4 Weeks To Improve Triathlon Times

by Joe


I am doing UK Olympic Triathlons, so can do 400m in roughly 14mins, 40km bike in roughly 1 hr 25mins and the run, 8km, in 35-40mins.

My question is how, in 4 weeks, can I improve my times, which kinds of training sessions should I be doing, how should I build my week?

At present I train once or twice a day with one full rest day, so have capacity for a lot of training if necessary to improve my times.

Intelligent Triathlon Training (Mark) replies:

You can certainly improve your times for your triathlon over the next 4 weeks.

Your running appears to be the strongest discipline overall. Your swim would seem to be an area for quite significant improvement (don’t mean to offend but did you mean 14 min for 400 m?).

In terms of building your training week, if you are training once or twice a day then aim for 3 swimming sessions, 3 bike and up to 4 runs. (For guidance of how to structure your training week have a look at our Olympic triathlon training schedule on this page: Olympic triathlon training).


If your normal swimming training sessions are ~ 1500m in length try including a couple of sessions like the following each week:

  • 4 x 50 Swim with 10 - 20s rest after each rep

  • 4 x 50 kick using a kick board, concentrate on trying to keep your legs fairly straight and your toes pointed

  • 10 x 25 aiming for ~ 3 - 4sec faster than your 400m pace. Give yourself a good recovery of ~ 30 - 40s

  • 3 - 5 min rest

  • 10 x 25 repeated

  • Easy 100 - 200m

This triathlon swimming session is trying to build some strength and cardiovascular fitness for you.

Another session to try:

  • 4 x 50 Swim with 10 - 20s rest after each rep

  • 4 x 50 kick using a kick board, concentrate on trying to keep your legs fairly straight and your toes pointed

  • 6 x 50 at a little faster than your 400m pace (1 - 2s per 50)

  • 6 x 50 repeat

  • Rest

  • 4 x 25 at the same pace as the 50m reps.

This session is about building your endurance at race pace.

Include another longer steady swim where you spend more time swimming continuously.

If you are riding comfortably for 2-hrs in long training sessions try this (if this is too much scale the ride down accordingly):

  • 90-min ride with a 20-min easy warm up that builds intensity over the last 5 min to your race pace.

  • Take a couple of minutes easy then:

  • 6 x 5min at ~ 1 - 2m/hr (2 - 3kmh) faster than your race intensity. Use a 1:1 work to rest ratio, so have 5 min easy in between each rep.

  • Finish with an easy 5 - 10min home.

Alternatively try to do a 40 - 45-min ride at just above race pace (~1-m/hr above) trying to avoid slowing down or stopping, so no towns, etc. Include a short warm up and a short cool down afterwards.

Also try to include 1 long ride a week that is 1.5 - 2 times longer than your race duration, but at a nice and easy pace.


If adding this much intensity into your swim and bike training is quite hard, I would worry less about your run, which relatively speaking appears to be your best discipline. The extra endurance you get from the other disciplines will automatically help your run. So aim for mainly easy/steady runs.

If you do have the energy to do some specific run sessions try this:-

  • 40sec at a pace that is 15 - 20% faster than race pace then 20sec at a pace about 20 % less than race pace.

  • Keep repeating this for ~ 9 - 14 minutes.

  • By mid way through you should feeling that it is quite hard, by the last quarter you should be breathing very heavily.

  • If you are feeling really good, give yourself 10min easy and repeat!

This is a VO2max session, and whilst you will not make much difference to VO2max in 4 -weeks (nor does VO2max have much relevance to your performance), you will see significant differences in your endurance.

Good luck!

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Aug 15, 2011
Swim time
by: Mark (ITT)

Ah that's good, glad we didn't insult you about your swim time!

Aug 15, 2011
Swim Time
by: Joe

thanks a lot for that, will certainly give me some things to work on!

Oh, and the 14mins was for 800m swim, not 400m!

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