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Triathlon Heresies: ironguides in Triathlete Magazine

It’s said that genius speaks its own language but seldom understands it. If you’ve had the opportunity to spend a little time with geniuses in different fields, you’ve probably noticed something else – they share the ability to master complexity to produce simplicity.

Triathlon remains a pretty small field but we can lay claim to a few technological innovations and feats of endurances that can be called inspired genius. But when it comes to the ability to develop winning athletes, the field narrows to the point that only one man merits the label of genius – Brett Sutton.

I had the good fortune to spend a good deal of the last eight years in almost daily contact with Brett. His achievements leave little doubt that he has a unique ability to generate consistent top-level results in a very complicated sport, working with the finicky personalities of professional endurance athletes no less. A quick summary of his coaching pedigree lists eight ITU world champions, over a hundred ITU World Cup wins, wins at every major triathlon held including the Hawaii Ironman, and more podium finishes than the pages of this article could list. Today a second wave of coaches around the world emulates Brett’s methods in the hunt to develop the next generation of champions in the pro ranks.

My discussions with Brett totally transformed my views on human performance, focused perseverance and human psychology. Although my days as a professional triathlete were over by the time he and I started our dialogue, my understanding of endurance and triathlon training was only beginning. Elsewhere our sport was gravitating to the increasingly generic training protocols that I used to rely on, including zone training, power targets and lactate testing, but Brett’s methods were entirely unorthodox and challenged convention at every step. The more I learned, the more I let go of my quantitative ideas and outdated notions on training and embraced the common sense of his approach.

Imagine – little to no periodization throughout the year, but instead a steady diet of skills acquisition and working on one’s weaknesses. No “key” races and generic tapering formula, but rather a flexible approach that takes into account recent training context. Weekly recovery derived from the structure of carefully designed programs that had athletes training every day, often using a strongly repetitive program. No reference to triathlon’s component sports to train, but rather triathlon-specific techniques to develop skills in each component more relevant to triathlon.

Although professional and Age Group triathlon are two very different sports, there are principles and perspective on training that you can learn and apply to your own training to make it more effective, save time, enhance recovery, all in a more enjoyable, qualitative way. No need to sift through the tea leaves of daily heart rate or power downloads, no need to spend money on expensive gadgets, and no need to plan daily training months in advance.

In this series of articles, we’ll take a look at how we’ve applied some of the principles of professional triathlon training to create a counter-intuitive approach to training we call The Method. By the end of this series, hopefully you’ll come to understand triathlon training from an entirely different, simplified and holistic perspective.



To understand triathlon you need to look at our sport not as the sum of its parts, but as swimbikerun – a single event taking place in changing environments, requiring different skills applied at similar levels of exertion. Training in each component needs to take place in a broader context than single sport training, so when you see someone referring to what swimmers, cyclists or runners do to prepare for a race – tune out! Triathlon takes place under completely different scenarios.

We’ll take a look at specific training for each of triathlon’s components, but here’s a few examples of what I mean. In a triathlon, you’ll rarely ever find calm, flat water. Instead you’re faced with flailing arms, chop and murky water. If you’re a relatively unskilled swimmer, long distance-per-stroke glide phases open you up to “stroke interruption” every time you pause, leading to time-consuming re-acceleration at every stroke. It’s much better to adopt a short, choppy but powerful stroke that minimizes glide and maintains forward momentum with a more rapid arm turnover.

Likewise, contrary to conventional wisdom for cyclists, triathletes benefit from a lower cadence on the bike, not just to preserve fast twitch fibers for the run, but also to make maximum use of training time to generate strength on the relatively limited number of miles we ride. And on the run, it pays to train at a high stride rate (greater than 90 steps per leg per minute) because taking more, smaller steps is a more efficient way to run faster on tired, depleted leg muscles. We’ll take a detailed look at how to we structure training in each component in later articles in the series.

Five Systems

From a general perspective, fitness can be divided into five categories: Aerobic fitness, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition. At ironguides, instead of viewing your training as “Zones”, which take into account only your level of aerobic fitness, we refine the above aspects of fitness further to come up with a more triathlon-specific view on training needs.

We call these categories the Five Systems and use them to classify all our training so that we can achieve a more complete training structure that stimulates multiple components of fitness consistently, shifting emphasis to one or the other depending on the time of year, race calendar, individual needs, life circumstance, and so on. Looking at training this way helps you understand how training can be structured to enhance recovery while continuing to train hard everyday.

The Five Systems we use are Strength, Speed, Neuromuscular (or Skill), Tolerance and Endurance. All of these can be combined to various degrees, but by viewing training with these categories in mind and understanding how they relate to one another, you can create a training structure that helps you become “the complete athlete” without ever having to refer to a training zone or power output. With a properly structured plan you can focus your training more specifically and gain aerobic fitness anyway!

You’re so hormonal!

An obscure study from 1995 entitled Blood hormones as markers of training stress and overtraining. (Urhausen A, Gabriel H, Kindermann W. Sports Med. 1995 Oct;20(4):251-76) showed that an athlete’s testosterone/cortisol ratio indicates the physiological strain of his or her training load. To understand why this matters and how you can use this information to create an optimal training structure without falling into the trap of zone training, you need to have a basic understanding of human endocrinology.

Our hormones govern how our body responds to stimuli, including training stimuli. While all training is by and large a “catabolic” process (it breaks your body down through the action of cortisol), if you incorporate short, intense training such as strength work or very fast, very short intervals (which demand high muscle recruitment), you can promote a higher release of testosterone and human growth hormone and support a more “anabolic” training response (a building up of the body). By incorporating Strength and Speed training in your weekly routine at the right times, you can mitigate the effects of more catabolic Endurance and Tolerance sessions, while still using your training time in a sport-specific way.

By categorizing training into Five Systems and understanding how training in those systems affects your endocrine system, you can structure your training to maximize training effort on a daily basis while still permitting day-to-day recovery. While one System rests, another works! In this very basic way, you can design a training program in which you can always train hard.

For example, we like to assign a set of Power Intervals on the bike (such as 10 x 60sec of very high resistance at very low cadence on a spin bike, with equal rest) the day after an athlete has completed an Endurance effort. The anabolic tendency of the interval set mitigates the catabolic nature of the Endurance effort.

Upgrade your skills!

Much of the credit for the incredible performances by single sport athletes can be attributed to the high volume of work they do performing a single or limited range of motions over and over again, which develops extreme efficiencies of movement. As triathletes we don’t have this luxury, so you need to incorporate into your training some form of skill work to really make each session count. Through the use of the right tools or terrain you can do this without impacting the quality of your training and recovery.

For example, instead of heading out the door for 40 minutes in “Zone 1-2”, take a broader view on your run training and incorporate some leg speed training using a treadmill or light downhill gradients. You’ll teach your muscles to fire more rapidly without compromising the workout because you’ll be running faster than on flat ground at the same aerobic intensity. Using the right tools and approach, you can incorporate skills training into almost any session. Swim paddles and pull buoy permit better body position in the water and help develop strength, while a spin bike can help develop your cycling strength.

