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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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:
- No Easy Training. You will do virtually ZERO easy training– only as long as it takes to warm up.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- Transition Runs. All in your upper steady zone. Can add a tempo finish late season.
- Consistency is Key. If you skip a few workouts on this plan it adds up very quickly.
- 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).
- 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!)
For more information about how to train with limited time, read my “When All Hell Breaks Loose Workout Plan” article.