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How to Train for a Fast Ironman in 12 Hours a Week
Based on “Minimalist Ironman Training” by Matt Fitzgerald | January 2014
“Many triathletes can race a faster Ironman by following a
well-constructed 12-hours a week program than they could
with a higher-volume approach.”

© 2014 TrainingPeaks. All rights reserved.
Minimalist Ironman Training
Train Less
You can prepare for a successful Ironman triathlon with a program that has an
average training volume of only 12 hours per week and a briefly-maintained peak
of 16 hours a week.
Race Faster
By “successful” I don’t mean “finishing alive”. I mean covering the distance as fast
as your genetic potential allows.
Five Reasons this Works
●
●
●
●
●

Swim performance is about technique, not fitness
The swim just isn’t that important
Cycling fitness transfers well to running
High-intensity indoor cycling is time-efficient and effective
A dozen century training rides doesn’t give you more endurance than 2 or 3

© 2014 TrainingPeaks. All rights reserved.
1. The swim is all about technique
Technique > Fitness
Almost all swim improvement comes
from technique refinements. These
occur instantaneously vs. swim fitness
built through hours of training.
Use intervals and workouts to ingrain
technique 1st and develop fitness 2nd.
Work on Technique
●
●
●
●
●

Get one-on-one stroke coaching from a qualified swim coach
Study freestyle technique
Fiddle with your stroke
Use swim aids
Perform drills for body position, rotation, efficient breathing, strong pull,
efficient kicking

© 2014 TrainingPeaks. All rights reserved.
2. The swim just isn’t that important
By the Numbers
The swim accounts for only ~10% of the time to complete an Ironman.

To complete the swim as fast as your innate ability
allows, you’d have to train in the pool 2 hours / day, 6
days a week to shave off every possible second...

© 2014 TrainingPeaks. All rights reserved.

Or, you can get 90% of the way towards your fastest
possible Ironman swim by swimming 1 hour / day, 3
days / week.
3. Cycling fitness transfers to running
Trim Back Run Training
Cycling fitness crosses over well to running.
Each week you only need:
●
●

●

●

1 long run, e.g. 14 miles @ comfortable pace
1 high-intensity run, e.g., 10:00 warmup, 5x(3:00 @ 5k pace, 3:00 jog
recoveries), 5:00 cool-down
1 moderate, steady base run, e.g., 45 min @ comfortable pace*
*advanced athletes can add threshold progression or fartlek intervals
Optional: 1- or 2-mile transition runs after bike workouts

© 2014 TrainingPeaks. All rights reserved.
4. High-intensity indoor cycling works
The Trainer is Time-Efficient and Effective
●
●

●

Less setup and fewer stops
More intense: heart rate is always higher on trainer due to lack of coasting
or downhills
Controlled environment more conducive to high-intensity work

Proof Points
Top triathletes including Andy Potts and Tyler Stewart only ride outdoors
1x/week, and otherwise perform interval-based indoor sessions.
An Example of a Typical Week
●
●
●

3 x 30-45 minute rides on indoor trainer
2 x 30-45 minute indoor rides with challenging high-intensity work
1 long outdoor ride on Saturday

© 2014 TrainingPeaks. All rights reserved.
5. You don’t need a ton of long rides
Quality over Quantity
●
●
●

A dozen century rides won’t give you much more endurance than 2 or 3
Instead, do the hard threshold and interval training many athletes avoid
For your regular “long rides”, do fairly aggressive 2.5 to 3.5-hour rides

Building Gradually
With the solid cycling fitness foundation built by this approach, you can
incrementally increase the distance of your weekly long ride from 60 miles to
100 miles through the last 8 weeks of your training before your taper. You’ll
cultivate endurance without sacrificing pure power, or wasting time.

© 2014 TrainingPeaks. All rights reserved.
Putting it All Together
Sample Schedule
Based on the principles above, here’s what a week of a minimalist Ironman
training program could look like.

© 2014 TrainingPeaks. All rights reserved.
Resources
Original article: “Minimalist Ironman Training”
by Matt Fitzgerald (mattfitzgerald.org)
For more Ironman training advice
Subscribe to the TrainingPeaks Blog (trainingpeaks.com/blog)

© 2014 TrainingPeaks. All rights reserved.

