Personal dilemma - Should I be offering advice?

I’ll try and keep this short but, I would like your opinions so, I guess you need some context.

Whilst walking with a friend yesterday, we got onto the topic of our cycling plans for 2021. My friend is a female age group triathlete who is competitive and gets results.

She has a coach who looks after both her running and cycling. She was singing his praises with regards to the improvements she has seen in her running but, she is really struggling with the cycle training. She asked if I would take a look at the plan the coach has set.

Now, I’m no coach and I don’t pretend to be so, I was hesitant, but I thought it wouldn’t do any harm to just ‘look’.

What I saw really surprised me. Her plan was in TR. Great I thought. I can understand the basics. Then she showed me her Calendar. The coach has prescribed two interval sessions P/W and one long weekend endurance ride (2-3 hours). Taking into account age and the fact that she also has to train her swimming and running, I thought that sounded reasonable.

Then I looked at the intervals she was being asked to complete. For the past two weeks, the coach has been prescribing sprint training. I saw Crane +1, Shasta and RowDow +1. I was a little bit speechless and confused.

As I said, I was careful because I’m no coach but, this doesn’t seem right to me. It doesn’t seem right for anybody.

My friend is really struggling to complete these workouts. Truth be told, she isn’t completing them. She can do 3 or 4 of the intervals and then she just tried to complete the others whilst her power and I’m guessing her form, goes to pot.

So I said ‘In my ‘opinion’, you need to speak to your coach. Tell them that you’re really struggling with these workouts. I could offer ‘advice’ but, I don’t think I should be questioning your coach as I don’t know what you discussed’. Clearly I am questioning the coach :laughing: I don’t want to see one of my friends digging a hole and becoming demoralised.

As I’m not a triathlete, I’d really appreciate some perspective from this forum. Would you expect to be doing a block of sprint training? Efforts at and above 200%? At this time of year, with no events even on the horizon?

Thanks in advance. :+1:


I’m not a coach or a triathlete, so grain-of-salt disclaimer applies: The TR triathlon base plans do include a bunch of sprint workouts (e.g. Full LV, Half LV, etc.). I vaguely remember Coach Chad talking about sprint training for triathletes on a podcast, and how that kind of neuromuscular work helps with…uh, something :sweat_smile: (maybe pushing power in an aero position? I do not remember). Maybe that’s what her coach is targeting? My (limited, see grain-of-salt disclaimer) understanding of sprint workouts like that is that the power target is less important than muscular recruitment, so if you’re getting a big delta in muscle activation very quickly, you’re getting the stimulus even if your power is below the target.

For what it’s worth, your advice (talk to your coach) sounds pretty solid to me :100:


I’m not a coach either and I haven’t played one on TV… :laughing: That said I have been an athlete for 30+ years and was a triathlete for the first 15 before doing marathons and now TT. If you are a triathlete you are basically a TT rider who runs and swims…unless you are world class and do draft legal races in which case you are a swimmer who road races and runs. So assuming she is an age grouper and she has 3 bike sessions/week and is time crunched by having to run and swim then in her off season I would be including zone 2 sessions like Brasstown once a week with some easier tempo work like round bald/mount field and one SS session like Abbey etc for an hour. 3 months from the start of her season I would drop the tempo, keep the SS and add in a mild o/u session like the easier versions of Fang mountain/avalanche spire. After a month of that maybe drop the SS and o/u and add a few weeks of easier VO2 work like Baird/Bluebell and some over threshold stuff at 102%FTP - maybe like some of the variants of sugarloaf. I would keep the 90min zone 2 ride all the way through, maybe push it to 2 hours like Boarstone or do a zone 2 ride outside for 2-3 hours if the weather was good. Can’t see the point of anything at 165% FTP…when will she need that …and you get enough from the 120% VO2 work to push oxygen uptake…just my 2p worth :laughing:

Not a coach either here, but I’m an acceptable age group triathlete who has been coached before.

Depending on where she is in relation to her race and the distance she targets, that plan is not unreasonable. In fact I’ve just reviewed Joe Friels Triathletes Training Bible and he talks about how it can make sense to progress long or ultra endurance athletes towards more specificity. For half and full distance triathletes that specificity is basically a crit or road racers base, meaning we could progress from a good dose of short power workouts towards more sustained efforts. I’ve followed such approach in my running the past season with pretty good results (progressing my weekly interval runs from 400 to 3000m).

Clearly all that is very individual and if she can’t complete her workouts the plan can not be effective. It might be however that she has just uncovered a long neglected part of her power curve or that she is overtesting on the ramp.

If the plan does indeed progress through short towards more sustained efforts I would give the approach a chance, but review testing protocol and workout intensity.


