Transition From Triathlons to Fall Cycling

In a previous column I answered an athlete's question about entering running races at the end of the triathlon season. That column spurred another couple of good columns—what about a swim- or bike-specific block? In this column I'll cover a bike-specific season, or block of training, following a season of racing triathlons.

If your sprint or Olympic-distance triathlon season is finished, but you don't want to take a recovery break until later in the year, now is a good time to enjoy the fruits of your triathlon-training labors. Fall is an excellent time to participate in longer bike rides or organized bike tours.

When Your Tri Season Ends

After your last triathlon of the season I recommend taking a break—a week of unstructured training. Take one or two days "off", which means no swimming, cycling or running. If you want to take a walk of 30 to 60 minutes on those off days rather than doing no exercise, that's an option. For the remainder of that week, keep the daily workout time less than two hours. The two-hour workout would likely be on the bike. Keep that ride mostly aerobic.

Keep the swim and run workouts an hour or less and keep them mostly aerobic as well. You can include some 60- to 90-second bouts of building your speed, but keep it less than all-out. Put generous rest (two minutes or more) between the accelerations.

Once you're through your recovery week, you can look forward to more cycling. One advantage to cycling versus running is that adding more volume on the bike is less likely to result in injury than adding more distance or speed in your running.

Looking back at the last month, if your longest bike ride was an hour, you can participate in an event that is two hours long right now with a low risk of injury. This assumes you don't have any current fitness or injury problems associated with cycling.

If your longest ride was two hours, or your longest triathlon was in the two- to three-hour range, you can participate, right now, in an event that is in the four- to five-hour range. When I write "participate", it means you can ride the event at a primarily aerobic pace. Of course, looking for a personal best century ride time would require event-specific training for four to eight weeks before the century.

Turn Your Tri Training Into Century Ride Success

To build a faster century ride from a triathlon base doesn't require as much complexity as you might think. Below is one example of a weekly training pattern to boost your century ride speed:

  • Monday: Day off, or strength training, or yoga, or pilates.
  • Tuesday: Easy swim, and/or short and easy run.
  • Wednesday: Threshold workout on the bike. One workout suggestion is found in the column "Indoor Trainer Workouts" and can be done indoors or outdoors.
  • Thursday: Easy swim, and/or medium to short aerobic run.
  • Friday: Aerobic bike ride or day off.
  • Saturday: Bike ride in the two-hour range that is aggressive and fast. Assuming you've just come off of a season of triathlon racing, you have the fitness to do this ride at high speed. That means riding at any and all intensities. This is a great time to experiment with pushing your speed limits on the bike.
  • Sunday: Make this ride two to four hours at an aerobic pace. If you are beginning at two hours, you can build the ride by 30-minutes each week for the number of weeks you have between now and your century ride.

Be sure to take a recovery week every three to four weeks and the week prior to your century ride, where training volume is reduced.

You can see that swim and running are all aerobic. You can work on form or short speed segments with long recoveries, but save the intensity for the bike.

Just by changing a few pieces of your workout scheme, you can enjoy your hard-earned triathlon fitness on a long fall bike ride.


Gale Bernhardt was the 2003 USA Triathlon Pan American Games and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic coach for both the men's and women's teams. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow training plans. For more information, click here. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.

Related Articles:

Q & A: Training for Running Races After Triathlon Season

10 Tips for Your Fall Century Ride

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