ESP Tipcast 65 companion article: Applying 8 years of low-volume training

On Tipcast 65 I wrapped up my discussion on what I’ve learned from low volume training programs over the past 8 years and provided some ideas for how to develop a low volume program for triathlon and road cycling. In this companion article, I’ve provided some visual aids to take your program to the next level.

Getting Started

Before you start any periodization, take the time to go through this process. You can also review my earlier articles on choose the right approach. With all this done here are few ideas on fitting things together. You also want to rate yourself using a system similar to McMillan’s PRE; it is important to know how well you adapt to specific types of training, including HIT. If you’re a low responder, then less is often better.

Time-crunched Triathlete (i.e., your esteemed host)

Low volume triathlon programs can be just as effective, and for some more effective due to the prevalence of overtraining in the triathlon community. Who ever thought swimming 3-4 days per week at 6 am was a good idea needs their head examined! I respond best to HIT on the bike, so I emphasize that in the winter when my time is short, and the weather is questionable. Run training is made up of long easy runs, interspersed with Tempo and HIT, while swimming focuses on a lot of endurance work and good technique. Here’s what the first part of the year would look like starting in November:


Weeks             Swim                    Bike                      Run                 

1-3                    AC/technique        AnC/AC                 AC

4-5                    AC/AnC                 AC/Endurance      AnC/AC

6                       General recovery and assessments

7-9                    AC/technique        AnC/AC                 AC

10-11                AC/AnC                 AC/Endurance      AnC/AC

12                     General recovery and assessments/race

13                     Vacation/Training Camp

14                     General recovery

15-16                AC/AnC                 AC/MTB                AC/AP

17-18                AP                         AnC/AC                 AnC/AC

19+                   Race season, training gets complicated!


AC = Aerobic Capacity (High volume)

AnC = Anaerobic Capacity (HIT low work:rest)

AP = Aerobic Power (HIT high work:rest)

This is pretty general, but you may not that my priorities shift every couple weeks, but my swim training time stays consistent through most of the year, while distances vary based on AC work (more meters) or AnC and HIT (fewer meters). Here’s how my training volumes shake out throughout most of the year:

Swim: 2 hrs (1.5 – 2.25 hrs)

Bike: 4 hrs (2 – 6 hrs)

Run: 2.75 hrs (2 – 4 hrs)

This leaves me with 8 – 9 hrs each week; rarely less than 6 or more than 10 hrs. Consistency in training schedules (i.e., when you train) each week is imperative when you’re a time-crunched triathlete.

Time-crunched Cyclist

Cycling is fairly easy plan training, particularly if you use a power meter. You can effectively plan your training load and tapering. Assuming that your training is limited to about 8 hrs over 3 days, a reverse periodization approach, with more emphasis on HIT in the late fall and winter, interspersed with some longer easier endurance rides as available. Here’s what that plan might look like:

Weeks         Day 1                    Day 2                        Day 3                

1-3               HIT 2.5                  Easy to Mod ride      HIT 2.5

4                  SIT 30                   Easy to Mod ride      Tempo blocks

5                  SIT 30                   HIT 2.5                      Complex ride

6                  General recovery and assessments

7-8               SIT 30/HIT 2.5       Easy to Mod ride      HIT 2.5

9-10             SIT 30/HIT 2.5       Recovery ride           Complex ride

11                General recovery and assessments

12-13           HIT 5                     Tempo blocks           Complex ride

14-15           HIT 1                     HIT (choice)              Easy/Long endurance

16                General recovery

17-20           Recovery ride       HIT (choice)              RACE + Ride


SIT 30 = 4-6X 30 sec sprints, 4 min rec

HIT 1 = 4-6X 1 min max intervals, 2 min recovery

HIT 2.5 = 3-4X 2.5 min max HIT, 4 min rec

HIT 5 = 3-5X 5 min @ 90% max 5 min power, 5 min recovery

Complex = Easy, Tempo and max efforts, and possibly some sprints

From week 20 (About 5 months in) its time to identify and specifically prep for key races. Being diverse but selective is the key to overall success; i.e., don’t put all your eggs in one basket by planning a 2-3 week block of goal races.

I hope that helps get you thinking on how to apply all this. If you have specific questions, email me, or if you are looking for help, checkout out our training options

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