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Olympic Triathlon Training Program

This Olympic triathlon training schedule is for you if you have been in regular training for around 12 months, or if you have been doing less but come from a swim, bike or run background with a good, consistent training background.

In order to follow this program you will need to be able to train for 7 to 13 hours per week on a regular basis.

The schedule is flexible so whether you have 3 months or 10 months until your Olympic triathlon you can use this program to train effectively.

This program consists of 5 phases.

See our training planning page for a detailed description of each training phase.

Olympic Triathlon Training Phases

Foundation Phase

Aim: To get you comfortable with training, and build a basic level of fitness to allow you to start proper training in the next phase of your Olympic triathlon training program. Allows you to get your feel back for the water, your bike skills back up and your body used to running again.

Move on: After 2 – 4 weeks, or once you feel comfortable with the three disciplines.

Base Phase

Aim: To build up your volume of training so that you can move on to doing higher intensity training and recover well from this during the next phase of your Olympic triathlon training plan. This will be your longest training phase.

Move on: When you comfortably accumulate over race distance in the main set of an endurance swim session, ride double race distance and comfortably run 1.5 – 1.75 x race duration.

Build Phase

Aim: Still a good volume of training but now including speed work and intermediate endurance sessions so you start to pick up some speed endurance.

Overall you will be doing slightly less hours of training in this phase of your Olympic triathlon training program as the overall training intensity will have increased.

Move on: When you are able to cover up to race distance at intermediate endurance pace for all three disciplines.

Your build phase should finish 6 – 10 weeks out from your key race. If you get to this point and you have longer than 10 weeks until your key Olympic triathlon, go back and repeat the base and build phases – aiming for 2 – 3 weeks of each. You would increase the pace (not the intensity) of the sessions compared to your first time through these phases.

Preparation Phase

Aim: To fine tune your speed work – this is the part of your Olympic triathlon training schedule where you build real speed. Training is much higher intensity, and mainly around race pace. However the volume of training is much lower.

Move on: This phase should last around 1 – 6 weeks, 8 weeks at the very most.

If you are 8 weeks out from your key race and you feel like your endurance is good but you have no speed, then move into the preparation phase. If however at this point you feel like your speed is quite good, then carry on with the base/build phases for longer.

Recuperation Phase

Aim: Active recovery or rest, to allow you to recover and adapt to the recent training phase, and put you in a good position to start the next phase of your Olympic triathlon training program.

Move on: This phase should last around 3 – 10 days. You should have a recuperation phased between each phase of your Olympic triathlon training program.

You can even have a recuperation phase within another phase if it is a long phase (eg every 4 weeks or so). Within this Olympic triathlon training program you should include a recuperation phase as soon as you start to struggle to maintain speed in training as you have been doing previously.

Sometimes you do need to push on a little through the fatigue (this is the overload that stimulates the body to adapt to training), but not on a regular basis.

You shouldn’t need to take a full recuperation phase of 10 days more than 2 to 3 times in a year.

Olympic Triathlon Training Program – Training Sessions

You should be aiming for a minimum of 2 sessions per week in each discipline up to a maximum of 4.

The number of sessions you do in each discipline can vary from week to week within this Olympic triathlon training schedule. In this way you can focus on the discipline you most need or want to improve.

Swim Warm-ups

Here is a selection of warm-ups you can choose from for all the swim sessions below.

Warm-Up 1.
  • 200m swim
  • 4 x 25/50m alternating breast and back stroke, nice and easy.
  • 4 x 25m kick, alternating between easy and hard reps.
  • 3 x 50m as 25m with a hard kick, 25m normal kick.
  • Do all of these with a comfortable amount of rest.
Warm-Up 2.
  • 100/200m swim
  • 4 – 8 x 25m kick. 2 hard reps followed by 1 easy rep and repeat.
  • 4 – 6 x 25m. Breathe every 2 strokes on rep 1, every 3 strokes on rep 2, every 2 strokes on rep 3, every 4 strokes on rep 4.
  • You can aim for every 5 strokes on the last rep!
Warm-Up 3.
  • 100 – 200m swim
  • 4 x 25m kick – hard
  • 4 – 8 x 25m – Count your strokes on the first rep then try to reduce this on each rep. Once you can’t reduce it any further try to maintain this stroke count for the remaining reps.
  • 4 – 8 x 25m, first 10m sprint, then 15m easy.

