Not super impressed with triathlon training plans

Over the winter months I only did bike work, and was really excited about the workouts. Everything is so specific and calculated. The exact durations, intensities, rest periods, etc. Everything seemed extremely well thought out and purposeful.

I started doing triathlon plans in January and figured I’d give it a fair shot and see where it gets me (70.3 in May). The run and swim workouts look like they were mailed in, honestly. There is no specificity or purpose like in the bike workouts. Today’s long run day plan calls for “run 80 minutes at RPE of 6. Try not to walk.” I went into training peaks to pull up old workouts from my previous coach (#1 world ranked in his AG for 2019 after being sidelined 3 years with injury). The workout at a similar stage of that 70.3 block calls for:

  • 2mi warmup. Mix in 4x20” bursts at the end
  • 5x1mi intervals at goal race pace with 3Min recovery in between.
  • remainder of run cool down z2

Other workouts are very similar, calling for intervals at race pace, open half marathon pace, 10k/5k pace, some track workouts, hill repeats, etc.

Much more specific, much more detailed.

Same for the swim workouts. It feels boring and not well thought out. TR is basically:
700 warmup/cool down
400 drills
2 “working sets” of intervals.

I look at it once and can remember the whole workout. Compared to prior workouts, I used to write them on a note card and keep in a zip lock bag on the pool deck so I could keep track because there was LOTS of variation and specificity. Not just intervals, but building sets, different breathing patterns, underwater sets, alternating intensities, etc. All stuff I’m not seeing in TR plans.

I’m looking for feedback from people who have followed the TR plans to a “T”. How well did it prepare you for race day? Or, have a lot of people kept the bike workouts and abandoned the swim/run TR plans in favor of “better” ones? That’s where I’m leaning. I want to give it a fair shot, but I also don’t want to show up on race day underprepared.

Just imagine if the TR bike workout called for “ride an hour at a RPE of 6. Try not to take breaks”.

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You mean like this?

I understand what you’re saying but have to question whether some other platforms make workouts complicated just because they can. That said, @chad has previously said that swim/run training is not his speciality so the workouts may not be quite as good but if you listen to the Kona athlete interviews from the last two years some people are doing very well on the TR tri plans.

Full disclosure I’m not using the TR swim/run workouts at the moment but that’s because:
• Swim, I have very poor technique (haven’t been swimming long) and really struggled to achieve the TR (or any other system’s workouts). This season I’ve found swimsmooth and am finding it really good as the video drills really help (I plan to return to TR swim workouts in a year or so once I am a better swimmer)
• Run, I was following TR but when I replaced my 735XT with a Fenix 5 I saw the new Garmin Coach feature and wanted to give it a try. In hindsight I wish I’d stuck with the TR sessions but I don’t want to chop back across unless I have to (my race is also in May so I want to stick to kne training philosophy this close). That said I’ve previously used TR for short course and have done well with them.

Finally I’d suggest the weekly Long Run is one of the least complicated run workouts in the library, there are hill sprints and others which give more direction when required.

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How much did you pay that coach?

Look, I’m a coach, but I use TR personally. If you think that coach you were (probably) paying 10x as much as a TR subscription was just prescribing a general plan to you, then he was ripping you off. Hopefully, he was programming the work YOU specifically needed at the time you needed it, rather than just cutting and pasting a cookie cutter plan intended for a specific distance and generally applicable to everyone from an elite junior to a 65 year old beginner Athena, which is kinda what the TR tri plans are.

In other words: you get what you pay for, and it’s pretty damn hard to program One Plan To Rule Them All with adequate specificity for everyone. My complaint with them in review was recovery between quality bikes and quality run sessions, and low swim volume. I didn’t think the specific swim and run workouts were bad, personally.

That workout Chad programmed was a standard 80 minute long run in zone 2. That’s a bread and butter early season 70.3 workout.

I’d guess more specificity is coming to TR tri plans, but there are a number of folks who have qualified for Kona on these plans too.

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Complexity != better.

TR is also explicitly a cycling first company.

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I don’t mean to imply that every run workout is or should be a high intensity workout. My prior plans definitely had recovery rides and recovery runs, where you are just keeping the blood flowing to hell with recovery.

My prior coach is a multi-time Kona and 70.3 worlds qualifier who has been doing triathlon for 30+ years. He has a catalog of swim workouts that he compiled over the years from a coach that swam in the Olympic trials. And he has a coach himself.

I’m not looking for complicated workouts for the sake of being complicated. But compared to how dialed in and fine tuned the bike workouts are, swim/run seem to be lacking. My old plans really had me prepared for race day. I had a 1hr 70.3 PR including running a 1:38 off the bike and breaking 5 hours.

I’m not trying to bash TR. I love the bike workouts, just questioning if I’d be better served subbing in some other swim/run workouts.

Better served? Maybe. Depends on the level of expertise of the person making the decisions. Nothing wrong with self coaching, it’s just incredibly hard to do really well for a variety of reasons. Randomly subbing in workouts isn’t a good idea. For example, the two workouts you compared aren’t equivalent workouts as I’m sure you know.

I don’t like RPE based training. I’d prefer pace or power based, but that’s damn near impossible to prescribe generally without an entire system and testing behind it.

