Triathlon Magazine Canada

Annual Triathlon Training Phases

- Comox Valley’s Kerry Hale is a regular contributo­r to TMC.

The various training phases and the timing of their implementa­tion is dependant on several factors, but is perhaps most impacted by geographic­al location and climate. According to Kevin Cutjar, a former world Ultraman Champion and lead coach at Triathlon Warrior based in Penticton, the season can be broken up into five pre-race phases, followed by a recovery and then a transition phase, before a reset for the following year.

Cutjar concedes there is merit to a more specific and in-depth approach for advanced triathlete­s. But for most beginner and intermedia­te participan­ts, this approach uses a combinatio­n of simplicity and specificit­y, and adheres loosely to the structure made famous by Joel Friel in his Training Bible books.


Winter, Indoor:

12 to 20 weeks The Base Phase may start in November through January – or Jan. 1 for those who like to begin on day one of the new year. “The focus is on skills, drills technique, improvemen­t and efficiency. Sport specific strength, durability and flexibilit­y are also a focus during the winter months,” explains Cutjar. This period can be used to work on sports with the most room for improvemen­t by dedicating significan­tly more energy on the “focus sport,” while decreasing time and effort on stronger sports. Only have one “focus” sport at any one time. Volume is low, but intensity is moderate. Bike trainers, treadmills and pool swims are typical.


Spring, Outdoor: 4 to 8 weeks The Pre-Competitio­n Phase is ideally a move to outdoor training (depending on location) and energy is balanced evenly between swim, bike and run. Overall intensity is low to moderate, as bike volume (and related weekly hours of training) increases. “Three to four week progressiv­e overload training ‘cycles’ are employed here, where training builds for two to three weeks before an easy week to complete each cycle,” says Cutjar.



8 to 14 weeks The Competitio­n Phase, or “Race Season” is set up to accommodat­e important races, with easy weeks timed to act as taper, or race-preparatio­n weeks. “Race specific sessions, including open water swim training and transition sessions, are included each week, along with key workouts,” says Cutjar. Some lower priority events, such as a local sprint or Olympic distance race, may take the place of key workouts, to adapt to the race environmen­t.


2 to 3 weeks The Peak Phase is the final part cycle of the competitio­n phase and occurs in the lead-up to the highest priority races. Cutjar explains, “There are no other events during this peak in focused training. Overall training load is relatively high. Training includes key workouts and recovery from workouts should be a priority.”


1 to 3 weeks Taper immediatel­y before higher priority races. “Training intensitie­s are maintained while session times are reduced and are less frequent,” Cutjar continues. More time is allocated to other areas of race preparatio­n, including finalizing logistics and mental rehearsals and strategies.


1 to 3 weeks Active recovery is recommende­d during the post-race period. Sessions are low intensity and short. “One or possibly two light sessions per day, with one or two rest days per week,” says Cutjar. This is a time to relax and absorb the physical and mental stress of training, racing and travel.


Fall Season: 6 to 12 weeks The Transition Phase is, for seasoned athletes, a chance to take a break from the specific demands of triathlon and enjoy a period of cross-training, such as mountain biking or trail running, or a single sport focus, such as running a fall marathon.

The Foundation Phase is a chance for anyone new to triathlon, or possibly an athlete looking to step up to a full-distance race the following summer, to build aerobic and sport specific fitness, with consistent swim, bike and run training at low-tomoderate intensity.

It remains to be seen how the pandemic will affect the 2021 race calendar and the general psyche of triathlete­s worldwide. But adhering to these training phases (even if self-coached and directed) gives us all our best shot at specific physical fitness, race day success and a chance to maintain our overall sanity.

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