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Train for a Fast Ironman in 12 Hours a Week

  • 1. How to Train for a Fast Ironman in 12 Hours a Week Based on “Minimalist Ironman Training” by Matt Fitzgerald | January 2014
  • 2. “Many triathletes can race a faster Ironman by following a well-constructed 12-hours a week program than they could with a higher-volume approach.” © 2014 TrainingPeaks. All rights reserved.
  • 3. Minimalist Ironman Training Train Less You can prepare for a successful Ironman triathlon with a program that has an average training volume of only 12 hours per week and a briefly-maintained peak of 16 hours a week. Race Faster By “successful” I don’t mean “finishing alive”. I mean covering the distance as fast as your genetic potential allows. Five Reasons this Works ● ● ● ● ● Swim performance is about technique, not fitness The swim just isn’t that important Cycling fitness transfers well to running High-intensity indoor cycling is time-efficient and effective A dozen century training rides doesn’t give you more endurance than 2 or 3 © 2014 TrainingPeaks. All rights reserved.
  • 4. 1. The swim is all about technique Technique > Fitness Almost all swim improvement comes from technique refinements. These occur instantaneously vs. swim fitness built through hours of training. Use intervals and workouts to ingrain technique 1st and develop fitness 2nd. Work on Technique ● ● ● ● ● Get one-on-one stroke coaching from a qualified swim coach Study freestyle technique Fiddle with your stroke Use swim aids Perform drills for body position, rotation, efficient breathing, strong pull, efficient kicking © 2014 TrainingPeaks. All rights reserved.
  • 5. 2. The swim just isn’t that important By the Numbers The swim accounts for only ~10% of the time to complete an Ironman. To complete the swim as fast as your innate ability allows, you’d have to train in the pool 2 hours / day, 6 days a week to shave off every possible second... © 2014 TrainingPeaks. All rights reserved. Or, you can get 90% of the way towards your fastest possible Ironman swim by swimming 1 hour / day, 3 days / week.
  • 6. 3. Cycling fitness transfers to running Trim Back Run Training Cycling fitness crosses over well to running. Each week you only need: ● ● ● ● 1 long run, e.g. 14 miles @ comfortable pace 1 high-intensity run, e.g., 10:00 warmup, 5x(3:00 @ 5k pace, 3:00 jog recoveries), 5:00 cool-down 1 moderate, steady base run, e.g., 45 min @ comfortable pace* *advanced athletes can add threshold progression or fartlek intervals Optional: 1- or 2-mile transition runs after bike workouts © 2014 TrainingPeaks. All rights reserved.
  • 7. 4. High-intensity indoor cycling works The Trainer is Time-Efficient and Effective ● ● ● Less setup and fewer stops More intense: heart rate is always higher on trainer due to lack of coasting or downhills Controlled environment more conducive to high-intensity work Proof Points Top triathletes including Andy Potts and Tyler Stewart only ride outdoors 1x/week, and otherwise perform interval-based indoor sessions. An Example of a Typical Week ● ● ● 3 x 30-45 minute rides on indoor trainer 2 x 30-45 minute indoor rides with challenging high-intensity work 1 long outdoor ride on Saturday © 2014 TrainingPeaks. All rights reserved.
  • 8. 5. You don’t need a ton of long rides Quality over Quantity ● ● ● A dozen century rides won’t give you much more endurance than 2 or 3 Instead, do the hard threshold and interval training many athletes avoid For your regular “long rides”, do fairly aggressive 2.5 to 3.5-hour rides Building Gradually With the solid cycling fitness foundation built by this approach, you can incrementally increase the distance of your weekly long ride from 60 miles to 100 miles through the last 8 weeks of your training before your taper. You’ll cultivate endurance without sacrificing pure power, or wasting time. © 2014 TrainingPeaks. All rights reserved.
  • 9. Putting it All Together Sample Schedule Based on the principles above, here’s what a week of a minimalist Ironman training program could look like. © 2014 TrainingPeaks. All rights reserved.
  • 10. Resources Original article: “Minimalist Ironman Training” by Matt Fitzgerald (mattfitzgerald.org) For more Ironman training advice Subscribe to the TrainingPeaks Blog (trainingpeaks.com/blog) © 2014 TrainingPeaks. All rights reserved.