How to Jump From Sprint to Olympic-Distance Triathlons

You've successfully completed one or two sprint triathlons and now you're wondering if your busy schedule would allow you to train for an Olympic-distance race. You prefer to have weekday workouts remain at an hour or less, due to a long list of personal commitments. On weekends you have more time, but the maximum amount of time you want to put into a single training day is three hours—and you don't want too many of those.

Possible to do an Olympic triathlon with these restrictions?


Should you simply double all of your training sessions?


Let me help.

More: Hit Your Stride: Olympic-Distance Peaking

Broad View

Most triathletes complete two or three workouts, per sport, per week. If your schedule and fitness allows two workouts per sport, per week, an Olympic-distance event is very doable. During your recovery weeks, planned every third or fourth week, reduce daily training volume by 20 to 50 percent and be sure to include some speed work.

If it is possible to successfully complete an Olympic-distance race on two workouts per sport per week, why would anyone do more training?

You would do more training, say three workouts per sport, per week, if your fitness and time allowed. What I mean by "fitness allows" is that you see improvements with more training volume and you don't feel too tired by the training load. This means your body is responding well (no injuries or illnesses). Similar to the two workouts per sport per week, reduce training every third or fourth week, as outlined previously.

Schedule no more than two to four breakthrough, tough, fast, "hard" and/or long workouts per week. This is for all sports combined. Too often triathletes aim for two or three fast workouts in each sport. This ends in mediocre speed because there is no recovery time.

More: 9 Training and Racing Tips From Tri Experts


If you completed a sprint race, the swim was likely around 400 to 600 meters. A standard Olympic distance triathlon swim is 1,500 meters. Below are the guidelines for ramping up your swim training:

? Make one workout on the order of 500 to 800 meters and include some speed work. For example, make the main set 6 to 10 x 50 meters, swimming faster than your estimated race pace. Make your swim interval so that you are getting 20 to 30 seconds recovery. If you swim only two days per week, alternate weeks of fast swimming with a swim working on form and aerobic maintenance for this workout day.

? A second workout should be used for building race day endurance. Gently increase yardage from your current level so that you are able to swim some 1500 to 2000 meters in a single workout. The main set of this swim should have long swims—200s to 500s, until you can complete 1500 steady, or broken with minimal rest. Some of this swim can be done at race pace.

? If you swim a third day, make it 500 to 800 meters, mostly aerobic with form drills.

More: 4 Steps to a Smooth 1.5K Swim

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