Move up to Olympic distance on three training sessions a week

Check out our advice if you’re planning on moving up to Olympic-distance triathlons, from sprint distance, but pushed for time

How to move up to Olympic distance on three sessions a week

Do you have an eye on Olympic distance but can only fit in three training sessions a week? Don’t despair – it can be done but you’ll have to train smart, says Joe Beer…


That amount of time can still be very effective. Only training for three days does mean you have four to recover, but you’ll be putting several disciplines back to back, ideally tackling every sport in every training day. My ideas are:

Look at ways to combine sessions so that you’re time-efficient, using one training block to get two or even three sports achieved. For example, you could combine swim, bike and run sessions at the gym: swim 40mins; gym; bike 40-60 mins; run 20-30mins on treadmill.

Use one day to ride your race bike. This may be on the turbo in winter (e.g. 40-60min) and outdoors as light and weather allow in the spring (e.g. local routes that match your intended race terrain). If you live near a pool, then you could always use an evening session to run to the pool, swim, run back and finish on the turbo using your race bike set-up.

Use the weekend to slot in a longer bike into the plan, e.g. 1.5hrs, either as one stretch plus a run or to go to and from the pool, combined with a short brick run afterwards. Continuous riding helps leg endurance for the Olympic distance and, although indoors is time efficient, you may find road time makes you better at handling, gear selection and pacing.

Practise transitions: these are important as they take up significant time over short distances.

As many of your sessions will be 2-3 hours, it’s important to fuel them with carbohydrate sources (sports drinks, gels, bars and real foods). For Olympic distance you need to fuel to prevent bonking in the latter stages, so practise your tolerances and preferences to carbohydrate sources.

This early into this great sport of triathlon be sure you continue to enjoy sessions and look for progress in efficiency and ability to recover, not just doing more or always going right to the end of every session’s time allowance. It’s not about going faster in every subsequent session or looking to always be ahead year on year. Consistency and learning what makes you tick should be your focus from here on in.

(Image: Jonny Gawler)


Are you a time-constrained triathlete? How do you manage? Let us know in the comments!