Keep in mind that if you’re an older athlete, you’ll struggle to acquire new motor skills but that doesn’t mean give up! Instead, you need to train more frequently in the more technical sports (such as swimming) to maintain current skills.

Common sense recovery

Age Group athletes face particular demands that mean life often interferes with our best-laid plans. Instead of taking days off when the schedule says, why not take them when life demands it due to work, family or other commitments or unforeseen events? Training this way ensures consistency and frees up time when it’s most needed – knowing you have trained your best in recent sessions means you’re less likely to worry about missing the odd session due to other obligations.

Cyclical periodization and repetition

The basis of traditional training periodization was founded decades ago when scientific knowledge was far from complete and athletes’ workloads and demands were much lower than today. More recently, progress in sport science has reinforced the contradictions between traditional periodization and the successful experiences of prominent coaches and athletes using a more cyclical approach. The Method stresses repetition and a cyclic approach to training to concurrently develop motor skills, fitness and mental strength.

A cyclic training approach enables you to continually train all aspects of fitness while emphasizing specific components according to your needs, race calendar and other factors. As the race season draws near, you can begin to emphasize more race-specific factors. For example, our Olympic distance and Ironman athletes train in very similar ways for much of the year, but as Ironman approaches our long course athletes pick up the volume. Rather than having fatigued themselves with high mileage and unspecific training all winter long, they arrive at the final race preparation phase with a strong foundation and arsenal of skills.

And, rather than planning training sessions months in advance, we use a more repetitive training plan based on a weekly routine that you repeat. Not only does this remove the guesswork from setting your weekly routine, it also means you use your training sessions as performance benchmarks. By performing the same training session for several weeks, you can also better develop your intuitive feedback skills and learn to “ride out the rough patches” in your training, coming to better understand the effects of recent changes elsewhere, such as in your sleep, diet or stress patterns. Over time you also learn to better gauge and interpret fatigue levels so that you can better predict when you need time off, and when it’s worthwhile continuing a session.

* * *

Combined with a few simple intensity guidelines no more complicated than “easy”, “moderate”, “hard” and “all out”, you can reach new levels of triathlon performance by training more consistently, with less reliance on gadgets to guide your training, while freeing up time and putting the joy back in training.

Train with ironguides!

Personalized Online Coaching:  Starting at USD190/month

Monthly Training plans (for all levels, or focused on one discipline): Only USD39/months

Event based training plans:

Sprint Distance (USD45 for 8-week plan)

Olympic Distance (USD65 for 12 week plan)

Half Ironman (R$95 for 16-week plan)

Ironman (USD145 for 20-week plan)

X-Terra (USD65 for 12-week plan)

Running Plans (10k, 21k and 42k – starting at USD40)

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How and Why to Train Through Races, Instead of Tapering

As we head full on into race season, tapering is the topic on everyone’s mind. Should we taper for every race, how do we recover from the race, and how do we get back to productive training as soon as possible. The process of tapering I have talked about in previous articles. What I want to talk about here is the process of training through smaller, less important races that we use as stepping stones to our BIG races.

We can only really go through a full taper process 2 or 3 times per season without losing fitness—these tapers should ideally be a month or more apart.

For smaller races we do not maintain our full training schedule right up to the race either. Instead we have a mini refresh before the race and train as normal immediately following the race, essentially treating the event as an important training session.


As we head through a training program at ironguides, we have our athletes training with a certain level of fatigue. This fatigue is an insurance policy against going too hard—it allows really good consistent training without the risk of going too hard as the body is too tired to do so!

When we have a small race coming up and we are in full training, the idea is to allow the body to freshen up without dropping all the fatigue and to not allow the body to change its hormonal state to one of deep recovery. With this, you are never going to be fully race sharp but you will be surprised at what you can do on a little fatigue.

I also use this to show athletes how hard they can push their bodies—tired body will not give you that top 5% speed but without that level you can’t blow up so you can really hammer away at your limit without fear of crawling home. This race suffering is a great lesson to take to your main races.

So how do we go about that freshening up?

I like to take the 3 days heading into the race as freshen-up time; any longer and we lose the training pattern and risk the body shutting down and going into deep recovery.

DAY 1: 3 days before the race

This is your day off, but I prefer it to be an active recovery day with just 1 training session, which is best done in a non-weight bearing sport so either swim or bike. The session should be all easy and 40 minutes is the maximum you should do. Listen to your body and just enjoy your training. I personally love to choose a route I know to be around 30 minutes and to not take a watch; BE FREE and feel your body. If you feel like a little more then go for it and if you feel terrible do not push through.


*   easy 40-minute swim or bike

DAY 2 – 2 days before the race

This is an easy aerobic day, training the same hours as normal but the intensity is lower. This maintains fuel burning as normal within the body. This day would normally include a short run and a longer bike. The run would include a short period or set of moderate-pace intervals, while the bike includes a few 10 second ALL OUT sprints to make sure all muscle fibres are activated and kept in motion for the race. During a period of heavy training these 10-second sprints can really refresh the muscles very quickly—at the end of 10 seconds you get a short but intense burn throughout the muscles and this is exactly what is needed to produce a short secretion of growth hormone into the body to accelerate recovery.


*    RUN – 30 minutes with 10 minutes of moderate pace intervals
*    BIKE – 60-90 minutes easy with some 10-second sprints

DAY 3 – 1 day before the race

This is a short training day where we touch on all systems, so a little strength, a little speed and a little tolerance work. It is always good to do a little swim on this day and I prefer the bike also as it’s non-weight bearing and allows for faster recovery than a run session.


*    SWIM – 20 minutes with some short accelerations to above race speed.
*    BIKE – 40 minutes ride with some short all-out intervals and some moderate-paced strength intervals on a climb if possible.


As we are still going to be a little fatigued heading into the race, a good warm-up is essential. This does not need to be fast but, just as in training, sometimes we need 20-30 minutes for the body to wake up, you should also be prepared to not feel great for the first part of the race, just keep positive and keep faith in the fact your body will come around.


This is the important part to maintain consistent training; it is essential you do not stop as soon as you cross the finish line. It’s always tempting, but think that you would never do this after a hard session. Keep mobile, walk around a little or a small bike/ jog as you would after any hard session—remember, you have to think of the race as just a hard training session.

The next day you are right back into your training plan as though you had done a hard session, not a race. This style of training is the reason pro athletes can maintain such good shape all year despite racing almost every weekend; they do not taper for each race and they are straight back into training following the events.

Most ITU athletes will race Sunday, wake up sometimes crazy early on Monday morning to run before traveling home or to the next race. Running at airports etc is all part of the lifestyle to not allow the body to go into rest mode and then on Tuesday it’s back to the hard work. Typically these athletes are back to track intervals on Tuesday, training through the fatigue!

Alun “Woody” Woodward, Certified ironguides Coach – Europe


* * * Your best is our business.™ * * *


ironguides is the leading Lifestyle Facilitation company for athletes of all abilities. We provide coaching and training services, plans and programs, as well training education, health and fitness products to help you learn and live a healthy lifestyle. Come get fit with one of our monthly training subscriptions, event-specific training plans, coaching services, or a triathlon training camp in an exotic location! ironguides also provides Corporate Health services including Corporate Triathlons, Healthy Living retreats and speaking engagements. At ironguides, your best is our business!

