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Triathlon brick training explained

triathlon brick training

What is a brick session?

Triathlon brick training is a way of making training more race-like. And it is a great way to shake up the monotony of training. Brick sessions are a workout where you first ride your bike and follow up with a run directly after.

There are many benefits to doing your brick-sessions.

TOT team

Why is it called a brick session?

Well, there are many theories as to why it is called a brick. One popular explanation is that the name comes from your legs feeling like bricks when starting running after you get off the bike.

How often should you do it?

This all depends on your experience as a triathlete, what distance you are racing, and your goal. 

Short distance triathletes often do far more brick sessions than long-distance triathletes. This is because of the fast-paced racing that they do. And because at those speeds, every second count. So working on fast transitions is crucial. For triathletes who focuses on the Ironman-distance, the speed in transitions aren’t as important. With that said, even if you are a long-distance triathlete, you should still plan for a couple of brick-sessions.

You have to take your goal into consideration. Are you going for the podium? Then every second count.

How far should it be?

Again, depending on your chosen race distance.

Sprint- and Olympic-distance racers, the brick workouts will be in the range of half your race distance up to race-distance. If you are training to race a half-ironman, you’ll probably do brick-sessions that are about 25-50% of your race distance. Being a long-distance triathlete, the brick-sessions becomes less important per se, but the “big days” becomes even more important.

What can triathlon brick training look like?

  • Plan your T2
  • Place all your gear for the transition in order.
  • Do your bike session
  • Last five minutes of your bike, start planning your transition.
  • Do a transition putting on your run-gear.
  • Go out for a run. 
triathlon brick training

What is the purpose of a brick session?

As with everything in training. You need to have a purpose with it, otherwise, what is the point of doing it? 

There are many benefits to doing your brick-sessions. The purposes can vary, for example here are a couple of things that you can focus on during the brick:

  • Getting comfortable in the transition from bike to run.
  • Getting the feel for going out for the run on tired legs.
  • Break the monotony of your regular training regiment.

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Big days – A part of triathlon training

Training in race like conditions

Your training should become more like racing the closer you get to your goal. So whether you are racing short- middle- or long distance. You need to get the feeling for how your body and mind will react simulating race-mode. Welcome to your Big day of training!

Triathlon doesn’t build character. It reveals it.


During the build phase of our training programs, our clients have a planned Big day, where we simulate racing, but in a way so that it won’t take away from the following sessions. We have one Big day during the race-specific training, that one being even more like your planned race day.

The sessions, as in the swim, the bike and the run is the easy part. With sessions being somewhat straight forward. The focus here is not just training in a high volume. Instead, you want to dial in your plan for everything surrounding your race day.


Triathlete open water training

Wake up early and have the breakfast you are planning on having. As an example, Most Ironman races start at 07:00, so to simulate that. Wake up at 04:30 to eat a light breakfast. At 07, start your swim as racelike as possible. If you plan on sprinting the start, do it in training as well. 

After the swim, take a 90-minute break. Eat a light snack, and stay off of your feet. 


Bike training for triathlon

Depending on your planned race-distance and ambition, this ride will be a little bit different. But as a general rule, ride at your planned race effort for 80% of the time it will take you to bike during competition.

Since biking is such a big part of the triathlon, around 50% of the time at the race will be spent in the saddle. You need to be focused during this part. Not only should you try to ride at race intensity. You should also take in energy like you where racing. Your mind will wander off, that’s normal. When it happens, don’t beat yourself up. Just get back into it. Ask yourself these questions: Am I thirsty? Do I need more energy? Is my power output dialed in? How’s my breathing? How do my legs feel?

After the bike ride, take a 60 to 90-minute break. Eat something light, mostly liquids. Keep off of your feet.


Run training for triathlon

Depending on what distance you are racing. Your run should be between 20-30 minutes (sprint), 1 hour (middle) or 2 hours (long-distance).

Start your run slow. You will probably be quite stiff from the bike leg. Don’t worry, you will get into it! Wear what you will be wearing during racing. Same shoes, same clothes and other gear you are planning on wearing on race day. It is a good idea to plan your run so that you come back to a place where you can have your own energy station multiple times. 

It’s the same as with the bike. You want to keep focused and ask yourself these questions often: Am I thirsty? Do I need more energy? Is my power output dialed in? How’s my breathing? How do my legs feel?

Ending your Big day

When you have finished your run, take some time to come back from your race-mode. This has truly been a BIG DAY. And now you will have gained lots of insights into how it will feel like, and what works for you. Make a list, writing down some learnings on what worked for you.

“Winning doesn’t always mean getting in first place, it means getting the best out of yourself”

Meb Keflezighi

Saturdays are perfect

Planning your big days, try to do it on Saturdays. Then you can take Sunday off and do other things. I suggest one of these two activities:

  • Bake something from scratch and treat your loved ones with the newly baked goods.
  • Ask somebody to teach you about their passion, and if they want to share it with you.

