Training Plans

Beginners 12 Week Triathlon Training Plan

12 Week Beginner Triathlon Training Plan

Essential Base Training

We are now into December and most athletes should be back on track working on their BASE having had a well earned break after a long hard season, the break enable our body and mind to recover from the continuous bombard of mental and physical torture we all put ourselves through for the love of sport

What is the real purpose and philosophy behind base training?

There are two basic energy systems you use when training; anaerobic and aerobic. Unfortunately, you cannot build both your aerobic and anaerobic systems at the same time very well. The idea behind base training is to train your aerobic energy system specifically and solely. Why is this important? The more work you perform aerobically, or in the presence of oxygen, the more efficient you are. Prolonged aerobic training produces muscular adaptations that improves oxygen transport to the muscles, reduces the rate of lactate formation, improves the rate of lactate removal, and increases energy production and utilization. These adaptations occur slowly over time.

Fat is a primary fuel source for the aerobic energy system. Over the course of a base period your body learns to more readily break down and utilize fat as an energy source. As an added bonus this adaptation helps post exercise fat metabolism as well. This is an important factor, especially for long distance athletes. The fat we have in our bodies could provide enough energy to perform many distance events back to back, whereas muscle glycogen depletion can occur in as little as one hour. The less muscle glycogen you utilize, the more efficient you are. Contrary to the aerobic system, the anaerobic system consumes carbohydrate rapidly and the byproduct is lactic acid.

Other adaptations of aerobic training include increased stroke volume of the heart, capillary density, and mitochondrial density. Stroke volume increase simply means that your heart pumps more blood per beat. Mitochondria are structures within muscle cells that produce energy from fat and carbohydrate oxidation. Think of them as tiny batteries for muscle contractions. Regular endurance training can double these structures (1). By increasing capillary density we can effectively transport more blood to the working muscles. The process of building capillaries occurs gradually. Because high stress training breaks down capillaries, base training is best for allowing the slow growth of capillaries.

This training period can take any were between 8-12 weeks depending on your training background, it can be split into 2-3 different intensity sessions.

Longer slower endurance rides of 2.5-4hrs with hr between 60-70% of max, shorter more intense rides of 60 mins with hr between 70-80% of max, and some short sharp Alactic sprint work of 5-10sc with long recovery

Base training in my opinion is one of the most important phases of an athletes season, setting the foundation stones for the intensive sessions that will follow later in the year, this is also a prime time to pay attention to the technical side of cycling, if our pedaling efficiency is poor, some simple cadence session will help and if our pedaling style is not smooth some isolated leg drills can also be added to sessions

This is also the time when we should be out training on our winter bikes, kitted with mud guards going 2-3kph slower due to the additional weight so we can also reap the benefits of returning to a race weight race bike when it matters most

Due to the adverse weather conditions we have been experiencing in Ireland the last few years I have added some examples of turbo sessions that can be done should we have to take training indoors that can be used during the base phase



Session 1 aerobic work out low intensity cadence

Simple 60-70 min work out at low intensity to help improve your cadence pedalling efficency, start with an easy work 15 min warm up 5 mins easy pedalling then 10 mins building up to aprox 75% max hr,(150 based on 200mhr)

Start with short blocks of 1min on 110-120 rmp, 1min normal cadence, 85-95rpm, 3 sets of 10 mins with 5 mins normal pedalling in-between followed by 15 min cool down

As your training progresses the duration of each set of high cadence can increase in time and reduce the amount of recovery

Session 2 aerobic work out isolated legwork

Simple 60-70 min work out at low intensity to help improve your pedalling effiency, and strength

The aim is to pedal using one leg, you can remove one foot if you wish or leave the foot as a balance weight, its important to think of pushing and pulling as if you were following a circle with your foot…to pedal in circles not clunking at gears or pedalling in squares.

Warm up as per above

Start with short blocks of 1min left leg, 1min right leg1min 1min both legs x3 = 3 sets of 9 mins with 6 mins normal pedalling in-between cadence of 80-90 for these efforts followed by 15 min cool down

As your training progresses the duration of each isolated set can increase

Session 3 mid intensity zone 3 aerobic work

60-90 mins, warm up as per above followed by 3x10 min blocks of 70-80% MHR effort, 10 mines recovery followed by 10-15 min cool down

As your training progresses you can increase the duration of the z3 work and reduce the recovery time, this session can be done at most phases of training

Session 4 short sprint intervals Alactate

60-80 min work out to help improve your short explosive power,

10-15 min warm up 5 mins easy pedalling followed by 10mins building up to 75-80% include 10 sc sprints every 3 mins @90%

2 sets of 4 sprints 8-10 scs max, should be done from a slow rolling speed in a medium gear to in the saddle, 8-10scs or until spun out 3-4mins easy riding between sprints, 5 mins between sets, 10-15 min cool down

As your training progresses you can increase the Duration, Seta and number of sprints in each set and or reduce the amount of recovery time


Top turbo tips

1 Fluids…ensure you drink loads during any turbo session, as dehydration will affect your performance

2 Calibrate you bike each time, i.e. same tyre pressure and resistance

3 Have a record of your session so you can evaluate your progress

4 if the weather is really bad split turbo session into 2 blocks rather than one long block

5 Play some good music when you’re doing the hard sets something to help you get those legs pumping