Train with ironguides!

Personalized Online Coaching: Starting at USD190/month

Monthly Training plans (for all levels, or focused on one discipline): Only USD39/months

Event based training plans:

Sprint Distance (USD45 for 8-week plan)

Olympic Distance (USD65 for 12 week plan)

Half Ironman (R$95 for 16-week plan)

Ironman (USD145 for 20-week plan)

X-Terra (USD65 for 12-week plan)

Running Plans (10k, 21k and 42k – starting at USD40)


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Rest Days: Learn How to Read Your Body Before Taking One

Time for the next session—but you’re tired and unmotivated to head out of the door. You’re not sure if the fatigue comes from having had a stressful week at work, or if you went a bit too hard at those weekend sessions. You are a dedicated athlete who feels very guilty whenever you miss a session. At the same time, you know that training through fatigue or illness is bad for your health. So what to do?

For this scenario, The Method athletes are given a few simple guidelines to “test drive” their bodies to help decide if they ought to skip a training session on any given day.

The key? WHEN IN DOUBT …  try it out!

This does NOT mean that you train when you’re sick.

But on those days when you’re unsure whether your should train, or not, The Method encourage athletes to simply try out your body to see what it tells you. Start the session with a very, very easy 20 to 30 minutes before making that call.

If you feel better, continue your session as planned. If needed, back off and take it easy later in the set if you find that you’re deteriorating.

If after that initial 20-30mins you feel the same, i.e. neither much better nor much worse, modify the session so that it places less strain on your body. For example, if you’re to do a long endurance effort, cut the duration. See how you feel later in the session before deciding if you’ll carry on. If you’re to do a lactate-tolerance session, greatly moderate both the duration and the intensity of the efforts and give yourself a lot more rest between each effort. You still engage your high-end aerobic system and fast-twitch muscle fibres, helping to maintain your accumulated fitness gains until you feel strong again.

If you feel worse after testing your body for that very easy 20-30mins, pack it in and head home. Your body’s telling you that it’s not prepared to train today; you might be fighting an impending illness or simply need to recover. Heed the warning and take the day OFF.

A stitch in time saves nine—if you’re ill or fighting illness, having a few days of rest from training will prevent a prolonged forced break from training and racing.

Use these simple guidelines to judge the most appropriate response on days when you feel sluggish or off. Often, you’ll have a great training session on a day you might otherwise have written off.

And on days you feel great?! Go for it! Just remember, the goal is not to deliver hammer blows to the body, but to generate a long-term, consistent training stimulus.

Try as we might, there is simply no way to avoid getting sick once in awhile. For these times, The Method stipulates you take time off and recover. Remember: With The Method everything is relative. When you’re sick, the body is weakened and needs to recover from training. The goal is to achieve maximum, effective consistency.

With all that said, The Method doesn’t set in stone when you’re to take rest from training. Unfortunately, this heretical notion of The Method has led to more misinterpretation than any other of its principles.

Life has a funny way of throwing curve balls at us: work, family and community commitments often cause us to miss out on training. Rather than worrying about missed training when this happens, take comfort from the fact that you’ve been training consistently and diligently until then.  Your days off due to commitments elsewhere become your rest days from training, and are automatically suited to your life schedule since they come when you truly need the time elsewhere, rather than when a schedule hammers them out.

You can also look at it this way: No schedule can accurately predict what you’ll be doing each day for months down the road. Quite simply, what The Method tells an athlete is rest when you need it.
Many amateur athletes spend the better part of their day physically recovering from their training at a desk or otherwise in their daily work. The Method accepts that most amateur athletes do not have the luxury of a daily routine dedicated to sport alone.

For this reason, The Method distinguishes between mental rest and physical rest. For example, a stressful work-travel day on which you can’t train may cause you much mental fatigue while your physical training systems have been resting. Consequently, that stressful day counts as a rest day, even though you might be tired from it.

Keep in mind that everything is relative in The Method training. The hormonal context in which The Method places you determines how you ought to train subsequently. If the stressful travel day
comes on top of a lot of other stress in your life, it can create a significant catabolic experience for your body. In this situation, The Method’s approach advises you to avoid endurance work or excessive lactate-tolerance training immediately following or during this (or other) high-stress period.

After taking a day off, be smart when getting back into the training. If circumstances required you to rest, use these simple rules to get back on the plan:

* Add some volume to the start of the workout in order to kick start your body again before trying any intensity. You don’t want to go too hard while being too rested. Rather, add volume to tire yourself a little bit without pushing the intensity. Then do your intervals. For example, add 30 minutes of easy running before the main set.

* If you are a performance-oriented athlete, then take an easy day in each of the sports after your day off. The reason is that you probably needed the day off due to deep fatigue levels, and the extra bit of easy training will help you recover back to normal fatigue levels. Then you’re most likely good to go again!

Learn how to read your body and stay consistent to your plan!

Enjoy your training,
the ironguides team


ironguides is the leading Lifestyle Facilitation company for athletes of all abilities. We provide coaching and training services, plans and programs, as well training education, health and fitness products to help you learn and live a healthy lifestyle. Come get fit with one of our monthly training subscriptions, event-specific training plans, coaching services, or a triathlon training camp in an exotic location! ironguides also provides Corporate Health services including Corporate Triathlons, Healthy Living retreats and speaking engagements. At ironguides, your best is our business!

Train with ironguides!

Personalized Online Coaching: Starting at USD190/month

Monthly Training plans (for all levels, or focused on one discipline): Only USD39/months

Event based training plans:

Sprint Distance (USD45 for 8-week plan)

Olympic Distance (USD65 for 12 week plan)

Half Ironman (R$95 for 16-week plan)

Ironman (USD145 for 20-week plan)

X-Terra (USD65 for 12-week plan)

Running Plans (10k, 21k and 42k – starting at USD40)


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Mental Strength: Thinking about racing while training

Visualisation: Thinking about racing while training

As your fitness improves and your big day draws nearer, race specific workouts are the perfect opportunity to “go there” in your head and visualise how best to handle yourself on the day. After all the hours spent beating your body into peak condition, it’s only wise to spend some time preparing your mind for the unique effort required to perform at your best on race day.

“Visualisation” sounds like a big word (and it may conjure up images of tranced-out pro athletes floating cross-legged in a zero gravity relaxation tanks, chanting mantras to themselves) but in actual fact, if you’ve ever wondered, “What are the winds like going to be in New Zealand?” or “How hot is it going to be in Philippines?”, then you’ve actually just dipped your toes into your very own weightless relaxation tank.

Instead of pulling your foot out quickly at the 1st thoughts of the pain and discomfort of race day, the next time you have such questions, I encourage you to hang around and let your imagination get the better of you for awhile. After all, once you’re locked into an all out 10 min big gear time trail in the last hour of your long training ride, what else are you going to do? (Come on, seriously, who actually enjoys the “scenery” for more than a few pedal strokes over 90km)

Studies have shown that envisioning a tough, painful race experience, compared to a lovely “perfect day” scenario actually goes along way more towards preparing you to push that All Out effort required from you at your A race. Going there in your head, prepares you to go there in your body.

