Monday, May 30, 2011

Long Distance Tri-Training Tip | "MUST DO" Interval Sessions to Avoid the Rut

While training for long course triathlon competition, falling into a training rut can be easy to do.  Long, steady-state aerobic endurance workouts in the saddle or on the run become monotonous both mentally and physically, and after awhile, motivation wanes as you ask yourself, "do I have to do yet another 3-hour bike ride?".

Building your endurance with extended moderate intensity workouts is important.  These sessions build stamina and metabolic efficiency, while also preparing your brain for the demands of an arduous day long race experience.  However, too much of a good thing can backfire on you, as some athletes discover with too many consecutive long steady-state training workouts.  It's important to mix it up and keep the body guessing  and adapting to new levels of training stress.

This is why interval training should be an integral part of your weekly long distance tri-training plan, if even in small doses.  Not only will going hard shake things up and give you much needed variety from monotonous, steady-state training, it'll also target key energy systems and recruit muscle fibers/motor units necessary to boost fitness to the next level.  The good news is that an almost endless number of interval sets can be created.  Here below are examples of a swim, cycling and running interval session I have found to be effective for long-course athletes, when performed once every seven to ten days in the 10-weeks before race day.  You can also find several other free workout ideas by clicking HERE.

Swim Workout Description
(Note: 100 base pace is the interval you can hold when swimming moderately hard/ consistent for a set of 10x100's.)

Warm up 200-300 yards (or Meters) Freestyle
Drill Set: 6 x 75 (25 right arm, 25 left arm, 25 swim) @ 10 sec. rest
3 x 50 kick (25 front / scull, 25 back / arms over head) @ 10 sec. rest
Main Set: 6 x 200 (at 100 base pace)
3 x 50 fast @ 30 sec rest
3 x 25 sprint @ 30 sec rest
Cool down 200

Bike Workout Description
(Note:  This workout can be done on a flat or rolling stretch of road but is best performed on the trainer when using a heart rate monitor or power meter.)

Warm up 10-15 minutes easy, 3 x 30 sec. 'openers' @ 30 sec. rest
Main Set:  3 x 2 min. tempo (95-100% of Lactate Threshold Heart Rate) @ 1 min. rest
1 min. recovery spin
3 x 90 sec. tempo (95-105% of LTHR) @ 45 sec rest
2 min. recovery spin
3 x 60 sec. hard (100-110% of LTHR) @ 30 sec rest
Cool down for 10-15 minutes easy

Running Workout Description
(Note: You can do this workout on a flat or rolling section of road, on the track or on the treadmill.)

Warm up jogging for 5-10 minutes easy. Perform some dynamic stretches, then jog and perform 3 x 30 sec. striders @ 30 sec. rest
Main Set: 4 x 90 sec. (5K race pace) @ 30 sec. rest (jog easy)
Jog easy for 2 minutes.
4 x 1 min. fast (10-15 sec. faster than 5K pace) @ 1 min. rest (jog easy)
Cool down 5-10 minutes easy

Hit the turbo switch weekly with a dose of interval training and you'll take your performance to the next level by avoiding the rut associated with long-distance endurance training!

Train smart,
Coach Troy

Coach Troy is the Official Coach of IRONMAN and the Head Tri Coach of LIFE TIME FITNESS. For more free sample workouts, click HERE or visit And to learn about the leading indoor training video collection of cycling and running workouts, go to


  1. So, in endurance building is that like a typical 'base building' phase? I'd normally do one interval/time trial per week in a base phase.

    Then when I am ready to kick it over to the sharpening phase I'll lower the volume by 10-15% and add 2 more speed sessions.

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