I got the following email from one of my tri team members on Monday this week:
This is Joe from Saturday(‘s) Tri Club practice. I was wondering if you could talk me through how I should be training during the week for the triathlon?
Joe <last name redacted>
Sorry it's taken so long for me to get back to you.
In general, when you're training for triathlon, you want to try to do each discipline twice a week, with one day that's a harder and/or longer day and one day that's an easier and/or faster day.
In this way, training for triathlon is similar to training to run a road race and different than training for swimming races. When you train to run, you want to try to go long one day per week, and you want to try to go fast one day per week, and the other days you just sort of want to get out there and cruise. When you train to swim, on the other hand, you pretty much just hammer yourself into the dirt day after day after day before tapering. In this case, you're looking for absolute peak performance, exactly one time in the season. However, that approach only works for swimming because 1) Swim races tend to be short when compared to cross country road races and/or bicycle races, and 2) swimming is a no-impact sport, so the risk of injury is minimal.
Running, and to a lesser extent riding, are very different. With running especially, training hard day after day after day will lead to injury. This is guaranteed, even for teenagers. With riding, the problem isn't so much injury as it is just simple recovery. High caliber riders ride for HOURS at a time, day-after-day, and the body's ability to recover from that kind of training done at high intensity is limited--even for guys in their teens and early-20s. So in both those disciplines, a measured hard/easy approach is generally more appropriate.
Or, to put it another way, you pick your spots and go hard during key workouts. On days when you're not going hard, you just want to do no more than build a little general aerobic fitness without compromising recovery.
With all of that in mind, realize that there is no reason not to do two sports in one day when training for triathlon. Which is to say that even though you're trying to work each discipline at least twice per week, that doesn't automatically mean you're doing exactly six workouts per week with one day off. In fact, working multiple disciplines in a day is a great idea so long as you aren't compromising your general training and recovery schedule.
So. The attachment is a training schedule that I put together for the Milford Tri Club. On a second tab, there's also a half-marathon training plan, but you don't need to worry about that unless you absolutely want to. And in any event, the guide isn't meant to be a rigid and exacting schedule by any means. It's more meant as a general guide that incorporates all of what we've discussed above. Feel free to modify it for your needs. Just remember that rest and recovery are also important parts of training, and you should be fine.
If you have any questions, please let me know.
If you want the training schedules, I’ve uploaded them to Google Docs. Here’s the link.
Questions or comments? Drop them in the Comments below! Thanks.