In the last month of training leading up to Cobra 70.3, Philippines, I found myself spending an increasing amount of time, mentally matching different training intensities from different sessions, to various snapshot moments in the race. Time and again, I would catch myself thinking, “This is how I want to feel with 500m left in the swim/at 67km into the bike/ 3km into the run/”. I firmly believe that these intuitive moments were a crucial step in the mind-body process of building the best possible race day pacing strategy.


Here are some more weird and wonderful thoughts that came to me while sweating it out.


While pounding out the “all out” laps on the swim strength sets, I’d throw my arms out hard in front of me to ward off the invisible age groupers fighting for my piece of open water real estate. My furiously churning arms were “enter at your own risk” windmill blades that dared anyone to cut into my line. In fact, my paddles became lethal decapitating blades for those extra persistent irritants that simply refused to swim straight.
Sprinting 110% on the ALL OUT reps was the only way to break free of the washing machine mess at the swim start. And the easy laps after the hard ones were welcome relief after successfully sprinting up to the toes of a faster draft 10 meters ahead.

All this, swimming alone in a 30m pool one a quiet Sunday.


Turning right onto “The Hockey Stick”, a 1 hr out and back stretch, for the last hour of a race specific endurance ride, I was surrounded by rice paddy fields on Cam Sur’s village roads. School children, clutching colourful flags, had come out in droves to see what all the commotion was about. I kept my head down and focused on turning smooth powerful circles as I wacked the chain into the smallest cog. “This is when it counts,” I told myself, “…last 30ks of the bike, this is when NOT to fade.”

Even though it was a warm Singapore morning, I knew it would be hotter in the Philippines. How would I cope with a 5 degree increase in temperature? How would I change up my usual nutrition and hydration plan? In another A race, at the start of the season, I had not taken on enough fluids and suffered devastating cramps on the bike. As a result, I was unable to recover for the rest of the race and suffered badly. “Not going to happen this time…” I reminded myself, as I slowed down to a cruise, picked up an imaginary bottle of water from an imaginary aid station, took an imaginary gulp and emptied the rest down my neck and back. This little mental exercise left me feeling much more confident and well prepared.


Race experience has taught me that it’s difficult to run with my legs still wobbly from the bike so I stride easy with small steps at a decent stride rate while munching on a salt tablet, patiently waiting for my legs to catch up. It’s a good idea to know how your body responds to what you’re planning to put in on race day- in this case, upwards of 4 Nunn rehydration tablets washed down with a bit of water.

“Building into” your long runs in training, progressively increasing the intensity/ perception of effort through the run, teaches you to start easy and finish strong. It is especially useful to cast your mind forward to race day and add the mental filters of suffering, discomfort and heat because this prepares you dig deep, stay calm and in control when the going gets tough on the big day. I believe that I’m generally able to tolerate the heat quite well, because in training, my mind is often running in far hotter places.


Practice fine tuning your mental grip during training teaches you how to manage the red line better while racing. Only by “going there” in training are you able to get familiar with the coping mechanisms that you can employ on race day. Shutting out the pain works only for awhile, soon you realise that the discomfort is very real. At this point, prepare a rock solid answer for when you ask yourself,” Why am I doing this?” What is it about this sport that gives it meaning?

Resign yourself to the fact that, for whatever reason you’re in it, you’ve come this far on your own terms and through your own ambitions and motivations. At this point, realise that embracing “good pain” will only make you stronger and allow your body to follow your brain into new psycho- physical limits over and over again in training. In doing so, you continuously and invariably redefine your pre-existing, self-imposed limits to performance.

So take the ceiling off your perceived best efforts and layer on the race day filters in your preparation to squeeze out every last drop on your big day.


Enjoy your training.

Shem Leong

Shem Leong


Train with ironguides!

Download our free e-Book “Triathlon Secrets” – Training methods of olympic medalist, ironman and world champions revealed

Personalized Online Coaching:  Starting at USD190/month

Monthly Training plans (for all levels, or focused on one discipline): Only USD39/months

Event based training plans:

Sprint Distance (USD45 for 8-week plan)

Olympic Distance (USD65 for 12 week plan)

Half Ironman (R$95 for 16-week plan)

Ironman (USD145 for 20-week plan)

X-Terra (USD65 for 12-week plan)

Running Plans (10k, 21k and 42k – starting at USD40)

image-2132.jpgShem Leong is our ironguides coach in Singapore. He has been hooked on triathlon ever since winning his age group in his first Olympic-distance race. Many top performances later, Shem still enjoys the challenges of training and racing at a high level, while balancing this with work and family. He is a firm believer in the benefits of an active lifestyle and loves being able to positively affect his athletes’ lives in this way. In the four years that Shem has worked as an ironguides coach so far, he has helped more than 60 athletes achieve their goals. They range from newbies hoping to complete their first sprint race, to 70.3 podium contenders, to seasoned Sub 10-hour Ironman athletes. Shem’s care for his athletes and his attention to detail set him apart. He completely understands the varied pull factors of life’s demands as well as the fiery motivations that drive everyday age groupers and is able to craft sustainable, effective training plans for their time-crunched schedules. An Honour’s Degree in Health Science has given Shem the knowledge to explain and expertly administer The Method. This, in turn, helps his athletes understand how each session contributes towards their ultimate goal; as a result, countless personal bests have been improved upon as his athletes continually get fitter and faster.

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Shift your Training Perspective

“There’s many ways to skin a cat” the saying goes…but in triathlon, there has been a strong shift to towards the false assumption that every workout needs to be all about the aerobic training benefit you receive, when in fact many other systems come into play to complete the perfect training plan.


All too often we see people training as if every workout was their only opportunity to develop a greater aerobic engine. The constant barrage of information in magazines, forums and websites is by and large focused on improving one’s aerobic fitness level. While this aspect of training is the most important, if you want to improve as an athlete you need to adopt a new perspective on your workouts because there’s more to it than just building up your aerobic capacity.

Age Group athletes especially need to ensure that each training session carries the maximum “bang for the buck” because training time is limited compared to professionals. Throw in family obligations and a full-time job and you may only have 6 – 10 hours a week to train. So how to improve your triathlon fitness on fewer hours of training?

Well, let’s start by making it clear that performing at your top end, to your fullest genetic potential is like creating an experiment in a vacuum tube. Almost no one, not even top professionals, performs to their fullest genetic potential. Far too many other factors come into play to offset performance, not the least of which are life circumstance and mental and emotional disposition to the goal.

As an Age Group athlete you should not seek a training plan or program that promises to deliver you race-winning performances on modest training volume. This does not exist. What you should seek is a training plan that provides better performances on the same volume of training as other plans. This is where making a shift in perspective on your training can be very useful.

Take two 40-minute run workouts on two separate training plans. One plan reads “40 minutes, Zone 2.” Out you go, run run run. End of story. What has the session delivered? 40 minutes of aerobic training and not much else. Workout 2 reads: “Treadmill 40min. Flat. Increase the effort to a pace that is just barely sustainable for the final 20min of the workout before cooling down.” Workout 2 generates aerobic conditioning, that’s a guarantee. But let’s take a closer look at what else this session delivers.

