Quality of non-cycling components of TR triathlon plans

I have been using TR for cycling workouts for a couple of years, but always do my own run & swim workouts. I would love to offload that brain-space to the full TR tri plan regimen, but I would like to hear some commentary on the quality of those other elements (or, really, of the whole package). Specifically, I’m a bit leery of a tri plan created by pure cyclists. Are these plans “we’ll get you through the bike faster, and we’ll just get you through the rest” plans? As someone who has done structured run training for years, I don’t need a plan to help me cover the distance, or even one that throws in varying stimuli here and there, but always with a view to prioritizing the cycling portion.

Another way to put it, are these cycling plans with enough other stuff thrown in to get you through a race, but always managing the stress of the other training to not get in the way of cycling (rather than managing the stress of the whole to make one better at triathlon)?

One more way to put it - and this may be answering my own question - is the wisdom that went into the structuring of the cycling component present in the other components/in the plan as a whole?

FWIW, I’ll probably end up roughly following the plan anyway, simply for the benefit of shutting my brain off and doing what I’m told…so many life things to plan, I’m loving the idea of outsourcing!

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On the podcast, I think at least 1 or 2 of the Kona qualifiers they interviewed said they pretty much just followed the TR plans


I don’t think that it’s specifically fair to characterize Coach Chad in that way as he’s also an experienced runner and duathlete. Caveat: I’ve not done one of their tri plans yet… that said, in reviewing them, my concerns were two-fold: 1) how well would I recover with the structured intensity on the bike along with the prescribed runs; 2) swim volume.

As a self-coached athlete and small-time developing coach, I favor more swim volume than is prescribed in the plans I’ve reviewed. I’m also 41, and recovery between workouts is a concern as I age. I think I could probably structure my workout times such that I have adequate recovery between quality runs and quality bikes, but I haven’t laid it out on a calendar yet. I think the intensity of the run training is probably just fine. This concern would also be larger for me in the earlier base periods where I’m not as used to a large quantity of sweet spot work on the bike early in a training year. (This may not be a problem in the future as I adapt to the SSB->SPB this season.)

The other thing to note is that the plans are largely RPE-based right now because TR doesn’t specifically support importing data other than rides. So, if (or when) I try one of the triathlon plans, I will almost certainly get a lot more specific with pacing zones both on the run and swim, and power and HR zones on the run. I’ll do kind of a mash of Stryd and HR based run training following Chad’s recommended training plans and see how it goes. I will probably also raise the swim volume some.

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I outsource it.

I think the bike sessions are hard enough without affecting the run and bike sessions.

I get the impression that most people tweak the plans in some way. For me, I cut out all the interval sessions but have some hill runs, otherwise I aim for the time and RPE. For swim I have my own 800 WU, and harder intervals, but aim for the same over all distance.

I would suggest that it depends how well you know yourself as a runner and a swimmer, as to how much you tweak it if at all.

I only follow the cycling plans and create my own workouts for swim and run. I need more specific description of what my swim and run paces should be.


Good point.

Thanks @kurt.braeckel. I did not know Chad was a runner. Hopefully it was clear from the post that I’m not dismissing the quality of the non-bike portions of the plans, just inquiring about it. Certainly meant no offense to Chad.

I’m in the same boat as you (same age, even). I’ll probably always just do the swim workouts that my masters group does (3-4k, 3x/week). One of the reasons I ask is because in my self-coaching I end up basically doing a slightly modified bike training plus a slightly modified pure runner’s program, which generally means I think I beat myself up too much. So I’m actually drawn to the simplicity of the TR tri plans. I’m really just trying to get an idea of what people’s experience has been with them. I have full confidence that my bike will improve, and I just want to make sure my run does too.

This is entirely true, IMO. I think a lot of self-coached triathletes do this because they think they should train like a runner, a cyclist, and a swimmer. The reality is, we have to train like triathletes. We can’t do the same volume as a runner might do for very long. For example, runners will usually have at least three and sometimes as many as five or even more key sessions a week. Some kind of tempo, some kind of speed, some kind of long run, a race-pace sim run, stuff like that. If you’re training for a 70.3 as I was last season, there’s no way I could tolerate a weekly long run of 15-16 miles, a tempo run of 45 minutes at or near race effort, PLUS a track session, and then maybe another volume recovery run… all that before my brick sessions… and then expect to have gas in the tank for quality bike sessions.

If you try to do three truly quality sessions a week in each sport, you’re doing 9 quality sessions, doubling up two or three days… yeah… there’s just no way I could do that, sustain a job and be a dad and not be the most miserable cuss to live with in the history of man.

I had good success with two key sessions in each sport, an easy third session, and then for a run a short 15-min race-pace brick off of a key bike workout. I could tolerate 3 moderate/difficult swims per week because it just doesn’t take the same physical toll. So I think your masters plan is probably just fine.

Based on my reviews of the TR tri plans, if you can sustain the volume and get your pace/HR/power zones down for the run and swim such that they meet the intent of the prescribed RPEs, that would be more than enough. I think Chad did a good job of describing the intent of the run workouts so an experienced self-coacher could know how to tailor the workouts. The question for me would be making sure I knew which were my key sessions so when I started to feel cooked I knew when I could back off and which sessions I could/should move, but that’s largely individual based on strengths and weaknesses relative to goal events.


