Sub 10 Ironman in 10 Hours Per Week

Despite what your perpetually shaved neighbor with the M Dot tattoo tells you, you do not need to train 20 hours per week to kick butt in your next IM. In fact, your neighbor who trains 20 hours per week probably has some secrets he does not want to tell you:

  1. He doesn’t train 20 hours per week, he just thinks he does or says he does. Yes, he has trained 20 hours in a week once or twice, but that does not mean that he trains 20 hours per week.
  2. He spends hours doing thousands of easy, sloppy yards in the pool that are probably not going to help him very much on race day.
  3. He spends most of his rides going too hard or too easy to target the #1 key for IM bike fitness: the ability to crank steady watts in the aerobars nonstop for hours. He has no idea of how long he can crank steady watts and no clue how he will feel on race day when he tries to do so for 5 hours!
  4. He does lots of easy running, spending hours to get very little benefit.

You can be better prepared than your neighbor for your next IM by following this focused 10 hour per week training plan.   I’m not saying that this 10 hour training plan is the only way to train or the best way, but it can be quite effective.  Incidentally, this is very similar to how I trained to go 9:21 at Ironman Switzerland when I was working during the day and going to school at night. And make no mistake about it, I’m not selling you a shortcut. If you follow this plan and all the rules, it is physically and mentally challenging. You’ll wish you were out with your neighbor lallygagging for hours and hours every week.

Here’s the plan:

M: long run (90)
T:   bike intervals (60) + transition run (30)
W: swim (45)
R: bike maintenance (60) + transition run (30)
F:  swim (45)
S:  long bike (3 hours) + Transition Run (30)
S:  swim (30)


= 2 hours swim, 3 hours running, 5 hours biking

Instructions for executing the program:

  1. No Easy Training. You will do virtually ZERO easy training– only as long as it takes to warm up.
  2. Maximum Focus Factor. Do everything short of peeing your pants to make sure that you keep moving and are staying at your steady heart rate / power or above.  Do most your riding indoors on the trainer.
  3. Focused Swimming. Jump in the pool, warm up as quickly as possible (5 minutes or so), then just start in with your main set.  No cool down.  There are plenty of challenging main sets you can do in 25-40 minutes.  Err on the side of longer intervals on short rest instead of sprints on long rest.
  4. Long Bike. Your default ride will be to go steady on the flats and do tempo on the hills.  Gradually increase your focus factor during your early base.  When 3 hours riding outdoors with maximum focus factor becomes too easy you’ll have to move indoors for most of your long rides.  I told you I wasn’t selling you a short cut.   (You could, of course, keep extending your ride beyond 3 hours, but then we’d be over 10 hours and that would be cheating.)
  5. Bike Intervals. In the early base focus mostly on extreme high and low cadence in your steady zone with a smattering of tempo and threshold.  In the middle base focus on tempo intervals with a smattering of threshold.  In the late base focus on threshold while maintaining tempo.  During the specific prep focus on tempo work while maintaining your threshold power.   (To maintain you only need to do some short reps.)
  6. Maintenance Ride. Almost all steady intensity, nonstop for an hour in the aerobars.  As the season goes on mix 3-4 * 3 to 5 minute tempo reps and a handful of 1 minute threshold reps.  No easy recovery after your reps- immediately resume your steady riding.
  7. Long Run.  Only run easy for a few minutes to warm up.  Then run entirely in your steady zone.  Early in your base you can start with easy running if 90 minutes of continuous steady is too strenuous.  Late in the season you can add a few reps of 3-4 minutes of tempo during the run and perhaps a tempo finish.
  8. Transition Runs. All in your upper steady zone.  Can add a tempo finish late season.
  9. Consistency is Key. If you skip a few workouts on this plan it adds up very quickly.
  10. Camps. When you have time or vacation or even just a long weekend, consider doing a big block of training if that is an option for you.  Create a DIY camp, or consider attending a professionally run camp by a company such as Endurance Corner.  Also, I’ve been talking to a colleague about hosting some camps here in California (stay tuned).
  11. Race Rehearsals. 3-4 months out you’ll need to do big race rehearsal workouts every 2nd or 3rd weekend.  This will add a couple of hours per week to your training, so you can brag to you neighbor about how you had a huge 12 hour week.

This is not the most “fun” training plan (except as far as it is fun to get results and have spare time to do other things in life.)   Do I guarantee that you’ll break 1o hours by following this plan?  No.  But I do guarantee that you’ll probably do better than you would just grinding it out with the goals of training X number of hours or swimming X number of yards.   I also guarantee that 10 hours per week is plenty of training for you to have the race of your dreams at your next Ironman (if you follow the rules of the plan!)

– Coady

For more information about how to train with limited time, read my “When All Hell Breaks Loose Workout Plan” article.

About Coady

Lucky to be coaching some really awesome & fun people!
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23 Responses to Sub 10 Ironman in 10 Hours Per Week

  1. Pingback: For text side bar | Coach Coady – I Make Your Goals My Own.

  2. Stephen Sherwood says:

    This seems like it would fit into my life perfectly also. I have some low key races scheduled in my training plan to do my first IM in Cozumel 2011. It seems like you could do this training plan for numerous weeks. I would like to start my training in early feb for some shorter tri’s then a half IM then my goal race. I also like to lift weights on MWF, just a full body tri specific? Do you think weight training could fit into this plan? Thanks for your website & explaining your training style. Hopefully you can give me some advice on training races leading up to your main race. Thanks again,

    • admin says:

      Hey Stephen,

      Sorry for the delayed reply- I’m finally getting caught up after my vacation.