Without giving away details, you’re running on a flat treadmill for a reason. Running at the same aerobic intensity on land, you can’t run nearly as fast. On a flat treadmill you are able to run faster at a given aerobic effort, meaning your muscles trigger nerve signals at a faster rate. Translation: You are training your body biomechanically to run faster while getting the aerobic workout too. In short, both Workout 1 and Workout 2 train provide aerobic benefits, but through use of a treadmill Workout 2 teaches your body to run fast without additional aerobic strain on your system.

Similarly, you can create training sessions for swimming and cycling that will train you aerobically while also working other systems. When you structure your training, try to understand what other training effects your training sessions provide. Are there multiple dimensions of fitness being trained by your sessions? Or are they simply focused on aerobic training load?

The net benefit is that if you shift your focus from the aerobic benefits of training to an overall view on the benefits of each training session and how these complement each other during your weekly routine, you can structure a training plan to provide multiple training effects. That means you can accomplish more in your training time than simply following a zone-type program. Incorporating the right combination of workouts and recovery means more bang for your training buck. And that means you go faster on race day — with no additional training required

Train with ironguides!

Personalized Online Coaching:  Starting at USD190/month

Monthly Training plans (for all levels, or focused on one discipline): Only USD39/months

Event based training plans:

Sprint Distance (USD45 for 8-week plan)

Olympic Distance (USD65 for 12 week plan)

Half Ironman (R$95 for 16-week plan)

Ironman (USD145 for 20-week plan)

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Tips to Kickstart your next Triathlon Season

The final races of the year, is approaching and with that, the 2020 season.

Don’t over-react and suddenly do a 120-15k brick on your first day out of the new season. What you will need to do is to sit down, relax, and reflect on what have you done on your off-season.

If you have been very diligent on your plan to having a great year, we sincerely hope you have followed the tips on having a very good off-season.

W certainly hoped that you had done your homework and accomplished this:
• Addressed your weakest discipline from last year.
• Improved technique
• Gained strength and power on the gym/did functional strength training
• Recovered mentally and physically from last year’s race season

It is ok to step in to the new year with some added weight, and don’t beat yourself up mentally with it. With this kickstart plan, and a sensible nutrition adjustment, you will be on your way to losing it gradually as you go along.

Triathlon events are more popular than ever, and so are the long-distance events like Ironman. To enjoy the season, one must plan accordingly to avoid burn-out, injuries and reach your “A” race in the best possible shape.

Here are the tips to kickstart your season and bring your triathlon performance to the next level:
1. Train to start Training
You bungled your off-season and overdid the Holidays. You are 10-15lbs overweight and felt slow and lethargic. You go out on your first week of your “comeback” by doing a long ride and a long run on the weekend. Stop right there. Your body is not capable of doing the punishing stuff yet. You got to train your body first, before you go into some heavy training loads.

That means continuing the form/technique work and the sessions in the gym. From a non-structured off-season, you got to train yourself mentally too to having a structured plan now, early in the season. This will prevent you from digging up your own hole if you let the off-season attitude creep along.

2. Plan/Set your Goals and Register your Races
Sit down and it is time to look at the Race Calendar and plan your season. Pinpointing your “A” races and the training races you will build around it will be all the motivation you need to gradually start training properly. Instead of saying “I want to do a marathon this year..”, go use that credit card and actually register for an event.

Also, it will be more motivational and challenging if you put some performance goals in all your planned races. You can strive for these goals in your B and C races as way to prepare you for that Big A race.

3. Think short and fast on your first month.
Instead of doing an early season marathon, where you will be instantly forced to churn up long miles in your training, why not sign up for a 5k or 10k run event. If you had a good off-season, it’s a good time to test the enhanced technique you have done in all those drills. It is not impossible to have an early season PR if you aced your off-season.

If not, the short 5-10k run event will be a good test to know your current threshold. And this will be the basis for your current fitness level.

Missed doing triathlons? A sprint triathlon or an Olympic distance event for more experienced athletes is a good way to end your first month in training. Don’t expect to have a good performance, but instead take this opportunity to assess your early season fitness. This will be a good gauge on how well you did in the off-season practicing the techniques, and if you addressed your weakest discipline.

4. Buy Something New
Investing in new gear means you are pretty excited to use it and even brag about it to your triathlon circle of friends. If it’s a new bike, it means you gotta go to your LBS and require a good bike fit too. If it’s a new gps watch, it means you have the early January and February to familiarize yourself with the new features and settings.

The point is, buying new gear means you have that added excitement and motivation to get you out of a rut and out to train. It might also be practical as you might get some inventory sale before the new year models comes out.

5. Commit to a Training Plan
You do not go battle your training months ahead your “A” race if you do not have a training plan. It is just indispensable. Securing a training plan means you have to work for a particular goal, instead of guessing what workout you will do the next day. That just does not work at all in the long run. It also gives you measurable goals and you learn how to track performance.

Also, as age group triathletes try to balance work and family, and a training schedule gets disrupted, you have a ready advice in the form of that plan to get you up and running again.

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The Switch from long course to short coruse

I often encounter athletes who are stepping up the triathlon ladder, athletes that are new to the sport, and are seeking new challenges, so the 70.3 and Ironman distances is a natural path for them.

However, I also come across athletes who are doing it the other way around. They have trained and raced Ironmans for a few years, and be it for lack of time or any other reason, they feel like training and racing short course races is an appropriate choice at that moment.

But how can one make the most out of this experience, fitness and background in long course races? How to race faster if most of the training you have done in the past, were the long workouts, especially on the weekends?

There are some key aspects that those athletes should know if you want to step down to sprint triathlons and Olympic Distance tris:

Race tactics:

At an ironman race, the average age group athlete is racing the course, not other athletes since at an IM, if you are stronger on the bike you can put on 30min on someone, but also lose that much on the run.

Short course is different. Everyone is so close together for the whole race, that you are racing each other and not only the course. This is why race tatics plays much a bigger role and you should consider and use it to your favor.

There will be some parts of the race that can have a huge impact on the final placing, such as swim start, transitions, and mental games. Some of those aspects can be trained, some others not.

Swim start is one of the parts that you can train for and a good example on tatics. If you are racing against hundreds of athletes in your same wave, at an OD race, when the first swim buoy is only 500m from the start, then everyone is suppose to turn left, you want to get to that buoy as close to the front pack as possible, since there isn’t enough space for everyone, if you are left behind, the turn around the buoy will be very slow, you will find yourself behind people swimming breastroke, and after that it will be very hard to catch up to the front group.

So the swim training is something that can be really different from the IM training, you need to be a faster 400m swimmer, than just hang on that pack, while for a long course race, there is no need for speed at all in the water, all you want to do is to swim the course as efficient as possible, that is, at a decent speed, but saving as much energy as possible for the rest of the race.


Technique Skills:

Long Course races is mostly about fitness, pacing and nutrition. You can still be a decent Ironman athlete even if you can’t corner or downhill properly on the bike, the fitness will make up for that, especially at the average age group level. Short course is a different story, since a mere 5 minutes in your total time, can cost you a podium place in your age group.

