Balanced Base - 12 Weeks (~8 hrs per wk)


Gordo Byrn


12 Weeks

Typical Week

2 Swim, 1 Strength, 3 Run, 2 Bike, 1 Other

Longest Workout

1:15 hrs swim
1:45 hrs bike
1:15 hrs run

Plan Specs

triathlon beginner intermediate base period

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This plan is appropriate for a wide range of athletes. It can be used by a new triathlete to build base, or for an experienced athlete to maintain between seasons.

At an average training load of 8 hours per week, this plan will let you maintain fitness at a time of year (winter cold, summer heat) where you want to reduce the overall volume. Then, as the weather improves, you can repeat a base block with greater cycling focus (likely the most effective approach), or try a specific preparation block for an A-Priority race.

The plan consists of 12 weeks of general preparation with frequent benchmarking within your aerobic zones. I have also built in higher frequency swim and run weeks. So there are single sport focus weeks enabling you to get the most out of your eight hour allocation. By the end of the block, you will have a very clear idea of your aerobic performance/fitness across all three sports.

Generally, I try to keep the weekday sessions around an hour. On the weekend, your long endurance day is capped at no more than three hours of total training. The plan is achieveable for the motivated triathlete that is training indoors. If you get a "weather window" then you should feel free to extend the endruance workouts and/or substitute crosstraining.

The swimming program is focused on distance freestyle improvement with workout distance capped around 3000 meters (3300 yards). It is challenging and you will notice a material improvement in your swim performance by the end of the cycle.

The plan is appropriate for athletes racing all distances. There is a single strength session placed into each week. If you have the time in your schedule, then I recommend that you place a second strength session on Friday of each week.

To get this most out of this program, you should be comfortable with the following key workout distances:

Swim - up to 3,300 yards / 3,000 meters

Bike - up to 25 miles / 40 kilometers

Run - up to 8 miles / 13 kilometers

I hope you enjoy,



Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Breakdown
Average Weekly Training Hours: 08:06
Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Training Hours: 08:06
Average Weekly Breakdown

Back to Plan Details

Sample Day 1

1K Continuous

An easy swim - where you can lift effort towards the end if you feel like it.
Start with 400 continuous where every 4th length is non-free, generally, I use backstroke but any stroke is OK.
Then 4x100 where the odds alternate Bk/Br by length and the evens are free.
Then 4x50 where the first 25 is non-free and the second 25 is free. Lift effort for the first 25 and swim the second relaxed.
All of the above are done on 15s rest.
200 Easy
1,000 Continuous
Look to Build the swim very gradually.
Overall goal is the distance, not the pace.
This workout is about training your mind as much as your body.
This swim can be extended by adding a set of Easy or Steady 200s before cooling down
Cool Down

Sample Day 1

Strength Training, Base

Please refer to Strength Training for Triathlon in the Strength section of the Endurance Corner Libarary ( and periodize your season according to the guidelines. If you are new to strength training then progress slowly.

Sample Day 2

Poker Pacing Run

Based on duration, split the run into thirds:
***Easy effort for first third
***Steady effort second third
***Hold your Steady pace in final third, effort may increase a bit
Always start at an effort that leaves you room to finish strong.
This is an endurance session, keep the effort comfortably aerobic at all times.
Practicing Run:Walk Technique is highly recommended.
Early season, and if you find that you have to raise HR by more than 5% to hold Steady pace, it is best to dial down the middle pace so you don't have to "race" at the end of the workout. In ALL cases never enter your Threshold zone.
Most runners are tempted to crank the speed up at the back end. FAR more effective is to lift your pace earlier in the workout and test your ability to hold Steady pace without material decoupling. Learn to control yourself emotionally as it will serve you well on race day.

Sample Day 3

Pyramid Swim

The basic pattern is:100 / 200 / 300 / 400 / 500 / 400 / 300 / 200 / 100
100s and 300s you just swim relaxed, focus on pushing straight through with forearm pointing down
200s and 400s are Steady, if you use paddles then use them here
The 500 you alternate by 100 between Mod-hard and Easy
Faster, or highly motivated, swimmers can extend the workout by changing the pyramid to 200 / 400 / 600 / 800 / 800 / 600 / 400 / 200

Sample Day 4

Aerobic Threshold (AeT) Benchmarking

One of the most important data points to know is your pace/power at the bottom of your Steady zone (HR/Power/Pace). Whether you choose the benchmark HR, or Power, the goal of this workout is to do the majority of the ride sitting at the bottom of your Steady zone.

If you have a powermeter then I recommend that you choose a flat ride and average the bottom of your Steady power zone. Watch your heart rate, review in 20 minute intervals. What you want to see is how stable your HR is over time. This is a good benchmark of the depth of your fitness.

In my own training, I will build this workout up to four hours total duration. However, the four hour main set is a bit of a special occasion! More typical is 40-120 minutes of benchmarking.

As you gain fitness you can make this main set progressive, moving through the bottom/middle/top of your Steady zone to see how you tolerate increases in training load.

If you don't have access to power then you will need to focus primarily on the breath markers discussed in our training zone summary.

All athletes, if you make a mistake then start too easy!

Sample Day 4

Aerobic Run, Steady Endurance

A Steady paced run that ends with 6x75 meter Strides on 30s walking recovery.

What counts is getting about 20 minutes worth of training around the bottom of your Steady Zone. You might be tempted to push the pace, not today! Stay in the bottom of your Steady zone and accept the pace that results. When I do this workout, I tend warm-up very easy for ten minutes then build into my Steady Zone for 40 minutes. I then have the option to keep it rolling or back it off and cool down with easy running.

Sample Day 5

Twin Ks Swim

Goal of the entire workout is to swim the second 1,000 faster than the first
100 Easy and relaxed on 15s rest
4x75 Steady with the middle 25 Fast on 10s rest
100 Alternating 50 Steady with 50 Mod-hard on 15s rest
100 easy
1,000 start Easy and build to Steady effort (note time)
4x50 easy and relaxed
1,000 swim faster than the first one (note change in effort required to swim faster)
Cool Down
These long swims are an essential part of building up the mental skill required for success in open water. The two that are important: (a) a relaxed start, most people detonate themselves straight off the beach (!); and (b) the capacity to be strong at the end.
When I do this swim, I will normally add at least 1,000 worth of paddles and/or band & buoy that follow the TT. Also, I do all of BOTH TTs as three stroke breathing. This is meant to be an aerobic benchmarking session so that will help you stay aerobic. For what it's worth, I can go anaerobic with three-stroke breathing - however, I am pretty efficient in the water.
Note that the goal is to figure out your lower end swim paces (swim #1). Many athletes struggle to go faster at the end. In that case, you have a combination of an overall endurance limiter as well as a misunderstanding of Easy pace. Don't worry -- both of these will be corrected by applying the training program!

Balanced Base - 12 Weeks (~8 hrs per wk)

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