Minimalist training for triathlon

This article “Train for a fast ironman in 12 hours a week” recently posted on Training Peaks has prompted me to post about minimalist training for triathlon.

When I was racing long distance pre kids I was in the ‘need to get the long miles in’ camp.  I certainly did a good proportion of pace work and intensity work, but the base of my training included a lot of long rides and runs.  At my peak weeks during ironman training, I used to run 3 1/2 hours  after work during the week.   A large proportion of Saturday and Sunday would be spent riding and running.  Long ride one day of around 180km and a ride run the other day of about 120km/25km.   By all accounts this was beneficial.   My best ironman was 10:27 and I was generally sub 5 hrs for a half ironman.

Although I’m not doing ironman now, I am doing half ironman (and a first marathon coming up). Because I don’t have the time capacity to do so many hours of training I’ve changed the way I’ve trained – taking on a minimalist approach.   Reduced mileage but increased intensity.

I was first inspired to try this approach after reading about Sami Inkinen.  Sami has achieved great results with limited training time, including overall amateur champion at the Wildflower Long Course Triathlon, Ironman 70.3 Hawaii, age group world champion at the Ironman World Championship 70.3 in Las Vegas, second in his age group in Kona.

This is the article that first got me interested in training this way, and this blog post (My) Secret sauce to a Sub 9hr Hawaii Ironman: Unconventional wisdom provided a good summary to get me started.

For half ironman my long ride is now only 2:30 (occasionally 2:45 and maybe once or twice I do a 3 hr ride).   To date most of these long rides are done on the trainer.    My long run is 1:30 – although I did stretch this to about 1:45 a bit in the lead up to my last half ironman.    I focused a lot on half ironman race pace within these ‘longer’ sessions.   The ‘slow’ component really is just warm up, cool down and recovery between sets.

I find swimming hard to schedule, so I have upped the intensity, but dropped the total distance, focusing on doing race pace 100’s and a shorter session of harder 100’s.  I don’t swim much more than about 2km a session, and often less than this.  Some weeks I struggle to even get one swim in and I am sure I’d benefit from more frequent swimming.   If I had the time I would do squad but it just doesn’t work for me at the moment.

When it comes to race day  I think I’m actually running a bit faster than I was.  Bike is similar.   Swim is slower although I am finishing higher up in pacing a in the swim than when I used to race 10 years ago.

It’s a big shift from what I used to do, but to be able to do reasonably well with limited time, minimalist training appears to work for me.  Mentally it can be hard to know that I will be pushing it for most of the session rather than just doing it all easy.

After toying with a few different plans, I’ve now settled on a minimalist approach to my marathon training as well, using the Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster program.

And I’m starting to think that if I follow a minimalist approach, just maybe, I could do another ironman . . .

10 thoughts on “Minimalist training for triathlon

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