Race specific training:

Due to time limitations, ironman athletes spend most of their weekends doing the long workouts, 4 to 6 hours on the bike and 2h plus on the run can be the norm on an ironman plan.

With short course training is no different, you want to improve your racing skills and fitness when you have time and other athletes to train with. I usually prescribe a little and hard bike/run brick every weekend for my athletes, and get them to race as often as possible, any sort of race will do it. Road running, aquathlons, duathlons and even “training races” such as group rides or group open water swims. Each race is a learning opportunity.

Have fun at the short course races!
Vinnie Santana – ironguides Head Coach

ironguides is the leading Lifestyle Facilitation company for athletes of all abilities. We provide coaching and training services, plans and programs, as well training education, health and fitness products to help you learn and live a healthy lifestyle. Come get fit with one of our monthly training subscriptions, event-specific training plans, coaching services, or a triathlon training camp in an exotic location! ironguides also provides Corporate Health services including Corporate Triathlons, Healthy Living retreats and speaking engagements. Atironguides, your best is our business!

More info at


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Personalized Online Coaching:  Starting at USD190/month

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Event based training plans:

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Half Ironman (R$95 for 16-week plan)

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Video: Trick to kill pre-race anxiety and increase your triathlon performance

If you struggle with pre-race anxiety, you feel that it is getting on the way for that breakthrough performance or simply is taking some of the fun away from racing, our coach Vinnie Santana explains in the video below a very easy trick that will shift your approach to a triathlon event and result in a faster performance and a lot more fun experience on race day.

Train with ironguides!

Personalized Online Coaching:  Starting at USD190/month

Monthly Training plans (for all levels, or focused on one discipline): Only USD39/months

Event based training plans:

Sprint Distance (USD45 for 8-week plan)

Olympic Distance (USD65 for 12 week plan)

Half Ironman (R$95 for 16-week plan)

Ironman (USD145 for 20-week plan)

X-Terra (USD65 for 12-week plan)

Running Plans (10k, 21k and 42k – starting at USD40)


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Training for an Ironman? This race simulation workout is crucial on your preparation

If you are training for an ironman, it’s very likely you are following a training plan that calls for a weekly long swim, long bike and long run, these are on separate days and the idea behind breaking the work down, you can train fresher, with better technique, faster, and recovery quicker from each of these, the day after a long bike or long run for example, you can easily do a high intensity swim workout and keep on adding fitness with no long recovery needed within your week.

However, beginner athletes, with zero to little experience in the ironman distance may benefit from a race simulation during their prep. The benefits are:

Confidence: The suggested distance is as long as your body can handle without requiring a long period of recovery. Anything longer than that and you may as well do the whole ironman distance in training. You can’t really simulate the back end of the ironman marathon while training, you are better by stopping just before that, recovering fast, then getting back to consistent training.

Specific Endurance Training: While you can acquire endurance by training each discipline separately and that has its benefits too, a long training day is as specific as it gets for your endurance, once you bounce back from the stress of this race simulation, you will find your fitness at a new level

Pacing strategy: You will be able to simulate, at least under a less stressful environment (no pre-race adrenalin), how well you can pace at this strange. You will see guidelines and goals for each segment of the simulation. On race day, pacing, along with nutrition, are the two biggest components that will impact your race, since there isn’t anything you can do about your fitness on that day. Failing to get the pacing right in training is a guaranteed recipe for disaster on race day.

Equipment testing: How many times have you done a long swim in your wetsuit? If you live in a warmer weather place, chances are you didn’t even have a wetsuit before signing up for your ironman overseas and the chafing some of these suits give is something you want to be aware of and be ready for on race day (with a lot of Vaseline). Make sure you also test all the equipment you plan to use on race day, wheels, helmet, shoes, anything that you keep on a race bag and only use when racing, should be tested on your race simulation day

Nutrition: The goal here is to test for any issues related to either your stomach not tolerating well your nutrition, or you just get sick of the gels and flavoring you first thought you would handle over the race. Keep in mind that race day will see additional stress on your stomach so your nutrition strategy has to be perfect in training, if you have small issues, these are likely to be much bigger come race day

Other weaknesses: Putting the body through enough stress can also show you a few weak links that a normal training day won’t. It can be a comfort issue on the bike for example, tight neck or back that without the swimming prior you don’t feel but in this simulation it will allow you to tweak details such as bike fit, core strength, flexibility, that would have slowed you down on race day.

Scheduling it within your training plan

Pick a weekend, 6 to 8 weeks out, that works for you. This will allow you plenty of time to fully recover then start the final and most specific training plan, including the lessons you learned on your race simulation and adjust your training to address any weakness shown at the simulation day.

Best day to do this is on a Saturday, as if the weather doesn’t cooperate you can push one day and this will also allow you to enjoy Sunday as a sleep in and rest day.


To be able to get this training done and recover from it relatively quick (within 1 week) you must have completed within 6 weeks of the session:

*4 long rides of at least 4 hours each
*4 long runs of at least 2 hours each
*4 swims of at least 1 hour each

If you can’t meet the above requirements, this race simulation will do more harm than good, you will be better off by just doing a normal weekend of long sessions and also work on your training consistency

Another requirement is to have done an official half distance race within the previous 12 months of race day. If you haven’t, book an event instead (these can be 4-10 weeks out), the pre-race adrenalin, traveling, dealing with the real world experience can’t be simulate on training. Race simulation works well for experienced racers who are stepping up to the full distance, but you need that half distance race in your legs before your full distance.

The set up

Ideally, do this at a place you have access to a convenience store (your aid station for the day) or take a cooler with your fuel and leave inside your car. A course that you can do several laps is also required to track your pacing.

As swimming pool access can be far away from cycling venues, it is ok to drive after the swim to a more appropriate place to drive, just try to keep the transitions relatively short

SWIM: Duration = 1 hour

Pre-establish a swim distance before the session that will take you around 1 hour to cover, then break the swim in at least 2 equal parts with a short break in between, your goal is to swim the second half faster than the first

If wetsuit is allowed on race day, use it today, unless is an exceptionally hot day pool (over 27C) – additionally, if you are swimming in a wetsuit and you live in a hot weather country, break the distance down in even shorter repeats, take at least 2 bottles with you (1 of iced water to pour on our head, the other of sports drinks to sip through the workout)

TRANSITION 1: Duration =up to 30min

Here is the exception to the rule of “use everything planned on race day on your simulation day” – at transition 1, you want to have a small snack that includes both carbohydrate and protein (fat is optional) – this will help to reduce your recovery window. Logistically, a short drive from the pool to a bike and run venue is fine.

BIKE: Duration = 5 hours

Similar to the swim, you can pre-establish a distance on the course you will be doing and target to increase the pace in 3 different segments, for example up to 1h40, then you need to increase the pace a little until the 3h20 mark and the final 1h40 should be the fastest of them all. Stop every 100min or so to refill your water bottles

If possible, do the bike on a course that simulates race day, hills, technical descends, flats, find something that will get you mentally and physically ready for the big day.

