Holiday Triathlon Training Hacks

family run

Holidays can be stressful, so training should be an escape. Family demands, end-of-year work projects and even weather events can derail your normal routine. But with a little flexibility and creativity in your training sessions you can maintain your fitness during the holidays.

Swim Training

Swim training during the holidays can be challenging, as pool hours may be limited, so make sure to check your pool's operating hours before forcing yourself out of bed. If your pool has a kids' water park, this is also a great opportunity for a fun family outing after you're done your swim workout. If you don't have access to a pool, don't fret; you won't lose too much swim feel or fitness by missing a session or two. Search for pools that host USMS swim clubs with the pool finder tool.

Bike Training

Getting out on the bike when you're bound by time constraints can be challenging. Keep in mind the prep time required; if you inflate your tires, fill your water bottles and set your gear out the night before, you'll have more time to spend on the bike the next day.

If you're traveling and can bring your bike, check out online tools like Strava for the most commonly used roads and cycling routes. For those who are really time-crunched, an indoor cycling session may be the most efficient, as you won't need as much gear and won't have to consider traffic lights or stop signs. Plus, being a few steps away and within sight of family may alleviate any tension with non-triathlete family members.

Do you Zwift? If so, check out the library of training plans and sessions to meet your time limitations and training needs. Will you be traveling and staying in a hotel? Check the website or call to find out if a Peloton bike or gym-quality spin-bike is available.

Run Training

Running may be the easiest discipline to wedge in with family obligations during the busy holiday season. Running gear and the time commitment are minimal compared to cycling or swimming, so it's especially efficient if you're traveling.

Plus, you can do it with family. If they don't run, but do walk, get your run in and then meet up after for your cool down.

Helpful Tips

For suggested workouts and distances, if you can't make the distance intervals, shorten them proportionately. If there's a local running shop or running club, find out if you can drop in for a run. For those who will be training indoors, treadmill workouts and stationary bike trainers are really time efficient, and you'll always be within earshot and eyesight of family, which should keep everyone happy.

Cross Training

Holidays are a great time for cross training, for no other reason than an excuse to break routine and have fun trying different things. Check with CrossFit boxes or local gyms, hotel fitness centers or even enlist family for suggestions about different training options. In a pinch plyometric exercises are a great option; resistance bands are an inexpensive investment, and if you can find some stairs to climb, you can create a workout.

Training Modes and Time Limitations

Threshold-level workouts and high intensity interval training are time-efficient training modes that can yield positive training benefits for reduced-volume training. But, like any other time of the year, you'll want to stick to a training plan and not burn yourself out by doing hard work all of the time. Rest and recovery are just as important as going hard.

30-Minute Training Session

Thirty minutes is plenty of time to get a run in. If you want to rev things up and get in a really efficient workout, do a little running speedwork to stay in touch with a fast cadence. Leave a few minutes at the beginning and the end of the session to warm up and cool down.

Go Hard: One mile warm up, then do as many quarter-mile repeats at race-pace as you can fit in, with 1 minute of walking or light jogging between efforts with a 1 mile cool down.

Go Easy: Run easy for 30 minutes and enjoy the time outside. This can either be an escape, and some alone time, or it can be a bonding opportunity with a significant other or a niece, nephew or cousin.

60-Minute Training Session

If you can manage to spare an hour, you should be able to get in a ride or a run and still have plenty of time for family obligations.


Go Hard (tempo run): Start with a 1-mile warmup, 4 miles at descending pace for each mile (60 seconds per mile slower than race pace, 40 seconds per mile slower than race pace, 20 seconds per mile slower than race pace, race pace). Make sure to cool down with an easy mile after. If you can do more than 6 miles in 60 minutes, extend the warmup and cooldown.

Go Easy: If you don't want to run hard, an easy-stepping loop or out-and-back run will keep you fit and in touch with running mechanics.


Go Hard: If you're going to be cycling outdoors, attack the hills to get your butt off the saddle for a few turns of the pedals. Leave yourself a few minutes of easy riding before you head in.

Go Easy: If you're riding with family, you can just spin along, but contest town line sprints just for fun. If you want to make things really interesting: first place does the dinner dishes.

Go Hard: Indoor riding? Try a tempo ride. After 10 minutes of warm up, do five sets of 5 minutes at 105% FTP effort(or right at LTHR effort), with 5 minutes of recovery. This is not supposed to be an all-out effort; it should feel challenging but not leave you sore post-ride. Don't forget to cool down.

Go Easy: Bring the family to spectate—or even heckle—your indoor ride for everyone's entertainment. With all of the technology involved in indoor cycling simulations, this could be a good talking point to tick the time away.


Go Hard: If you're lucky enough to have pool access, do a 500-meter warmup with the last 100 meters hard. Then, depending on how fast you pace, do two sets of 10 by 100 meters at an interval that allows you about 20 seconds of rest between each set. The 100s should be done at race-pace or faster. Swim 50 easy between sets; leave time for 200 meters to cool down after the main set.

Go Easy: Get in a few 100s and be mindful of technique. Do a 400-meter warmup, then do 100s at 25 meters for technique, 50 meters moderate, 25 meters of hard swimming. Take 20 seconds between sets. Cool down with a continuous 100 meters, putting together the technique and swimming hard mixed sets you just completed.

90-Minutes Training Session

If you're training for a 70.3- or 140.6-distance triathlon, an hour and a half is plenty of time to get in some quality work.


Go Hard: For the runners, try a 2-mile warmup, then 6 miles with the frist 2 miles at 20 seconds per mile slower than marathon pace, the next 2 miles at marathon pace, then the final 2 miles at half marathon pace. Cool down for 1.5 to 2 miles.

Go Easy: Or, do a long run at an easy pace and enjoy the day.


Go Hard: If you're cycling outdoors, consider a route that has a few challenging climbs so you're working hard for several FTP intervals of 15 to 20 minutes with 10 minutes easy between intervals.

Go Easy: Indoors, you can throw on the TV or Zwift and just spin, keeping your heart rate and power down. Do three to five harder efforts that are shorter than two minutes, at only 85% of your FTP or LTHR.

Go Hard: If you ride on flatland—or are riding indoors—consider doing a 20-minute warmup, then two sets of 20 minutes at 85% of your FTP or LTHR, with 8 to 10 minutes recovery. This should be at a challenging, yet sustainable, effort. Allow 15 minutes to cool down.


Go Easy: If swimming is your focus, check out a few of these swimming workouts. Depending on your ability, you may be able to get in more than 3000 meters, before you're missed at home.


Have fun during the holidays. Even doing half your normal training, at half the intensity, will keep you fit. Spend time with family (and maybe recruit them for some of your training). Taking a day off is part of smart training. Eat and drink without guilt. Don't look back on a holiday season with regret.

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