I like the swim training… although I do tweak it, usually by doing the swim intervals of a level above my running / cycling (e.g., I tend to do the low volume tri plans, but follow the mid volume swim workouts; and when I did the mid volume plans, I was about 50/50 for doing mid-volume and high-volume swim workouts).

I mentioned this in another thread, but I don’t like doing the run training. Not because it’s bad, but I find it somewhat clinical and monotonous. I’m also probably spoiled, having run with a few different groups where a coach was picking out different routes that worked well for different types of workouts, durations, etc. That makes it easier to focus on RPE (starting / stopping intervals at landmarks is way easier than checking your watch) and enjoy the scenery. (Although there have been some run routes suited to particular kinds of workouts where just going there reminds me of the pain I’m about to receive…) On the flip side, running with a dedicated running group risks pushing you too hard on the most injury-prone sport. :frowning:

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I had my best year yet following the Olympic, then Half mid volume plans. I followed the bike and run to a T. The only thing I changed was the swimming. I substituted the Shelia Taormina Swim Speed Workouts for most of the swims and also followed a lot of the Tower 26 recommendations for open water swimming. I think you would have success with the swim plans as is. I just felt like I could use more volume and specificity for what I was trying to do.

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This is true. However we all have different tolerance and response to training both depending on age, ability to recover and how long you have been training. “The more you train the more you can train” is very true - my average training week this year has been just over 15 hours with a reasonable number of sessions with intensity, but I’ve built up to that over a number of years. I found out a few years ago that jumping straight into a higher volume of training was a recipe for injury.

I tend to mix and match plans from various sources usually based around the TR cycling plans, most often the Sweet Spot Base and Sustained Power Build. I’ve not often used the Speciality plans - last year in the 7 years of using TR was my first time of following fairly closely the IM Speciality plan as I had a late season race and an 8 week block to lead up to it.

I’ve tended to use Pfitzinger running plans (although have dabbled in MacMillan plans) usually running 4 times a week, a long run, an interval run of some sort, one easier run with some strides and a run off the bike.

Along with the above, one of the other difficulties for creating off the shelf triathlon plans as opposed to cycling plans is that we all to come to triathlon from different backgrounds. Any plan provided generically has to be relatively balanced and that doesn’t suit some (most?) triathletes. How many time do you hear "I’m training for a race and come from a running/cycling/swimming (delete as appropriate). What should my training look like?

The answer is that if you come into triathlon from another sporting background a balanced training plan isn’t generally the best for you. I think that it’s makes it much harder for any coach to provide an online plan as a resource as it necessarily has to be a fairly balanced approach both in terms of different sports and also potentially appeal to those doing their first race and those looking to be competitive towards the pointy end of the field.

It’s tough for any generic plan to fit any one athlete and their needs and while it’s true to a some degree with cycling plans it’s hugely more applicable to multi sport athletes.


I’m a fan of the TR triathlon plans, following the swim, cycle and run daily/weekly schedule as close as “other life” let’s me do so. I find the overall structure of rest / VO2 / tempo / endurance through the week blends each of the disciplines together very well. I do occasionally swop run or swim sessions with self selected ones (eg replacing swim speed intervals with “red mist” build-to-threshold intervals. I find my biggest challenge is scheduling in a couple of strength and conditioning sessions per week without to much disruption to the plans goals and outcomes - any advice on the MOST welcome. I’ve been using the TR triathlon plans for two years now, and guess what had 2 years of my most successful and rewarding results ever. And still achieving PBS in my late fifties (clearly underachieving for decades!). Great work TR, thank you.


As I’ve been trying to follow the spirit of the Oly mid volume running plans, I’ve still tailored it for my schedule. I run more during the base period so I’m not simultaneously trying to increase my long run while also adding in a bunch of intervals. I prefer to get up to a set running volume, then add in intensity. In years past during 100% self-planning I have crashed and burned increasing duration too much when it is time to increase intensity. I have to fit my swims in during lunch, so I do my own as I don’t really have time to do too many longer swims. If I want to get in enough volume I need to go more frequently.

I would consider if you follow the plans to the T, they can be pretty hard

Question - why do the cycling programmes have rest week every 4th week, but the triathlon programmes don’t? The triathlon programmes seem to have 6 fairly hard weeks in a row. Also quite surprised at how many really hard sessions are stacked back to back in the tri plans - VO2 max / threshold efforts in bike, run, swim back to back without many recovery days… Thoughts?

I think it is as simple as “keep hard days hard, easy days easy” that principle should to the day in its entirety - not just one workout.

As for the 6-week cycle, it is no different to what we see in the SSB plans. If you’re struggling with it there is plenty of advice in the podcasts on how to add extra rest.

so, somewhat related, but what is a “CU” drill, a “K” drill, a “F” drill? I have a lot of swim experience and can guess that CU is Catch-up, and K is kick (though why you wouldn’t just say kick is beyond me), but “F”?

Also, if “K” is really kick, is this just kick, 6 beat on each side kick, whatever you want to do kick…?

Less abbreviations would be more beneficial in this instance, unless there is a definitions section I am missing.

Here’s the list of what those codes mean:

ugh, fist. I hate fist drill. Thanks Matthew.

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The half iron distance plans have cutback weeks every 4th week. Are you on an Oly/sprint plan?

LOL, as a long-time competitive swimmer, fist drill is about the only freestyle drill that I find any value in, anymore. Swim down, fist drill back, trying to keep the same stroke count. Really helps me focus on getting a “high elbow catch,” and on using that whole forearm to purll, not just my hand.

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