TRANSITION 2: Duration =up to 20min

Transition two should be a lot quicker than the first one as it won’t require changing venues and you should also run on the same gear you plan to on race day, for many athletes that is a trisuit or two piece. Just put your bike in your car (or store somewhere) and head out for the run.

You also want to have a snack here, something easy to digest with plenty of water. Remember, your goal is to finish today’s session with your tank “half full”, this will make recovery a lot faster, slow down if you have to, to be able to process all the calories and liquids you are taking in today

RUN: Duration= 1 hour
While the swim and bike are quite close to race distance, a one hour run may be only a fourth or a fifth of the time you will be running on race day, why is that? Running requires a much longer recovery time compared to swimming and cycling due to the impact of running – that is the same reason why you should never do a marathon on your preparation. The goal here is to run enough to learn pacing, practice your nutrition, test your equipment, but stop before you dig too deep.

Do this preferably on a lap that won’t take you longer than around 30min to complete, this will allow you to track your splits, as the aim is to do the second lap faster than the first, and also provide you access to your nutrition and cooler half way into the run.

Take one quick break at the 30min mark to refuel, then bring it home the final 30min faster than the first. By the end of it you want to be feeling strong and feeling that you could have kept on going, if you don’t feel that way, this is a red flag that your pacing goals wasn’t appropriate for your current fitness level.


Have a snack, straight after the workout, then go home and another meal within 2 hours of finishing the session. Researches have shown better replenishing rates within 30 and 2 hours of exercising, this will allow you to get back to training faster and will also help your immune system to bounce back, avoiding any potential sickness in the week following the race simulation

Here is a suggested recovery guideline for the simulation on Saturday:

SUNDAY: 30-40min swimming, as 20-30min of easy 50m repeats with paddles/buoy + 10min easy kicking (25 or 50m) with board. Doing something today as an active recovery is far superior to a total day off, easy swim or easy spin on the trainer will get your blood pumping a little faster, help the muscles to heal and clean any lactic acid remaining in the muscles

MONDAY: Easy 30-40min spin on the bike trainer or gym bike

TUESDAY: DAY OFF – with 2 active rests days behind you, a total day off will boost your recovery even further

WEDNESDAY: 40min easy run

THURSDAY to SUNDAY: Get back on your training plan on both a reduced intensity by one notch and volume (cut it short by 25-33%)

Following week, back into the full plan


Once you are back in training, resist the temptation to do another race simulation day, remember that doing shorter and more frequent long workouts gets you fitter than big, race simulation days. Just adjust your training based on your performance on the race simulation day and stick to it until the final two weeks when you should star tapering

In this final block you should also avoid any type of racing as this will break training consistency once again. Keep on adding fitness without pushing it too hard

Enjoy your training,

Coach Vinnie Santana


Train with ironguides!

Personalized Online Coaching:  Starting at USD190/month

Monthly Training plans (for all levels, or focused on one discipline): Only USD39/months

Event based training plans:

Sprint Distance (USD45 for 8-week plan)

Olympic Distance (USD65 for 12 week plan)

Half Ironman (R$95 for 16-week plan)

Ironman (USD145 for 20-week plan)

X-Terra (USD65 for 12-week plan)

Running Plans (10k, 21k and 42k – starting at USD40)


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The Benefits of Training Efficiently

Most age group triathletes, can only afford to train within two training windows during the day. The typical routine of an amateur triathlete is a balance in between family, work and training, and the sessions are done mostly before or after office hours or quick workout on lunch break.

With this basic structure in mind, the age group triathlete don’t have many choices when it comes to training hours, this results in a basic week that consists of doing the same disciplines at the same hours of the week for several weeks in a row, just changing the main set of each session

While we’ve been bombarded with the ‘Carpe Diem’ way of living, that a routine is evil, and there is no replay in life, when it comes to triathlon training and we consider the physiology and psychology behind it, having a more loose and unstructured routine won’t make you a faster athlete, especially if you have several other commitments in your professional and social life.

The combination of a busy lifestyle and the aiming to improve at triathlon creates several benefits to following a base week, such as:

Better Anticipate training

For age group athletes especially, improvement comes from focusing on each workout and applying a few basic interpretations of how you are feeling to potentially modify the training. Since The Method focuses on optimizing training and recovery efficiency, athletes can follow their routines and focus on just giving their best in the moment – knowing improvement follows from this commitment.

Having a structured plan already removes doubt and anxiety from your preparations by giving you a road map to your goals. Knowing that your program is built upon highly successful principles builds confidence and allows you to approach your training with greater motivation and clarity of purpose.

Another great benefit of being able to anticipate your training is to understand the swings in energy levels during the week, the time available and motivation for other activities. Once you have your memorized your training (that should happen very often!), it becomes easier to schedule work or family activities and you can also time it with the time of the week that you find the most appropriate. For example if you know that certain day of the week makes you feel more energetic than others, that is a good day to schedule that meeting or presentation when you need to come out with your best professional side. Or if you know in advance that a few times a week you have a night off training, those are good days to schedule those late meetings that are often delayed to post office hours.


Especially for age group athletes, a well-conceived training program is structured so that your periodization as the training year progresses does not interfere with carefully constructed routines and habits. For example, knowing that you will always run on a Wednesday evening, you can prepare yourself for your sessions well in advance. Only the type of run training will change over time as you transition into a different training phase – but you always have certainty about which sport you will be training that day. You don’t waste time or energy readjusting to new, haphazard sessions and reconfiguring weekly schedules.


Coupled with the other principles, The Method’s repetitive approach helps athletes quickly and accurately gauge improvements from one week to the next. With The Method, athletes avoid engaging in inappropriately long race-level exertions or continual lactate threshold or VO2max testing. Instead, they track improvement week after week using their training splits.

By looking forward to beating a previous best time in your next session, you focus concentration, increase motivation and bring your energies to bear on performing a training session to your best that day. What felt “hard” one month ago at a certain pace still feels “hard” – but at a faster pace, or for a longer sustained effort. This in turn builds confidence and turns the athlete’s attention to improvement with each and every session.

As well, repetition enables true comparisons of efforts and effects of environmental changes. Knowing that the training prior to a comparison session are very similar from one week to the next, an athlete can better judge the impact of technique work, different nutrition or a new piece of equipment. For example, in one striking case an athlete coach dropped their 200m swim times from 4:05 to 3:28 in four weeks after incorporating a new piece of equipment into their training.



Repetition also helps you learn to better gauge fatigue levels and how to respond to different types of fatigue in training. This in turn helps you better decide how to adapt your training, which in turn helps avoid inappropriate levels of exertion and increase training consistency. For example, over time you might come to differentiate the types of fatigue that stress, lack of sleep or poor nutrition might provoke and learn that the body might be capable of performing equally well on those days. This creates great confidence heading into a race because you know that you can push even if you feel less than ideal.

Perceiving the patterns and workings of the body is an iterative process. The more often you repeat a cycle, the more you will come to learn and understand the vague patterns at work and to better interpret the signals you receive. This frees you to better focus on each workout and to schedule your rest more appropriately, when needed.


