Q&A: How Can I Extend a Training Plan?

Q: Dear Gale ~

I have decided to purchase your 9-Week Intermediate Olympic training plan, and I have a question. To begin, I have 14 full weeks to race day (not just 9), where I'll be competing in an Olympic-distance triathlon. My target time is 2 hours, 20 minutes.

I am 43, have been cycling and tri'ing on and off since 1990 in South Africa. I've been cycling seriously from 2000 to 2004 and have achieved a top 10-percent seeding for my age group in the country. I've ridden sub-3 hours for 100K races. Since immigrating to the UK in 2004, I have not done any serious competition.

Knowing that I've been base-training for two full months and using a heart rate monitor, I'd like to know which strategy will better set me up to hit my target:

  • Complete two more weeks of base, then do Weeks 1, 2 and 4 of your 9-week plan before completing the programme from beginning to end; or
  • Do another five weeks of base and then complete your 9-week plan from beginning to end.

I understand the importance of base training, but since I have been competing for some years (albeit some time ago), I wonder if two build periods would be more beneficial.

I would appreciate your insight. Kind regards, B. Mc.

A: Hey B. Mc. ~

Thanks for picking up a copy of my plan. First, I will give you specific recommendations for this plan and your current situation. At the end of the column, I'll give you a bit more of the general logic behind my recommendation so you can apply the principles in the future and perhaps to other plans.

Given your base fitness and relative strength in cycling, I suggest modifying your program as on the chart below. The first column is the number of weeks counting forward to race day. The second column is the week number name from your current plan, as it is laid out in your online account.


Final Base-Training Week


Week 1


Week 2


Week 4


Week 2


Week 3


Week 4


Week 3


Week 5


Week 4


Week 6


Week 7


Week 8


Week 9

The first week of your 14-week training block is your final base-training week. Make this a relative rest period before heading into Week 1 of the plan that includes track workouts.

When using the online program, be sure to copy the latest training weeks forward in the program BEFORE you copy the earlier weeks. Then you will need to delete that week before copying a new week on top of it.

For example, in the chart above, Week 9 of training now appears in 14th week of the time you have remaining. Once you copy Week 9 of the training plan to the final week (week 14) of your calendar, you will want to delete week 9 of the training plan and replace it with the training in Week 5 (as shown on the chart). Do take notice of the new progression and I think it will make more sense as you study the new arrangement.

What this new plan does is gives you a few more weeks to gain running speed. With a three-week cycle (as I've laid out in the chart), it reduces the chances of overtraining and injury while you are trying to get some speed back. If you find yourself getting tired or feeling unwelcome soreness, just peel back the intensity of one or more of the workouts to get back on track.

General Recommendations for Plan Extension

For future reference, you can insert and delete weeks of any of the training plans to suit your current fitness needs. When you download any plan that I've written, you will notice a pattern of work and rest.

You will have two or three weeks of higher volume, intensity or a combination of both. These weeks are followed by a rest week intended to help you absorb the training. Near the end of any race-specific plan, there is typically a taper period where weekly volume is reduced over the course of a few weeks and some intensity is maintained.

For people extending a plan that has a four-week cycle, seldom do I recommend extending the cycle to five weeks. The only time I do is for experienced racers that recover quickly in the preparation or base period. For most others, I recommend repeating one of the four-week cycles or changing to a three-week pattern, as I recommended for the first part of this particular training plan.

With Week 4 as the rest week, the cycle went from:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
1, 2, 4, 2, 3, 4, 3, 5, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9

Choosing which weeks to repeat, delete or insert depends on your personal situation at the time. I will give more training plan modification examples, and the logic for the changes, in future columns.

Let me know if this helps and how it goes for you.

Find a Training Plan That's Right for You

Gale Bernhardt was the USA Triathlon team coach at the 2003 Pan American Games and 2004 Athens Olympics. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Games in Sydney. She currently serves as one of the World Cup coaches for the International Triathlon Union's Sport Development Team. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow cycling and triathlon training plans. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.

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