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How to Do a Mid-Season, Single-Sport Focus

BY Lance Watson

It’s never too late in the racing season to fine-tune your weakest discipline. Here’s how to do it while still balancing your triathlon training.

Triathlon is a complicated sport to train really well at. We all have areas we need to work on. It’s not just a matter of swimming, biking and running. You have to consider when to work on speed, strength, threshold and skills on the bike, or stroke-rate or technical proficiency in swimming, etc.

The athlete’s natural tendency is to like what they are good at, and therefore they tend to train with a little more intensity or focus in their area of expertise. At some point you will want to improve a single aspect of your game, and boost your weakness. There are always areas to improve upon and that’s what makes our sport so challenging and intriguing.

I regularly incorporate a two week, single sport focus or emphasis phases in my athlete’s training, to hone an individual event or a specific aspect of that sport. You can increase emphasis in one sport for 10 to 14 days and get a “boost” in that sport, and push a neglected area to higher fitness.

For a two-week boost phase, increase frequency, volume or intensity sessions in your area of need. Your training program should be built around the area you are emphasizing, whether it’s your swim, bike or run.

Your goal is to hit your “boost” sport workout fresh, and consider the rest of your activities in the other two sports as fitness maintenance rather than fitness building.

Keys for progressing in your 10 to 14 day “boost sport” phase to supercharge a single sport:

  • Increase frequency in the boost sport by 1-2 sessions per week.
  • Decrease frequency in the non-boost sports by 1-2 sessions week.
  • Assess more specific areas of need in your boost sport: Is it run threshold, bike hill climbing strength, open water stamina, etc.
  • Build your program around the boost sport to ensure you are better prepared for your key sessions. Make sure you have rest days between your higher intensity boost sport sessions.

Sample week

Goal: Boost run hill strength/fitness


  • AM: Run recovery pace on the treadmill @ 3% grade, Zn 1-2
  • PM: Swim short technical session, Zn 1


  • AM: Run hill intervals of 2 to 3 minutes in duration, Zn 4
  • PM: Bike tempo Zn 3


  • AM: Swim aerobic pull set (resting legs)
  • PM: Bike short recovery ride


  • AM: Run a rolling to hilly tempo run, Zn 3-4.
  • PM: Bike recovery, drills, Zn 1


  • Day off


  • AM: Run base, 15 min flatter and easier, the balance of the time is hilly in Zone 2, for a total of 75 min – 2 hours.
  • PM: Swim Endurance Zn 2


  • AM: Run 20 min Zn 1; 5 hill strides of 75-100yds @ 85% max speed; 20 min Zn 2.
  • AM2: Bike Base, flatter and easier, Zn 1-2.

Other thoughts to help you along the way:

  • Seek someone with technical expertise in the focus sport during this phase, and put more energy into improving your form and biomechanics.
  • Think like an elite single sport athlete. “I am a distance runner… not a triathlete.”
  • Learn everything you can about your focus sport during the phase while you are immersed in it.

Finally, when you are in race season, stay true to your planned-out, balanced triathlon training plan, but still be in-tune with how you are doing in all three individual events.

If you work closely with your coach to carefully dissect the individual components of your training, come race day you should be ready to put it all together for a great result.

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About Lance Watson

Lance Watson, LifeSport head coach, has trained many Ironman, Olympic and age-group Champions over the past 30 years. He enjoys coaching athletes of all levels. 

Contact Coach@LifeSportCoaching.com to tackle your first IRONMAN or to perform at a higher level.

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