Using a few simple guidelines, Method athletes learn to modify a training session based on the signals their body is giving them at the start of a session. This way rather than abandoning the training session, the athlete makes a slight compromise and alters the work to be done. Rather than missing a session entirely, the modified session reduces strain on the body, permitting recovery and maintaining consistency.

Only a repetitive training process enables you to gauge the effectiveness of such a response. Knowing that you compromised a training session a certain way based on specific feedback from your body, and witnessing the effects of this several times across sports and sessions, you gain more confidence not only in your ability to accurately read your body but also in your ability to respond to its signals. In a nutshell, you increase training consistency without putting recovery needs on the line.


Acquiring motor skills takes many repetitions of a specific motion to become “natural”: Just like the Karate Kid needed to repeat many times the “wax on, wax off” motion to lay the groundwork for acquiring more specific karate skills, as a triathlete you need to repeat many times specific swim, cycle and run motions if you want to ingrain these motor patterns and teach yourself more efficient form. When your body automatically performs a certain motion rather than as a result of conscious effort, you will have become a triathlon black belt!

By repeating certain specific, pertinent training sessions, The Method enables you to better acquire new motor skills and improve existing, well-formed ones. Ever notice what happens to your swim technique if you don’t visit the pool regularly? Among other reasons, that quick loss of motor skills is precisely why The Method places a stronger emphasis on swimming than other training approaches. Particularly aging athletes need to train and especially swim consistently to maintain their hard-fought motor skills.


By having you repeat certain specific training sets over many weeks, The Method trains you to better focus on what you are doing. Less distractions means you can concentrate on your training, automatically teach yourself mental skills that will help on race day. Rather than encouraging athletes to plod or shuffle through unfocused sessions, The Method encourages every athlete to focus their effort on form development at an appropriately adapted level of effort – aerobic conditioning happens anyway.


Because The Method’s repetitive program removes uncertainty and random variables from your training, as an athlete you are better able to hone in on how you are performing a given training set compared to previous weeks. It sounded crazy at first, but to repeat the identical training set for a period of weeks meant that over time you come to better interpret the many signals your body sends out to tell you how it’s feeling.

Rather than wondering if you’re feeling tired because the coach has changed the training session, you can remove that variable from your list of considerations. In this way you come to recognize the little “tricks” the body plays that can keep you from training as consistently as you would like. For example, what feels like fatigue can simply be lactate accumulation that we need to flush out of our system with some easy training before tackling the meat of the scheduled workout. A The Method athlete learns to interpret these signals over time and adapt his training to them.

For example, once you’ve become accustomed to a certain treadmill running set and come to anticipate how it “should” feel on a good day, you can better respond to your performance on the days you feel “off.” Rather than worrying about what might be wrong, you learn over time that the body simply has “good days and bad days” and that sometimes you need to train through some of these less positive times.

Over time, athletes who train with The Method develop a keen ability to literally feel how they are doing on any given day. Remember – controlling the variables takes the guesswork out of training. Rather than relying on empirical data that conveys only one aspect of an athlete’s training performance, The Method encourages athletes to develop a broad feel for the workings of their own body. Like life, training by The Method is a qualitative experience!

That’s not to say that Method athletes do not use heart rate monitors or power meters to judge feedback. Rather, they place the information these tools provide them in context of a larger, more intuitive awareness of their training. Since most athletes don’t approach the state of fitness where these nuances come into play, The Method tends to come across as a simplified version of perceived exertion: Easy, moderate and very hard pretty much describes assigned effort levels.

How do I go about setting up my own basic week?

Now that you understand the benefits of a basic week that is efficient and fits in well with your professional and personal life, how do you go about creating the details of your week? Sit down with your coach and discuss the below:

Step 1: Set your maximum sustainable budget when it comes to daily and weekly training hours.

What are the hours on your week that are absolutely a no go for training?  Other than the basic office hours, are time times in your week that you need to set aside for work or family commitments?

Once these are ‘blocked’ from your training week, your coach will have all the other ‘available’ training opportunities and he will make the most out of them. This doesn’t necessarily means that you should be training all the time other than when you work or socialize, but it is important to provide a clear schedule on when is possible to train and when it isn’t.

Step 2: Structuring your training plan with the right order and structure

Once you have the ‘map’ of your base training week ready, it is time to add in the workouts to it. Your coach will build them in a way every training session should be complementing the training you have done the day before and what you will do the day after. Our typical example is making Monday or Tuesday training a strength or speed session that will mitigate the catabolic effect of a long training weekend.

Step 3–Getting you started in a routine and forming a habit

On the first two or three weeks of your training plan, make sure you pull back slightly on the intensity of your workouts, since this will help you to stay consistent to your training and being able to ‘learn’ what the week and each training session will feel like without the excessive fatigue that may hit you hard and disrupt your training.

By doing that you will also benefit of the 21 days habit forming theory. Science says that it takes 21 days to build a habit. In this case your goal is to make it to the training plan frequency, then volume, then intensity, 21 days you will be in total control of your training and it will feel something a lot more natural to do

Step 4- On being flexible

TRAINING ON TIRED DAYS: On days you are unsure of how you feel (ie. you wake up or head out the door to trainfeeling unduly tired) – head out anyway and just go through the motions of training VERYEASY for twenty minutes or so! Then make the decision to train or not using the following guidelines:

*If you feel better, try to do the scheduled session.

*If you feel the same (still tired, but not worse), do an easy session and adjust as

indicated below.

*If you feel worse, pack in the session and head home.

ADJUSTING A WORKOUT: If you are feeling tired and have gone out the door to “test drive” your body and you don’t feel better, but you don’t feel worse – aim to lightly stimulate the System you are meant to train that day.

If for example the session calls for multiple repetitions of a longer duration at a high intensity,instead of stressing your aerobic system keep the intensity somewhat lower, and very short. Youcould opt to run multiple 20-second repeats instead of a session of 3-minute repeats, for example.

This stimulates the fast twitch fibers and keeps that System engaged for the week, without undulystressing your aerobic system that may be indicating a bit of overload to you.


Initially your training plan will have (or not!) scheduled rest days. As you progress into your program,however, you will notice that there are less and less scheduled Rest Days.

Unless otherwise indicated, your rest days are to be taken when you really need them, or if

circumstances demand it (such as a travel day, if you or family members are ill, and other life events as they occur).

In this way you ensure more consistency and you rest when your body is really telling you to

instead of when the plan says. No matter what anyone tells you, no training plan can predict themany factors in your life. If you really need a rest from training – take it!

Likewise, if the plan has a rest day scheduled and you feel good and want to head out for an easytraining session – by all means do so! You’re getting fitter – enjoy it!

IMPORTANT: In the final weeks of your program, however, make sure you follow the plan carefullyand take the suggested Rest Days. This ensures you are optimally rested for your Key Race.

Step 5- Kick start it ASAP!

One trend we see is that athletes often say they are too busy to start on a basic week or they are working on some project at work or at home and after so many weeks they will start with a structured plan, while this is understandable, dont be afraid to start with something very small, as there is no minimum training needed to already start to get the benefits from both learning how to train consistently and also the physical and mental benefits of following our training approach.

Enjoy your training.
Vinnie Santana –

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