Hey triathletes and triathletes-in-training! Today is Tri Talk Tuesday, our monthly triathlon blog linkup co-hosted by me, Courtney at The TriGirl Chronicles, and Phaedra at Blisters and Black Toenails. The theme is Triathlon Training Plans and the timing is perfect, because I am literally combing through triathlon training plans in order to start a Half Ironman training plan this month!
It’s reminding me of when I signed up for my first triathlon (and started this blog to obsess about it!) and set out to find a triathlon training plan for the Iron Girl (a sprint distance triathlon). It was exciting but also a little bit confusing and overwhelming, so I thought I’d take you through a few resources to help you find your ideal training plan for whichever distance you’re tackling in 2015.
There are several ways to find triathlon training plans. I’ll list them from most generic (and least expensive) to most tailored to you (and most expensive):
Free training plans available on the internet
This is a great option if you don’t need or want much guidance, and perhaps you just want to get to the finish line of your race with a bit of structure from an outside source. I used a free plan for my first sprint triathlon, and it worked well for me. I was super self-motivated and didn’t really need any extra accountability other than the plan entered into my calendar.
Pros: No cost, some are really effective, gives you a good framework for what to do each week.
Cons: Completely generic, doesn’t take into account your fitness level or experience with swimming, biking or running, doesn’t adapt according to your life or other races on your schedule. You have to figure out a lot yourself.
Where to find them: I found a lot of sprint triathlon training plans on the internet when I was first starting out. The problem is that I didn’t know which ones were good plans and which ones are just thrown together without much thought. My Iron Girl race sent out a training plan as part of their materials – other races may do the same – and I followed a combination of that plus another plan I found online. Beginner Triathlete is a great source for free plans. You can also use a book, such as the Triathlete’s Training Bible, for a training plan.
Paid, pre-made training plans by a coach
You can find a lot more plans and dig a little deeper with some of the paid plans on the internet. These plans are typically developed by coaches and may offer more descriptions about the plan and what it is geared for – perhaps it’s for an experienced swimmer, or maybe it’s geared for a race course that has a difficult and hilly bike course, or maybe it’s for taking you to the finish line with a particular time goal.
Pros: Could offer more information about the plan and the goal of the plan in order to match up with your goals. Likely developed by a coach. Many allow you to integrate with an app or website to prompt you and allow you to log your workout details.
Cons: Still not customizable with your exact fitness level and experience. Not adjustable if you need to shift workouts.
Where to find them: One popular sources is Training Peaks, which offers a lot of coach-created plans at a one-time fee. If you become a premium member of Training Peaks, you can customize workouts (if you miss one and have to do it the next day). Swim Bike Mom offers a training plan only option. TriFuel has paid plans. I attended a seminar led by Lloyd from On Point Fitness, and loved him – he provides training plans at various levels. There are so many options for this category.
Group or club training plans
It’s no secret that I love to train with a group, but my busy life doesn’t always enable me to join others in person for regular sessions. Joining a triathlon club or a triathlon training group for a specific race distance can be a great way to stay motivated. Typically led by a coach, you’ll be sent a triathlon training plan for your particular distance, and all the athletes in the group will be working from the same plan.
Pros: Typically led by a coach to assist with questions, information, and motivation. Other people in the group or club are training with the same plan (although not necessarily for the same race) and can offer support, accountability and encouragement for one another. You may find a plan for your specific fitness/experience level, or be tailored for your specific goal race.
Cons: Not completely customized for you – the plan is set and it’s up to you to follow it. If you miss a workout, you may be able to ask the coach for tips on how to adjust the schedule, but it won’t be tailored for your from the outset.
Where to find them: Local triathlon clubs (for example my local club offers training groups that offer Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced options for various race distances, led by a coach). Some coaches offer group training that starts at a specific time, or on a rolling basis – Swim Bike Mom (aka Meredith Atwood) has training groups that come with two coaches and a private Facebook group for an extra fee than the option in #2. Another popular option in the DC area is Team Z, which is a coached group with in-person training.
Custom training plans and invididualized coaching
This is the ideal option if you have a busy schedule, need external accountability, or have a big triathlon goal that you want to achieve. In this scenario, a coach develops a training plan for you specifically after discussing your fitness level, experience with swimming/biking/running, and your goals for the race, the season, and/or your fitness level. I would highly recommending searching for a coach who you mesh well with and feel suits your personality and style of interaction. Swim Bike Mom recently posted a great article on Do I Really Need a Coach? that gives a good run-down of what to expect.
Pros: Customized for you in particular, with your fitness level, experience, and goals as the driving force. Created by a coach who will work with you and interact with you on a predetermined schedule. Adaptable and flexible if you need to shift your workouts or have another race planned during your triathlon training. Provides accountability. May be located near you and provide in-person meetings, coaching, or evaluations of form. Often comes with a Training Peaks premium membership.
Cons: Expensive. I haven’t taken the plunge due to cost but I am considering this as a way to best fit a half Ironman training plan into my hectic schedule of work, kids, other races, and travel. Some people may find the accountability to be too much pressure – I’ve had times where I am just doing the best I can with my training and an outside monitor would have sent me over the edge of sanity.
Where to find them: Coaches abound – you can find a USAT certified coach on their website. You can ask your local triathlon club about individual coaches, or seek them out online – most have websites detailing their services. Finding a coach in your area can be a huge help to achieving your goals by having in-person coaching services. [Tip: my co-host Courtney is a certified coach!]
The trick to finding the right triathlon training plan is to figure out three things:
- What is your goal for your race?
- How much time can you carve out to devote to your training plan?
- Which of these types of triathlon training plans will suit your needs and get you to the finish line?
And let’s be honest here: another factor is money. Certainly, the options listed above are generally in order of expense, and you have to decide what monetary investment is worth it to you for this particular race. A lot of people hire personal trainers, or join expensive gyms, take high-end fitness classes (I’m looking at myself and my Barre addiction!). But actually I’m only half joking with that last comment about barre. I’m putting a few things on hold that I usually do such as barre class packages, in order to set myself up with the ideal situation for my next triathlon training plan. It’s about making choices.
So figure out what you need, and find a way to get yourself there. Having a plan is the first step to getting to the finish line!
Do you have a triathlon training plan picked out for your next race?
What’s your goal race for 2015?
NEXT MONTH’S THEME FOR TUESDAY, MARCH 3:
We’re going to begin a three-part series covering the basics, starting with THE SWIM – and how to improve it. Don’t miss it!
Don’t forget the linkup below – other triathlon bloggers all linking up on today’s theme of Triathlon Training Plans. Go visit them and leave a comment!