Foundation Phase

Swim Description
8 x 25m, (15s recovery) Maintain or improve distance travelled per stroke. At an easy/steady pace, count the number of strokes per length and hold this for all 8 reps.
4 x 25m (15s recovery) Start with a slow stroke rate, long stroke. Each 25m increase your stroke rate – your time per 25m will get faster.
4 x 50m Alternating backstroke and breast stroke.
8 x 50m, (15s recovery) Maintain or improve distance travelled per stroke. At an easy/steady pace, count the number of strokes per length and hold this for all 8 reps.
2 x 50m kick (20–60s recovery)
2 x 50m (20–60s recovery) Alternating backstroke and breastroke.
Bike Description
S1. Easy Ride, 45 – 90 minutes After the first week introduce 2 – 5 harder efforts of 3 – 5 minutes at race pace.
S2. Under & Over Gear, 45 – 90 minutes Include blocks of 6 – 12 minutes, where you alternate 1 minute under-gearing (spinning at higher cadence than normal, at least 100rpm), with 1 minute of over-gearing (cadence lower, down to 60rpm at lowest).
Run Description
S1. Easy 15 – 40 minute run Aim for 2 per week.
S2. 15 – 40 minute run with Intermediate Endurance Include 3 – 5 minutes of Intermediate Endurance Running (below race pace).
S3. 15 – 40 minute run Include 4 – 8 reps of 10 – 15 seconds where you increase speed up to just above race pace.

Base Phase

Swim Description
S1. 10 x 50m or 15 – 20 x 25m
  • At a comfortable pace, extensive endurance intensity or 2 – 3 s per 50m slower than CSS/race pace.
  • Increase the number of reps or step up to 50m if doing 25m.
  • Aim to get up to 40 x 50m with a 3:1 work:rest ratio.
  • This can be broken down to sets of 10 then sets of 20 reps.
  • Can do this session twice per week but only if doing 3 swim sessions or more.
S2. 5 x 150 – 200m
  • Build up to 8 – 10 x 200m.
  • Swim at an even pace, and the work:rest ratio is 3:1.
  • Aim to increase the volume you can swim week on week, whilst maintaining the same pace.
Bike Description
S1. Extensive Endurance Rides 2 - 3 of these rides per week. Duration of around 1.5 to 4 hours, and aiming to increase the duration over the course of this phase.
S2. Varied Intensity Ride. Can be done on a turbo trainer. 4 – 8 times through the following: 5 minutes at the upper end of intermediate endurance intensity , 5 minutes at extensive endurance intensity or just below.
Run Description
S1. Extensive Endurance Runs 25 – 60 minutes, and build the duration over the course of the phase.
S2. Extensive Endurance with Intermediate Endurance 25 – 80 minutes, and build the duration over the course of the phase.
S2. Extensive Endurance with Intermediate Endurance Include only 1 of these runs per week. 25 – 60 minutes at Extensive Endurance pace, with a block of 5 – 15 minutes at Intermediate Endurance pace.

Build Phase

Swim Description
S1. 10 – 20 x 25/50m At race pace, 30 – 40 seconds recovery.
S2. 5 x 150/200m (distance that takes around 2 – 3 minutes) Intermediate Endurance intensity, even pace. 60 – 90s rest between reps. Increase the number of reps as you progress.
Bike Description
S1. Extensive Endurance Ride 1.5 – 3 hours duration, building on the duration you achieved in the Base Phase.
S2. Intermediate Endurance
  • Warm up, then build to ride over race duration at Intermediate Endurance intensity.
  • This can be broken down into 2 – 4 x 15 – 20 minutes at Intermediate Endurance intensity with recovery at extensive endurance intensity, with a 2:1 work:rest ratio.
  • Work to turn this into a continuous block at Intermediate Endurance intensity.
Run Description
S1. Extensive Endurance Run (x2) Build on duration from the Base Phase up to around 80 minutes. Aim for two of these runs per week.
S2. Intermediate Endurance Run
  • Up to 60 minutes.
  • Start off at Extensive Endurance pace and then gradually increase the pace over 2 – 3 minutes up to Intermediate Endurance pace for up to 45 minutes.
  • As you increase the duration of this session, do this by increasing the duration of the Intermediate Endurance section.
  • Aim to be able to do race duration at Intermediate Endurance pace.
S3. Track session
  • 10 – 15 x 200m at Intermediate Endurance intensity or slightly higher.
  • 10 – 14 x 400m at same intensity.
  • You can mix the 200s and 400s together in blocks.
  • 20 – 40s rest between reps, and again can vary this from rep to rep.
S4. Run off bike
  • At Intermediate Endurance intensity, for 15 minutes, with the first 5 minutes harder than race pace then reducing the pace over the last 10 minutes.
  • Don’t need to include this session every week.
  • If you are tired run off an easier bike session, and as you get closer to the next phase of training try to do it off a harder ride (eg the over gear turbo session)

