For someone who can only train 10hrs/week (between 8-12hrs) for a 70.3, with no particular strength/weakness – all swim bike run are equally average, how would you allocate the training hours and at what intensity?

Typical age groupers that need to balance work,family and training usually have one hour a day and a little longer on the weekends for training. 10 hours a week is plenty for a decent 70.3 if you are able to dedicate this amount of time consistently every week.

Here is the short answer –

Swim – 2 x a week (2 hours altogether)

* 1 hour each

* One Strength session and one long steady aerobic session.

* Use paddles to build upper body strength

Bike – 3 x a week – (4 – 5 hours altogether)

* 2 x 1 hour on the trainer – one strength session/ one tolerance session – learn to suffer!

* 1 x long steady ride on the road 2.5 – 3 hrs. (usually weekend)

Run – 2 – 3 x a week (3 hours altogether)

* 1 x 1 hr speed / tolerance session depending on proximity of race and your running background and current fitness.

* 1 x long steady aerobic run with structure built in.

* Short run off the bike as the race draws closer.

Here is the thinking behind it:


  • SWIM – Once you are ‘there’ with your swim, unless you can swim a lot (upwards of 4 times a week), significant gains in swimming are very hard to come by. You can try to improve your ‘technique’ all you want – but honestly, when you’re caught in the fray, all bets are off – strength is going to be your best friend. Short hard sprints with paddles will build strength and a longer steady aerobic swim will work both ends of the ‘spectrum’ of swim fitness, leaving the ‘overlap’ to take care of everything else in between. That’s why 2 swims is the minimum required to maintain your current level of swimming.

Unless you decide to do a swim focused block of training, and are willing to let the bike and run go for awhile, I believe that ‘technique’ is better left humming quietly in the background to develop naturally and gradually over the months and years as your cumulative time in the water adds up and you intuitively develop a better sense of balance, rotation, timing and stroke.

  • BIKE – For an athlete that is equally average in all 3 disciplines, the biggest ‘bang for your buck’ in terms of gains in triathlon performance would be to work on bike strength. The stronger a biker you are, the better your chances of putting in a solid bike and still having decent legs left for the run:

Consider Athlete A (average biker / super runner) vs Athlete B (strong biker / average runner). Say they exit T1 of a 70.3 neck and neck and start the bike together. While Athlete B pushes out a solid, steady and well-paced ride of 2.5 hours, Athlete A digs deep and smashes his legs for that same bike split, to enter T2 together. Now who do you think is in a better position to run off the bike? No matter how strong a runner Athlete A is, his legs are already fried from the bike and he’s going to struggle to even put one foot in front of the other. Athlete B, on the other hand, still has relatively fresh legs and is in a much better position to put his ‘average’ running fitness to good use.

Bottom line – for training in Singapore (and other countries with poor outdoor cycling options), get a bike trainer and learn how to use it. The uninitiated will use every excuse not to get on the trainer while those in the know dutifully climb on board and kill themselves for the better part of an hour – twice a week – and then ride away from the rest of the bunch on the group ride. Think of trainers session like track work for cycling.

10 hours a week? How much of that time is used up actually getting out the door and riding to a spot where you can do some meaningful bike training in Singapore?  Now multiply that by 2 cos you have to ride back. Now one of your riding buddies is running late so you need to wait for him. A little further into the ride, the traffic light has just gone red in the middle of your 10 min Time Trail effort. Never mind – we’ll start over – hang on – mind that idiot driver, mind that pot-hole. Someone’s dropped a bottle/ needs to stop to refill etc… Sound familiar?

Bike trainer scenario – wake up, brush teeth, pull on bibs, plug in your ear buds, turn the volume up and jump on the trainer. 15 min warm up will wake you up/ 2 x 20 mins head down, eyes closed, best effort Time Trial / 5 mins easy recovery in between/ 5 mins easy spin cool down.  You’re done in an hour. Your legs are dead but you are buzzing from the suffering that you have just lived through. Shower. Quick bite. Off to work. Do 2 different sessions a week and you’ll see improvements in no time.

  • RUN– Typical Age Group triathletes simply don’t have the time to put in the long easy miles or several different types of running workouts; Speedwork/ Tempo Runs/ Cruise Intervals/ Long Runs etc etc. So the best way to overcome this is to build multiple ‘layers’/ structure into each run we do so that we’re covering as much of the necessary ground as possible

Strength work in the form of hill repeats or short hard intervals will actually teach your body how to run faster. It is great for hard wiring good running technique and posture as well as developing a high stride rate. At the same time, pushing All Out, for short bouts at a time, also ‘opens up’ the cardiovascular system and takes the ceiling off previous levels of perceived performance. These types of sessions are best done regularly for the 1st half of a 12 – 16 week 70.3 training block.

It’s a good idea to switch to tolerance work for the 2nd half of your training block to bring about the cardiovascular adaptations that will allow you to manage the ‘redline’ better on race day. The speed and strength work done in the 1st phase of your training will trickle down to enhance your sub-threshold and race pace efforts as you get closer to the day.

Likewise, it is a good idea to build structure into your weekly long run. A simple negative split effort; dividing your run into thirds – easy, mod and hard, will teach you how to pace on race day.

Or you could finish up a 90 min run with 3 x 2km hard repeats or 10 x 1 min hard/ 1 min easy to squeeze in a little quality work at the end. Structuring your runs will also teach you to hold your mental focus for the whole time (staying in the moment) instead of drifting off at an easy ‘all day’ pace. Learning to read your body’s feedback at different effort levels through your breathing/ form/ flow and stride rate will give you the confidence to manage the race day effort to your best ability.

In conclusion, when it’s time to train –TRAIN! Put everything you have (however much or little it may be on that day) into that precious hour. Learn to focus and stay in the moment for the duration of your session. Tune into what your body is doing and how you can do it better – breathing / stroking/ pedaling / holding form. Experiment, test and work at accurately gauging your perceived effort level during all different types of training sessions. This will come back to you on race day through a sharper mental focus and an intuitive ability to pace yourself perfectly through the 70.3 miles.

When the session is over, get back to the rest of your life – being a good and responsible Husband/ Wife/ Dad/ Mum/ Employee!

Enjoy your training!
Shem Leong

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)

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, a Tour de France bike tour 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!


Forgot Password?

Join Us