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Bike training at home – Motivational indoor cycling

Bike training for the off-season

The autumn and winter season (also known as the pre-season) is the period when you build the foundation for the upcoming racing season. For us who live above the equator, the weather presents a challenge, especially for bicycle training. Sure, many people pedal all year round. But for those of us who are a little more “human” and refuse to spend more time putting on clothes than cycling, the alternative becomes simple. Bike training at home.

“Don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades”

Eddy Merckx

Whether you choose to work out at the local gym’s exercise bike, or if you set up your own bike on a so-called trainer, indoor cycling generally makes your surroundings moan an “oh that’s boring”. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut, and the fact is that it is probably just to start being on your grind.

There are several ways to distract yourself. Everything from watching all the series and documentaries that you missed, or gathering a bunch of like-minded people and suffer together (called a triathlon club), and / or following a structured and motivational training program… you get it!?

Motivational bike training

A good workout is within a context (your training plan) and is not a stochastic phenomenon. In addition, the content is structured in such a way that you both increase your capacity and feel motivated to do it. After all, at the end of the day, it’s all about having fun. If it is not, then you will soon have to re-prioritize in your everyday life.

The keyword is thus motivation.

Within the framework above, your bicycle training should contain at least two components,

  • High cadence training.
  • Training on your so-called Sweet Spot.
Cyclist on bike trainer

High cadence training

The basic idea of training with high cadence (+110 rpm) is to teach the body to quickly “push yourself and relax”. Most of us are most efficient cycling with a cadence between 90-100 rpm because it won’t wear you out. (read: it takes longer to get tired).

If you have never exercised at that cadence, you will initially experience that your heart rate is rushing and that you are breathing heavy.

We use high cadence in all our programs, and in several ways. Often to “spin out” the legs and the lactic acid that comes from a previous interval. Most commonly, however, the exercises with high cadence are included in the warm-up and as part of technique training.

Examples of warm-up exercise,

5 * [1 min spinups, max cadence (+120 rpm) with light gear + 1 min cycling light, cadence 90]

Bike training session

Training at your sweet spot

Your Sweet Spot is defined by training at an interval slightly below your functional threshold. About 88-93% of your FTP, to quantify it.

The name (Sweet Spot) comes from the fact that the training here is reasonable based on how much it can burn (oh, the sweet burn!), while also being able to maintain the intensity for a fairly long time. It also turns out that this type of training is the one that best contributes to increasing your functional threshold.

Usually, we put in training at Sweet spot as part of a longer workout.

Examples of Sweet spot,

10 minutes in your sweet spot right after an endurance building series.

Biking in your sweet spot

Read more about triathlon training and racing

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Triathlon transitions – not a place, a part of racing

The transition in triathlon

Lost in transition

The transition area is the big, chaotic place where the “fourth sport” in triathlon takes place. This is where all your gear is between the sports, and where you change gear during racing. The times that you spend in this area during racing are called T1 and T2. And stand for transition one (swim to bike) and transition two (bike to run).

You have trained well and shaved time off of all the disciplines, but maybe haven’t practiced the transitions, losing time and momentum during this part of the race?

Time to talk about planning and preparing your transitions. We like to put time into our training programs to work on these skills.

Coming to the transition area

When arriving at the transition area, look for landmarks that can help you find your spot in it coming in from the swim and bike. So it will be easier to navigate when your race mode is on. 

Unpack your things, and structure all the gear so that you have easy access to everything and don’t need to start looking for things during the race. 

Did you remember to pack everything? Download our race day checklist so you won’t forget anything!

Transition 1 – swim to bike

Coming out of the water, take the goggles and swim cap of. And pull down the zipper on your wetsuit. Look for your landmark, and start navigating to your spot. When you arrive at your bike-rack, Take the wetsuit off and place it where it is not in the way for your bike or run gear. Put your helmet on, and then your race belt with your bib placed on your back. Depending on if your shoes are on your bike, or not. Put them on, or unrack the bike and head off to the bike-on area. Remember that it is not allowed to ride your bike inside the transition area.

Transition 2 – Bike to run

The last couple of K’s on the bike should be a time where you prepare your body for running. Loosen up your legs and take in some needed nutrition. 

Arriving at the bike off-sign. Get off your bike and look for that landmark again. Lead your bike back to the bike rack, and rack it. The take your helmet off and place it so that it won’t be in the way for any other racers. Put on your running shoes, and other gear you like to have during the run (hat, sunglasses et cetera). Flip your race belt around, placing your bib on the front of your body, and off you go!

Good luck with the run-leg. The finish line awaits!

– TOT Team
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Free trial week of triathlon training

Free triathlon training plan

Triathlon is as much a sport as it is a lifestyle. And with that comes structured training in three different sports. And the most important, to be able to find the time for your social life and recovery.

Start training with us

Based on how your situation and ambition, we deliver an individual plan for your triathlon training and racing. It starts with you, and for your training to become relevant and worth doing, we need you to answer a couple of questions. So please, fill out the form below.