Preparation Phase

Swim Description
S1. 20 x 25m at Intensive Endurance intensity
  • You can break this into two sets of 10 reps.
  • 40 – 50 seconds rest between reps of a work:rest ratio of 1:3.
  • Build up the number of reps like this: 2 x 10 x 25m, 2 x 12 x 25m and so on.
S2. 25, 50, 75, 100, 125, 150m at race pace.
  • 2:1 work:rest ratio – so if 25m takes 20s have 10s rest; if 100m takes 90s take 45s rest.
  • You can build on this session by descending back down the distances, with 2 – 3 minutes rest after the 150m.
Bike Description
S1. Extensive Endurance Ride Always include this session each week. Up to 2 hours duration.
S2. Intensive Endurance Intervals 3 – 4 x 10 minutes at race pace or slightly above this, with 5 minutes of easy spinning as recovery between reps.
S4. Over gear session
  • 20 – 30 minutes minutes at Intermediate Endurance intensity or slightly harder.
  • Keep your cadence at 60 – 65rpm.
  • If you do this on the road try to use an even terrain that is flat or with hills that are not too steep.
  • If the terrain varies use your gears to keep the cadence at 60 – 65 and the effort on.
N.B Don’t do all of S2 – 4 in one week. If you want to do 4 rides do 2 x S1 and 2 from S2 – 4. .
Run Description
S1. Extensive Endurance Run Up to 70 minutes max.
S2. Race Pace Efforts 6 x 4 minutes at race pace with 2 minutes rest between reps.
S3. Track session 10 x 400m or 20 x 200m (or a mixture of both, aiming to accumulate 4 – 5K worth of work), slightly above race pace. 20 – 30s rest between reps.

Recuperation Phase

Swim As Foundation Phase but reduce number of reps.
Bike 20 – 40 minutes max, below Extensive Endurance. On the flat if possible, with a slightly higher cadence than normal. 2 – 3 rides per week.
Run Minimise your running. 10 – 15 minutes at most, and can include a few 10 to 15 second efforts where you stride out at a slightly faster pace.

Other Training To Include In Your
Olympic Triathlon Training Plan

It would be a really good idea to also do some basic strength training , with the main purpose being to keep you injury free. You can of course do more than just the basics if you have time and enjoy this sort of training. Just make sure that any extra training doesn't affect your swim, bike and run sessions.

For keeping you injury free you could include the following in this Olympic triathlon training program:

  • Run drills as part of your warm up for a run session
  • A glute circuit after a swim, bike or run session
  • Core strength exercises after a swim, bike or run session.

Don’t forget to think about your recovery so that you optimise your adaptation to your Olympic triathlon training!

Most importantly, enjoy your Olympic triathlon training!

Running Drills

These are great to use as part of a warm-up. Ideal for improving functional strength and control, as well as running economy.

Glute Exercises For Hip Control And Stability

Good glute strength is important for maintaining good hip position and stabilising your pelvis. Without this you are likely to end up with injuries to your lower limbs - eg knee, calf or achilles problems.

Core Strength Exercises – Level 1

Start here with basic core exercises focussing on engaging the TA muscle as a starting point.


Top tips to help you improve your recovery from training. This will help you optimise your adaptations and get the most out of each training session.

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If you have any questions about your Olympic triathlon training schedule just ask us.

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