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I think this is one of the reasons we’ve not seen TR’s support for tri move as quickly as cycling. They already had an established cycling setup which they’ve been able to build on (and have done so very effectively). When it comes to the other disciplines they are going to have to develop testing protocols to better tailor the prescribed work.

On the longer distance tris, you can be really successful without too much running specificity so long as you have the volume. If you’re strong on the bike, you’ll have legs for the run… or so the theory goes. As someone above noted, complexity is not always better.

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For a Sunday long run there really isn‘t much to it. Run for a long time but not too long. Don’t walk. Don’t run hard.

Plenty of coaches try to make their plans look sophisticated by adding needless complications to it. But if it’s a cookie cutter plan, like the vast majority on TP, you just get very complex cookie cutter workouts. Training should be as simple as possible, as complex as necessary, not the other way around.

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Honestly, I think one of the reasons the bike workouts are as detailed as they are is to keep you engaged and interested from one week to the next. TR’s roots are in indoor cycling, which is frankly pretty boring. If you told an outdoor cyclist without a PM (which is basically what a runner is) to do Baxter, you’d pretty much boil it down to “spend 90 minutes cycling at RPE 6 on gently rolling roads, and don’t change gear”. Which is an awful lot simpler than a workout with about 40 power target changes crammed into 90’, but would give the same physiological benefit.

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But again…if you are spending the hours and miles running, why not make it more productive? That’s what the TR bike workouts say time and time again. The podcast talks about what to do differently to recruit different muscle fibers and encourage adaptations. It the swim/run plans seem like afterthoughts.

If the plan today is to run for 80 minutes, why not incorporate mile repeats at race pace with recoveries to help get the body and legs used to running at that speed? Instead of just…running?

There’s just no way to answer that question in a vacuum. The impact of the workout you just described vs. a 80min zone 2 run are going to be very different. What workout did you do previously? How recovered are you? What’s tomorrow look like? What training period are you in? .And on and on.

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I’ve never done a cookie cutter TP plan. I had individual coaching from a local coach and we used TP to give me my workouts and review data. That’s the only other kind of coaching I have to compare.

I’m NOT using that coach now because I’m still dealing with injuries from a bike crash and am trying to feel out what I can do and what my limitations are. Trying to listen to my body.

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I’m just comparing to my prior coaching experience. That week basically looked like:

Mon - recovery swim
Tues - hard run workout (intervals, hills, track)
Wed - hard bike workout (intervals)
Thurs - recovery run
Fri - easy spin
Sat - long bike with intervals, brick run
Sun - long run with intervals

2 More swims would be fit in anytime during the week depending on my schedule.

I had a 90 min 96 TSS ride yesterday. I shouldn’t be incapable of doing a similarly hard run workout today. Especially if I have a rest day tomorrow. Or at most an easy swim.

I agree, I don’t want to randomly sub workouts. Because they all build off of and are at the expense of each other. But a 45-60 min “hard” run workout that TR prescribes, I think I’d rather look back at what my coach gave me before for his “hard” workout and follow those instructions. Today is an 80 min RPE6 run. Why? I’ve got 80 minutes on my feet. Why not mix in intervals and recoveries? Build speed and endurance in my legs while I’m out there? So I’ll sub in my old 80 minute workout for the TR one today because I fee it’s more valuable and productive.

Yes, and that’s as designed. Though I suspect they will change after the team take on Ironman training.

Lots of people do their own swim and bike plans, or use another source.

I’m finding it fun being very specific on run using a treadmill and Run Less Run Faster, outdoors I find the terrain has too much of a say on effort levels. And sometimes I look to Swimsmooth for swim sets, other people use Tower26.

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Both great resources IMO.

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The physiological cost of that interval session as compared to the zone 2 run are very different. The TSS might even be similar, but especially with running due to impact, “not all TSS is equal.” So back to my questions above…

Based on the plan you laid out, that run is fine. That same workout might not fit as well into the TR plan at that specific time.

Sorry for not being direct… the answer to most coaching questions like this is (or should be) “it depends.”

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I might not have been clear…

When I said mix in intervals and recoveries, I didn’t mean to interchange interval workouts with recovery workouts. I meant run an interval, then a short recovery, next interval, etc.

I just don’t understand why the weekend long run is always a Z2 long recovery. There’s no reason it can’t be a harder effort with intervals mixed in. A 90 min bike workout on Saturday shouldn’t be so taxing that you are forced to slog through 90 minutes on Sunday. Especially with a rest day on Monday.

TBH you are comparing apples to oranges here. There is no way you can expect to get an “all encompassing rigorous plan built for you” for the service you are paying for here. If you want a customized solution, you either need: A) someone to build it for you personally (coach) or B) You build it yourself. There is fundamentally no way you should expect a software solution to go into the detail a coach would go into. With that being said, I bet you were paying 150+ a month for that kind of support, whereas TR is like what, 150$/year or whatever?

By utilizing TR for cycling and subbing my own workouts for 6 months I have broken 4:30. Again apples to oranges. But I think bashing TR for the lack of plan detail is kind of silly; I get a ton of value for <200$/yr and even if I don’t really use much of the swim or run, I am sure if you followed it to a T you would be in a good place. The joy of TR is you can do whatever you want (or maybe thats just a build your own structured plan anyways). Perhaps you are better served with having someone just tell you what to do and you dont ask questions. But for what the platform is and what you pay for, I think you need to readjust your expectations…

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