USA Triathlon

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Free USA Triathlon Plans

Beginner 6-week plan for Sprint distance race
Intermediate 6-week plan for Age Group Nationals
USAT Sprint Distance, Int-Adv. 4 weeks
Novice USAT Olympic Age Group Championship 4-week plan

Additional training plans can be purchased in the Training Peaks store including:

Sprint-Distance training | Olympic-Distance training | Long-Distance training


Training Tips

TrainingPeaksThe following training tips are sponsored by TrainingPeaks, which provides the complete web, mobile and desktop solution for enabling smart and effective endurance training. Our products include Athlete and Coach Edition, WKO+ desktop software for cutting-edge scientific analysis and planning, and the TrainingPeaks mobile apps for iOS and Android. TrainingPeaks solutions are used by Tour de France teams, Ironman World Champions, Olympians, and age group athletes and coaches around the world to track, analyze and plan their training.

The 3 Priorities of a Proper Triathlon Bike Fit
Being professionally fit to your bike can save you as much time, if not more, than all of the aero equipment you can buy. Finding the right mix of comfort, power and aerodynamics is the ultimate goal. When considering these three components that contribute to your position on a bike, regardless of athletic experience, the order of importance is always comfort, power and then aerodynamics. Read more here.

How much improvement in threshold power or speed can an athlete expect in several months of targeted power training?
As with many issues around training, the answer to this question is “it depends.” For a highly trained elite athlete, squeezing out a 1 percent increase in functional threshold power (FTP) would be a significant achievement. For a middle of the pack age-group athlete I have seen an increase in FTP of 5 percent – 10 percent over the course of six to 12 months of concentrated bike training. The power training program would need to be a combination of steady state rides and targeted bike-specific strength workouts (hill repeats, big gear) and threshold workouts.

How long should I taper before a Half Ironman?
If the 70.3 is your A-race then I believe you should do a two week taper if you are well-conditioned, and three weeks if this is your first half Ironman or conditioning may be slightly compromised. During your taper week(s) remember to increase sleep time time to around 8 hours per night. Focus on overall good nutrition, but decrease caloric intake to match your training load so as not to gain unwanted weight. Do not decrease your intensity, but decrease overall training load so that on race day you're at your best, healthy and ready to rock the 70.3.

~Brian McWilliams, USA Triathlon Level II and Youth & Junior Certified Coach,

How many calories should I consume on the bike in a long or ultra-distance race?
There isn't a set amount of calories that everyone can and should consume. The amount of calories is dependent on your body and what it can handle at the different race distances and intensities. The key in determining this number is practice, practice, practice. Since everyone's body is different, you need to treat all of your long training rides as a nutritional practice for race day. A good number to start with is 350 calories per hour and if your body tolerates that number well, increase it from there. With training, the majority of people seem to be able to handle anywhere from 350-500 calories.

~Cristina Caldwell, USA Triathlon Level II Certified Coach

What percentage of power threshold should one plan on pacing the bike leg of a half Ironman? How about a full Ironman?
This is based mainly on experience. For my Half-Ironman distance athletes I like to see them at 80-85 percent of their threshold, and for Full distance 68-78 percent of threshold with beginners being around the lower end of the range. I also want the athlete to ride at a consistent power output with minimal difference between average power and normalized power (e.g., no spikes in power for hills or sprints). Lastly, I have my athletes do two training rides of race distance using their projected target percentage of threshold to test it out with race day gear and nutrition.  

~Jeff Geloneck, USA Triathlon Level I Coach,

What drills and techniques can I use to swim straight in open water?
To swim straight you need a symmetrical stroke, and one natural way to become more symmetrical is with bilateral breathing. Spend time developing your bilateral breathing in the pool and it will pay dividends in your next open water swim. Additionally, if you extend your arms straight from your shoulders and each arm enters the water this way, you will be more likely to swim in a straight line. Make sure there is no cross-over within your freestyle stroke. Do you swim straight? Here's a great test in a pool: Swim 25-yards with your eyes closed. If you run into the lane rope or continuously pull to the right-side or left-side of the lane then swimming in a straight line should be an area of improvement for you this coming season.

~April Gellatly Burkey,

Could you suggest effective recovery techniques? Active/passive compression, recovery training days, sleep/rest, post-workout nutrition, etc.
The absolute best recovery method is sleep, pure and simple. The more sleep an athlete can get, the better their body repairs itself. Post-workout nutrition for maximal recovery is simply a timing issue. The sooner an athlete can get post-workout nutrition ingested following a workout, the better. The more intense the session, the more important this timing window becomes. A good rule of thumb is to keep the window no longer than 20 minutes. As for active/passive compression, some studies have shown that just having an adequate cool down of active recovery can be more effective than compression, cooling or other methods. (See

~Jim Vance, USA Triathlon Level II and Youth & Junior Certified Coach

Should I buy a TT bike or aerobars for a road bike?
irst, the best way to determine what kind (and size) of bike to buy is to consult a professional bike fitter. A certified, independent fitter is best and will give you an unbiased evaluation, but some bike shops have good fitters as well. Although aerobars on a road bike give you the flexibility of riding both styles on one bike, keep in mind that you will generally have to sit in a position that is ideal for NEITHER style: TT bikes are specifically designed to be ridden with aerobars; road bikes (with the exception of one or two models) are not. And if your road bike has a long, low geometry (a frame with a long reach), you may be entirely unable to reach aerobars without sliding your seat too far forward.  Remember that shoulders and elbows should be at about 90-degree angles in aerobars. If you have to stretch much further, your road bike may need a shorter stem, or is entirely too long. Finally, if you plan on doing many (or longer) triathlons, you'll be much better off with a dedicated TT bike.

~Beth Baumgarten, USA Triathlon Level I Coach,

How Triathletes can balance family and training?
Many triathletes with families spend a lot of their time trying to figure out how they are going to fit their workouts into their busy lives as they do actually executing their workouts. Keeping the harmony at home isn’t easy, but you aren’t the first to go through this situation and you certainly won’t be the last. My goal of this article is to give you a few ideas about getting your life a little more in balance. Read more tips here.

I have a HR monitor and my zones set up. How do I read the data to see if I'm improving?
As you improve fitness, you will see your heart rate at a given speed (run) or power (bike) go down as your body becomes more efficient during aerobic exercise. Your heart, which is a muscle, becomes stronger and pumps more blood per beat. Your body also builds more capillaries to carry more blood and oxygen to working muscles while producing more aerobic enzymes to facilitate aerobic metabolic processes. As such, you may need to re-evaluate your heart rate training zones every four to six weeks as these changes occur, especially if you're just starting out.

~David Glover, USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach, Master of Science in Exercise Physiology,

For more triathlon training tips, visit the TrainingPeaks blog