      Weight training could fit in well with this program . However, depending on your goals, you might find that your time might be better spent working on your weakest of the 3 sports if you have time for 3 weight sessions. You might be better off doing 1-2 full body sessions and using the extra time for your weakest sport.

      Feel free to follow up with any more specific questions.


      Kevin Coady

  3. admin says:

    Hi Stephen,

    Thanks for reading. I’m about to head out for the weekend to Yosemite, but this is a great question and I’ll get back to you next week!

  4. Pingback: The “When All Hell Breaks Loose” Workout Plan | Coach Coady- Bay Area Triathlon Coach

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  7. Daniel says:

    Hi Coady,

    Would this plan work equally well for a half ironman, or would you suggest any tweaks?



    • admin says:

      Hi Dan,

      Off the top of my head, here are some thoughts on tweaking the program for Half Ironman:

      – By the late base do all of your transition runs at tempo (HIM) intensity instead of steady.
      – Add longer tempo (HIM pace) reps into your long runs in the late base & specific prep
      – Add even more tempo and threshold riding in the late base.
      – During the specific prep you should add HIM simulation bricks with a full HIM swim and bike at HIM intensity plus 2*5k at your HIM run pace with 5 min recovery in between. If you can’t negative split the 5ks, then your pacing is off.
      – During the specific prep do 2-3 of 10-15 minute HIM paced reps with 5 min recovery in your longer runs. Also do a couple of 60 min HIM paced runs instead of your 90 min long runs.

      I hope this was helpful.

      – KC

  8. Daniel says:

    That should have been “Hi Kevin” !! 🙂

    • admin says:

      Coady works just fine- most of my close friends call me Coady. Growing up I played on the same soccer team for 7 years before a few of my teammates discovered to their shock that Coady wasn’t my first name. (Which was odd considering they called my dad Mr. Coady.)

  9. ksif says:

    Coady – I’m following the 10 hour program – good stuff. Thanks for sharing. the goal is sub-5 hour 70.3 in july. feeling tired from the work (didn’t train much in sept after a 5:16 summer 70.3). feels to me as though I can get there if I can keep the training going. the 5:16 came with a good deal less training – not happy with or about that – just a matter of life keeping the training schedule fairly limited (I’m 48 and have a family & a commute…). at any rate, it feels like a good program and thanks again — leaves me wanting more (well, not more of my trainer – after 3 hours indoors today), but also knowing that it’s plent of work, and the thing to add after the base is really strong is intensity.

    • admin says:

      Thanks ksif,

      I’m glad you find the program to be useful. If you can do 5:16 without much training, then you have a very strong chance of breaking 5 hours in July.

      I love to hear about the 3 hour trainer rides– if you are strong for 3 hours on the trainer at your steady intensity (feel good at the end + no massive heart rate rise in the second half), then you should have good endurance for the HIM.

      Also, be sure to gradually increase the intensity throughout the program (don’t jump into doing 2*20 min @ threshold as soon as you start the late base). You should have the feeling of “wanting more,” as you say, after your higher intensity workouts.

      Also, if you are following the program as written it can create some serious cumulative fatigue– be sure to take a recovery week if your performance starts to decrease or if you ever have trouble holding your steady intensity.

      Finally, I’m going to be creating a full detailed 10 hours per week training plan which will be available for sale soon to those who want the convenience of knowing in detail what workout to do every day.



  10. Dan says:

    Thanks for the pointers Kevin.

  11. justinmckie says:

    This is great Kevin, looks like a great plan. Can you give us some further info on why training inside on the bike is good and how to stop the insane boredom!? I guess you mean using your TT bike on a Turbo (so you are assumed in the position) rather than spinning bikes / classes?

  12. Caolan says:

    This looks like my kinda plan. I would love to do a sub 10 hour ironman in 2012. I did the race almost 10 years ago. (Ironman Canada 2002). Did a 58 swim, 550 bike and a 440 run. I think I can bring the swim down to a 55, the bike down to a 5:15 or 5:20 (I did the 2002 race on a crappy bike with down tube shifters) and the run to a 3:20-3:30. Maybe its just a pipe dream, but it would be nice to have that as a goal.

    • Coady says:

      Hi Caolan. Congrats on the sub 1 hour swim in 2002– I’m still working on that! Have you done any Half IM races in the last few years?

  13. Alan says:

    Hi Coady,
    Like alot of people have said, great plan. With work and family people just find it to hard to get out for hours everyday.. I plan on doin a HIM in 2012 and a IM i 2013. So right now I’m gettin as much info together as possible. How many weeks or months before an IM should this 10hr training plan come into play.


    • Coady says:

      Hi Alan,

      For the “full plan,” coming out of an off season where you’ve been fairly active, I’d recommend.

      6 weeks prep & conditionining
      6 weeks early base
      6 weeks middle base
      6 weeks late base
      at least 2-3 flex weeks to accomodate races, getting sick, etc.
      6 (or up to 9) weeks specific prep
      3 weeks taper
      = 35+ weeks or so for a long buildup; depending on how fit/ conditioned you are starting out, you could skip the 6 weeks of prep & conditioning

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  15. David Schmidt says:

    I believe this is how my body works. High intensity is more important then long slow training days.
    That said how do you define “steady zone” and “tempo”


    • Coady says:

      Hi David- steady is zone 2 (ironman effort for most people). Tempo is zone 3 (half ironman or marathon effort for many athletes). The upper part of tempo (getting close to your threshold zone) is called “sweet spot” and is a great place for doing work to raise your lactate threshold power / pace.

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