I think the best advice here is for your friend to have an honest conversation with their coach about the difficulties they are having. If I were paying for individual coaching, then 1 of the things I’d be looking for is something tailored to me, and tweaked depending on feedback/progress. That seems something needed at this point.

Great reply @TG333

Joe Friel dislikes the term “reverse periodization”, but that is often the term used to describe this program. It is definitely not what a bike racer needs, but works great for other disciplines.

Not a coach either.
My personal experience with tri training and while using a coach is that if I struggle with a plan, that means that something is not working.

If she can’t finish the workouts, even if it’s a normal plan, than something needs to change.

What have work for me (and what tr usually do on their base tri plans) is one vo2 max or over under, one tempo, one recovery and one long ride (road simulation) with runs being sprints of 400s to 1200s, tempo runs off the bike and long runs (usually less than 15 for half ironmans)

In any case, she should definitely should tell her coach she is struggling with the bike. He is probably also struggling (without knowing more than likely) with running too. Meaning that she could have better running sessions if she was not cooking her legs all the time…

In one of the Inigo San Milan podcasts I listened to recently he questioned why a triathlete should ever do sprint training on the bike. His view is that energy system is simply not needed in triathalon, so why waste time training it at the expense of doing another more applicable session.

Makes logical sense to me. But I have no experience with triathalon - maybe sprint sessions are important for something?:man_shrugging:

Sprint training for running may be different, as I can see how that might improve running form.

I offer advice to friends based on my own experience and let them know that ahead of time. I literally just set up a plan for my friend and told him that what I’m telling him is my way, not necessarily the right way. He’s new to training and wanted to spring into SSB MV but I explained my experience with my first year and how I scaled back to LV with added endurance rides and convinced him to do the same because quality>quantity. I also tend to caution people I know going into HV plans since I’ve never seen someone make it more than 2 weeks in before they blew up physically or got mentally tired from all the work.

I wouldn’t try to advise someone with a coach though, not that all coaches are great but I’d say the VAST majority of coaches definitely have more knowledge and experience than I do, but it’s easy for someone without a coach to overreach their abilities and that’s where I come in to try and help

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Theoretically a short block of SIT (sprint interval training) is not a horrible idea. She might get some gains that bring her up a level. But she should communicate to her coach that she is struggling.

Here is the first couple weeks of TrainerRoad’s half distance triathlete base plan (low-volume):

and full distance triathlete base plan (low-volume):

How do you feel about TR having sprint intervals in their triathlete plans?

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It could be a case where iLevels would be better suited to set her training zones but perhaps her coach isn’t using that software. Just because two athletes have the same threshold, it doesn’t mean they can deliver the same sprint power.

Sprint workouts are a bit different from your typical VO2max short-shorts. They’re supposed to bring you to the point of failure.

See Chad’s replies here: Sprint Interval Training plan?

Also, as he states in the workout description:

The objective with these short, sprint-intensity repeats is to bring about measurable aerobic adaptation in the shortest amount of training time possible.

By repeating efforts performed at maximal intensity, what begin as primarily anaerobic efforts become increasingly aerobically driven.

20 second sprint? Just do a max effort. In Shasta you do a max effort, recover for 5 minutes, repeat. It’s not about hitting a specific power target like sweet spot.

Not sure if you wanted me to answer this but, here goes…

I’m quite surprised. As I said, I’m no triathlete and I’ve never had a reason to look at the TR Tri plans.

The key difference between the TR plans and my friends plan is the fact that there is a range of work being prescribed. All that she has been prescribed for the past two weeks is sprint intervals. Yes, she has the long Z2 ride over the weekend but nothing else.

As my friend is already using TR, I think I might ask if she has even looked at the established Tri specific plans.


Sprint interval training (SIT) can be a powerful tool to use during certain training phases.

Fair enough, I didn’t realise that workout was max effort sprints.

As others have noted, doing HIT intervals in the base period is a solid strategy for long course triathletes. The concept is to build FTP to high levels early in the season and then build towards specificity (going longer) as their A race approaches.

So while looking at her plan, you really need to see the whole thing, not just the block she is on right now. Does the coach move her to move Z2/3 workouts later in the year as her race gets closer?

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FWIW I’m not a triathlete, but for various reasons my coach had me do a few months that looked mostly like that. Happy with the results, versus hitting sweet spot so early in the season.

edit: thinking about it, I hired a coach in August and told him my targets were a July 2021 event with 120 miles / 15,000’ climbing, and 3 double centuries in 2022, so I guess that makes me look somewhat like a long course triathlete (to Power13’s point).

But how long is this block going to last? Two weeks is too small of a time frame to complain about. Does this coach explain to her the big picture? Like ‘we’re going to do some SIT for 4 weeks to get some quick gains and then settle back down into base building’.

Does she even have an event in the future?