Prep Phase training. If your target race is in only 24 weeks, you should aim for around four weeks.

At the completion of your Prep Phase, ramp up your training volume and intensity gradually each month with specific race goals in mind so that your fitness continues to build toward you’re a race.

Below is an example of a Prep Phase training plan for a month. It is a generic plan which includes two workouts in each discipline per week. It can be used to train for any distance of triathlon. The idea is to build routine and momentum. This plan opts not to incorporate training based on specified heart rate, wattage or pace guidelines. Instead, rate of perceived exertion (RPE) is utilised as a guide where 1 = extremely easy and 10 = the hardest effort you can possibly maintain for 30 seconds. Training with power, heart rate or a GPS is optional.

Related: 10 reasons to join a triathlon club

For the swim, consider joining a group. This is the most efficient way to improve, especially if you have a coach poolside offering advice. Contact your local triathlon club or masters swim group, or alternatively, organise to swim with a group of friends for added motivation. Perhaps get a lesson from a professional if required.

On the bike, there’s a lively midweek indoor workout which can be done at a gym or at home using a turbo trainer or stationary bike. On the weekends – assuming rideable weather – head outdoors and perform an easier, but longer ride, adding some distance each month.

The plan includes a 5 km run race or run time-trial each Saturday as speed work sessions. This speed will assist across all distances come race season. The plan includes an active recovery phase in week 4. Feel free to switch days to better fit into your weekly routine.

Week 1:
Monday
Run: 30 – 45 minutes at a relatively easy intensity RPE = 5

Tuesday
Swim: 30 – 45 minutes, preferably with a group or club

Wednesday
Ride: Indoor bike session.

  • Warm Up: 15 minutes at RPE = 5
  • Main Set: 5×5 mins at RPE = 8 with 3 mins recovery between intervals RPE = 5
  • Warm Down: 5 – 10 mins at RPE = 5

Thursday
Swim: 30 – 45 minutes

Friday
Rest Day

Saturday
Run: 5km run race or time trial

Sunday
Ride: 1 – 1.5 hours at a steady pace RPE = 6

Week 2:
Monday
Run: 30 – 45 minutes at a relatively easy intensity RPE = 5

Tuesday
Swim: 30 – 45 minutes, preferably with a group or club

Wednesday
Ride: Indoor bike session

  • Warm Up: 15 minutes at RPE = 5
  • Main Set: 9, 8, 7mins all at RPE = 8 with 2 mins recovery at RPE = 5
  • Warm Down: 5 – 10mins at RPE = 5

Thursday
Swim: 30 – 45 minutes

Friday
Rest Day

Saturday
Run: 5km run race or time trial

Sunday
Ride: 1 hour 45 at a steady pace RPE = 6

Week 3:
Monday
Run: 50-minutes at RPE = 5

Tuesday
Swim: 45 minutes

Wednesday
Ride: Indoor bike session.

  • Warm Up: 15 minutes at RPE = 5.
  • Main Set: 15 mins at RPE = 8 + with 2 mins recovery at RPE = 5
  • Warm Down: 10 mins at RPE = 5

Thursday
Swim: 45 minutes

Friday
Rest Day

Saturday
Run: 5km run race or time trial

Sunday
Ride: 2 hours at a steady pace RPE = 6

Week 4:
Active recovery week

Monday
Rest Day

Tuesday
Swim: 45 minutes

Wednesday
Brick: Indoor bike and run.

  • Warm Up: Cycle 10 – 15 minutes at RPE = 5
  • Main Set: Cycle 6,5,4mins all at 8/10 RPE with 1 minutes rests
  • Run: 20 mins as (First and last 5 mins at RPE = 6, middle 10 mins at RPE = 8)

Thursday
Swim: 45 – 50 mins

Friday
Rest Day

Saturday
Run: 45 minutes at RPE = 5

Sunday
Ride: 1 hour 30 at a steady pace RPE = 6. Stop for coffee stop and a chat.

As mentioned, now that your Prep Phase training is complete, gradually ramp up the training volume and intensity each month to meet the specific demands of your 2020 race season.

Part of this story originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Triathlon Magazine Canada.

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