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A short and simple guide to planning and developing a program that will get you to race day in better shape.

Set season goals

It is very important to identify your season goals. These will be drawn from your goal set and may include some of your long and short term goals. Your goal set is something you and your coach should revise every couple of seasons as you evolve as an athlete. It is important to ensure you have set ‘SMART’ goals. Smart goals are:


Measurable (How do you know you have achieved it?)

Attainable (Is the goal achievable yet challenging?)

Relevant (Is it worthwhile?)

Time bound

Furthermore it is critical that you set process goals – the steps to your goals.

Example goal set:


1 PB at Shepparton 70.3 and place in the top ten in my age group

2 Swim a sub 30min 2km

3 Run 1:40 half marathon off the bike by the end of 2011


How will you achieve these goals – 5 key actions

A Work closely with my coach over the next 12-18months to develop my swim, strength and core conditioning – Swim 4-5sessions each week + 2 strength sessions per week

B Include preventative treatment and recovery techniques into my regular routine

C Bring back my cycling and running to compliment my swimming volume

D Specific running sessions including track work with group

E Racing regularly to learn how to race

Pick races

Now pick your races for the season. Pick your main one or two races first – these are A races and may include an Ironman race or Australian Championship race for example. Then pick a couple of B races that you will complete leading into your A race. You may also choose some C races which act like training sessions, time trials and gauges of fitness. Always pick your main race(s) and work backwards from them.


A races – Shepparton 70.3 and Torquay HIM

B races – Geelong LC and Portarlington LC

C races – Hazelwood winter OD, Gatorade OD, BCB OD tri

Identify limiting factors

We all have factors that limit our ability to train. It is important to identify such factors that will have a big or extended impact on your ability to do so. These may include family holidays or business travel. If you identify them early on, you can plan around them and factor them into your overall training plan.

Identifying limiting factors also includes personal limiters or weaknesses. Broadly speaking you may need to work on your swimming. But more specifically you might delve a little deeper and set aside a session a week to work on your swim specific strength, or you may like to invest in a stroke correction program early in the season. The goal of the program should be to work on any such weakness whilst maintaining and developing your strengths.

Macro, Meso and Microcycles

A good training program will be broken into training blocks. For most triathletes the biggest block, the macrocycle will simply be one calendar year, or one season (November-April in Victoria). Each macrocycle is divided into a number of mesocycles such as recovery, base, overload, performance, taper and recovery. Mesocycles are training blocks of between two and 12 weeks that have a particular objective or are focused on the attainment of a specific training goal, such as bike strength endurance. Finally, microcycles are generally one week blocks which follow a predictable pattern. One such example may be swim, bike, run, rest.

Again, start from the event date and work backwards from there. Specificity and intensity of training should be at its highest closer to race day. This may include up to an 8 week mesocycle of race specific training including race day bricks on weekends. This period may include a C and B race as a lead into your A race.


All programs must be flexible. It is important not to be too rigid with the design and completion of any program. As the season progresses it may become evident that more rest is required or inadequate improvement is occurring. Be sure to modify the program accordingly.


Be sure to factor the following into your season planning:

Bike maintenance

Preventative treatment

Core Conditioning

Biomechanics and fit


Taper, Overload and Recovery

As discussed in Issues 5 and 8 managing recovery and training load are essential to your performance come race day. Overload is designed to stress your body but recovery is where your fitness is improved. Furthermore, the taper period is designed to leave you uninjured, recovered and fresh come race day, allowing you to perform at your peak. Latest research shows that a 2-3 week taper combined with carbohydrate loading (see issue 4) lead to optimal performance. Training volume should decrease in the final 2-3weeks leading into race day but training intensity should be maintained as you attempt to ‘sharpen up’ and prepare your body for race day. Compared to training load in your final performance week training load should decrease 20% each week leading into race day.

For example; your Sunday Brick may be 5hr Ride inc 8 x 15min TT efforts / 2hr Run inc 6 x 10min efforts at race pace at 4weeks out but only 3hr Ride inc 4 x 15min TT efforts / 1hr Run in 3 x 10min race pace efforts.

Case Study – Athlete A

Set season goals

1 Busselton 2011 – sub 10:30

2 Break 450 at Shepparton 70.3 2011

3 Improve overall bike strength

A Invest in a new bike and a professional fit

B Preventative treatment at least once a fortnight

C Ride a minimum of 3 x a week and 500-600km a week

D Specific running sessions including track work with group

E Racing regularly to learn how to race

Pick races

A races – IM Busselton

B races – Shepparton 70.3

C races – Hazelwood winter OD

Limiting factors

- Holiday in first week of December

- Bike strength and speed

- Race experience

Training – 28 week program

Week Phase / Mesocycle Notes

1-2 -Base -Organise equipment and nutrition for the season ahead

3-7 -Bike Strength Endurance -Recovery at week 7

8-10 -Bike/Run Strength Endurance -Recovery week 10

11-17 Strength Endurance at Anaerobic Threshold -Recovery at weeks 13 and 17

-Hills repeats week 11-17

18-26 -Race Specific Phase inc Volume (18-21) and Performances phases (22-26)

-Race Day Rehearsals at weeks 23-25 -C race (Hazelwood OD) week –18 and B race (Shepparton 70.3) week 26

-Recovery at week 20

-Practice race and nutrition plan

27-28 -Taper -Finalise race and nutrition plan

28 -Race -CHO load

As you can see a quick discussion with your coach or training partners’ means you can set yourself up for a successful season. The best coaches and most successful athletes adopt a similar approach. Take a little time through winter to reflect on the previous season, set some goals and plan ahead. Doing so will mean you have peace of mind for the upcoming season and a clear cut path for training and racing. That means you can concentrate on racing faster!


Joe Friel, Triathlete’s Training Bible, 3rd edition

David Smyth et. Al., Live It Up 2, 2nd Edition

The information provided in this article should be used as a guide only. Before commencing any training program you should seek the advice of a medical professional. This guide does not guarantee optimal performance. For more information speak to your coach or contact ETPA directly.

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