I first published my original “sub 10 Ironman in 10 hours per week” article back in 2010.   The article described the type of training I did to go 9:21 at IM Switzerland when I was working during the day and going to school at night.  This is an updated and improved version of the plan for 2019. 

With many TriForcers having kids and with their lives becoming increasingly busy we now focus so much more in providing time efficient Ironman triathlon training for busy triathletes who want to perform at a high level.

As a learning experience and as a break from the physical and mental grind of “traditional” Ironman training I’ll be following this plan to see if I can qualify for Kona at Ironman Santa Rosa, May 2019

Despite what your perpetually shaved neighbor with the M Dot tattoo tells you, you don’t need to train 20 hours per week to crush your next Ironman.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s no question that volume “works” when it’s done right, and if you are chasing those last percentage points in performance, it’s probably necessary. But your neighbor’s big volume approach comes with some serious drawbacks as well.


Drawbacks of High Volume Training

💩 Higher risk of injury and deep fatigue.

💩Less time for sleep and other key aspects of your Foundation for Adaptation

💩Probably less time spent at focused Ironman effort. The higher your volume, the more important it is to keep your long workouts at a “relaxed” <70% effort as opposed to the focused 70-78% steady Ironman effort. That leaves some athletes not ready for the demands of an Ironman-- cranking nonstop, relentlessly in the aerobars at 70-75%
💩 Increased risk of mental burnout.

💩And, of course, high likelihood of neglecting work, family, etc.

The Alternative

Instead of grinding out the “big miles,” a busy athlete might consider a FOCUSED Ironman training plan, stripped down to the essentials,  that gets results and leaves you time for other things in life. I’m not saying this is necessarily the best way to train, but it can get you VERY fit on a limited time budget.    The following “core week” is an example of how you might approach it. If you build up to this level then repeat a week like this for 6 weeks, then leave room to bump things up for the last 4-6 weeks before your 2 week taper, you’ll be fit.

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.  It’s tough!

The Core Week

Planning Your Build: 3 Phases

MONDAY  (1h) shorter / harder bike intervals

+ optional ez run off the bike
TUESDAY (2h) lMish effort long run
WEDNESDAY(1h) swim - solid IMish distance swim
THURSDAY 90 min solid focused TTing ride / longer intervals
+ :25 fast t run
FRIDAY(optional swim)
SATURDAY (3h) SOLID FOCUSED Ironmanish effort (power creep OK 2nd half) (indoor sets or outdoor focused ride)
+ (1h) run at SOLID FOCUSED IM effort off the bike
SUNDAY   (1h) hard IM distance swim

= 10 hours, 55 minutes – yes, we cheat a little and truncate when saying “10 hours” 🙂  (and it presumes your swim moving time is about 1 hour IM pace average like mine)

Phase 1: Build Up to the Core week

Don’t just jump into the plan.  Start from where you are at and build gradually up to the “core week.”  In general, the further we are from the race, the more we emphasize shorter, harder reps vs. longer reps and workouts.    Swim-wise, your biggest goal here is to be strong enough to do 2 x IM distnce swims / week.  You’ll probably have to swim 3x / week at first to get there.

Phase 2 – The Core Week

This is the meat of the program (see table to the right).   A week like this repeated 4-6 times  will get you FIT.

Phase 3 – the last 4-6 weeks before taper

In the last few weeks before you taper it’s time to add extra if you can.   See guidelines for this in “the rules” below.

The Rules

✔️Consistency is Key. If you skip workouts or have “bad weeks” on this plan it starts to add up very quickly and you won’t be fit to race. Slackers and workout skippers need not apply.

✔️Maximum “focus factor”. Once you are feeling fit your long rides should be very race-like (or even more focused)– do everything short of peeing your pants to keep cranking and keep the intensity up. STAY IN THE AEROBARS! These are not social rides! If you don’t have a good place to crank it outside, then you have to ride indoors. (I warned you… it’s not supposed to be easy).

✔️3 hour focused IM effort ride + 1 hour run off the bike: each of these is a little mini race rehearsal. Take advantage of it! Practice your pacing, nutrition and hydration just like race day. This is a major advantage of this type of plan. You have no excuse not to have things DIALED IN on race day.

✔️Fast Transition Run.   A solid tempo (threshold) run off the bike is an outstanding option for building speed in a time efficient way.

✔️2 x Ironman Distance Swims. If you are going to drive to the pool, etc., make it worth your time. Once our volume is maxed in the bike and run, we’ll do 2 SOLID IM distance swims per week. Within those swims we’ll touch on threshold work, sprints, etc, (so, not just grinding out IM distance)– and they will be hard! Obviously you need to build up to this over time (and you probably want to start the season with 3 swims per week with the main goal of getting to the point where you can crush an IM distance swim– then you’ve earned the privilege of swimming 2 x / week). And, even more obviously, if you are only swimming 2x per week, you can’t miss swims! Doing the Friday optional swim will definitely bring some additional re

✔️Once you can crush the long ride… when Ironman effort for 3 hours leaves you feeling very STRONG at the end and eager to do more, you know you are getting fit. In that case you can allow some natural “power creep” in the 2nd half of the ride. Don’t TRY to push the power above IM effort, but if it just happens naturally (and it still feels around IM effort) that’s OK, assuming you are bouncing back and feeling strong for your Monday intervals. (if not, stick to IM effort). Just remember NOT to allow power creep on race day– a minimal plans means we need disciplined execution on race day!

✔️Optional runs. The run is stripped down to essentials: a long run, a solid IM 1 hour off the bike (taking the place of a second medium run during the week) and a harder run (done off the bike).  But there’s no question that additional run frequency is helpful, so if they don’t stress your schedule, go for it!  Just keep them relaxed so your legs feel good for your key runs.

✔️Layout of the Week.  The layout above is excellent because it maximizes spacing between your challenging workouts.   If you want to play with the layout (e.g. do both your long ride and run on the weekend), you’ll probably want to make other adjustments to the plan.  If in doubt, ask a coach.

✔️Last 4-6 weeks before taper. This is the period that most impacts your race results so we want to add to the core week if at all possible. Add 1 hour relaxed (65%) before the IM effort reps, or build to 2.5 hours relaxed, 2.5 IM effort. Start doing your “optional” swim and run every week (keep the run relaxed and on a soft surface if possible).  So, we might get up to a “massive” 13ish hours per week.    This is also a good time to attend a training camp (TriForce typically has a training camp 4ish weeks out from Ironman Santa Rosa).

✔️Taper. Taper doesn’t mean shutting down your training– it’s reducing things in a smart way so you keep as much fitness as possible while having fresh legs on race day.  The less fatigued you are heading into the taper, the more “normal” your training should be.    The taper is a great time to keep up a good focus on your swimming as well.

This is not necessarily the most “fun” training plan (except as far as it is fun to get results and have spare time and energy to do other things in life), but it gets results. Do I guarantee that you’ll break 10 hours by following this plan? No. But I do guarantee that you’ll get SERIOUSLY FIT training this way… if you follow the rules of the plan!

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