  • Background

  • In case we need to contact you for follow up questions.
  • Training

  • Enter the date you think you are ready to start with your test week.
    Date Format: YYYY dash MM dash DD
  • A rule of thumb: Sprint (6-10h), Olympic (8-12h), Ironman 70.3 (8-14h), Ironman (10-14h)
  • Racing

  • If you have not yet decided, enter an approximate date.
    Date Format: YYYY dash MM dash DD
  • Other

Tips on how to choose your training volume

Everybody can train super hard, but the road to success in triathlon training comes with balance. You can read our series on how we structure our training programs and everyday life here.

When you define your training volume, our recommendation is,

  • Sprint distance, 6-10 hours
  • Olympic distance, 8-12 hours
  • Ironman 70.3 distance, 8-14 hours
  • Ironman distance, 10-14 hours

“If you set a goal for yourself and are able to achieve it, you have won your race. Your goal can be to come in first, to improve your performance, or just finish the race it’s up to you.”

Dave scott/

Triathlon training explained – The structure of your training week

Triathlon training explained

During the session, we will walk you through a typical week of triathlon training. And discuss topics like how to structure your season, as well as how much, how often, and how hard you should train.:::To download a free week of triathlon training, please go to our website ( and register.

Posted by TOT Triathlon on Wednesday, October 30, 2019

In the video above, we discuss how we structure a training week. Note that this week that we are using is situated in the pre-season, for a person that likes to train for eight hours per week. The Week will look a little bit different depending on what information you are posting in the form above. So, depending on your strengths and areas of improvement, plus how many hours per week you are able to train. Your sessions will be different. BUT, the structure of your training week will look quite like this!

Looking at a session

Bike workout explained

In your free trial week, or if you are training with us. You will see that our sessions are formed in such a way so that regardless of sport. The look and structure are the same. See the above picture as a map of how to read it.

What you need for triathlon training


  • Must have: Heart rate monitor for zone training (like a Garmin watch or equivalent)


  • Must have: Swimsuit, goggles and swim cap
  • Nice to have: Wetsuit, paddles, pull buoy and fins


  • Must have: Bicycle and helmet
  • Nice to have: So many other things!


  • Must have: Running shoes

Let’s go

Maybe I am biased, but triathlon training is the most fun you can have. So don’t wait, join the community and share the joy!

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5 easy steps to create your endurance training program

An introduction to TOT Endurance training philosophy, which helps you create your endurance training program in 5 easy steps.

Anyone who’s ever met an endurance athlete knows that they can be pretty single-minded – they love training and racing and tend to do it hard and often. However, we don’t necessarily believe that this is a fruitful approach. Yes, training is absolutely vital to success in swimrun and triathlon, but what about the quality of that training? 

Let’s face it, training can be pretty addictive, and most athletes enjoy the rush that they get from pushing themselves. However, like everything, this can become a negative, when done to excess. Unfortunately, we meet with too many athletes that assume that if they are not completely exhausted after each training session, then it was a waste of time. Add to this that it is all too common to train in a somewhat random fashion, without a clear race goal or training plan. 

These problems are often compounded when people are new to endurance sports – training for a big race can be a daunting task and if you don’t do it the right way, then you may find it difficult to achieve your goals or even worse, overtraining and getting injured. Note that the above is very common if an athlete trains without structure.

We believe that we can help – by enabling endurance athletes to add structure, shape, and purpose to their endurance training program. Simplifying the things that you need to do to succeed and then helping to design an individual training plan that will allow you to achieve what you want. Thus, we started TOT Endurance, with its sub-brands TOT Triathlon and TOT Swimrun – to help you to train smarter. 

This is the introduction to our article series on how to create your endurance training program and our philosophy about how we formulate our training plans.

Our training philosophy

We like to think about endurance training as a journey – not the kind of journey that you take to work, when all the matters is getting from point a to point b as quickly as possible, but the kind of journey that you take when you are backpacking, where the things that you do along the way are as enrichening as the destination itself.

Our training philosophy builds upon this insight, seeking to give structure, organization, and purpose to your training and racing season. So that you can be as motivated about the training, as you are about the big challenge at the end of it.

The journey is never easy, whether you plan to compete in triathlon or swimrun, whether the race is short, medium or long, whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned endurance athlete – you’re always going to face challenges along the way. However, those challenges become infinitely more daunting, if you approach your endurance training program in a chaotic manner.

Yet, it’s difficult and time-consuming to come up with a dedicated training plan. We all face real-world demands from family and work, not to mention all the other unexpected things that can spring up over the course of a season. Sprinkle endurance training on top and you have a serious balancing act on your hands. Professional athletes have teams of coaches and other specialists, so they can just focus on their training schedule, but that isn’t available to most people. 

We want to simplify and democratize endurance sports, opening them up to a far larger pool of people – because we passionately believe that with the right guidance anyone can achieve their endurance goals.

This is where our digital service comes in, acting like a digital coach that gives your endurance training purpose and helps you to achieve your goals. It designs an individual endurance training program based on your needs and allows you to take your training to the next level.

5 steps to successful training and racing

If you’re going to balance everyday life with the rigors of endurance training and racing, then you need a plan. This plan can be complicated or simple, but it needs to be realistic and well thought out. To help you discover this plan, we’ve developed five simple steps that will help you define your starting point, your goal, and your journey to get there. We’ll also help you answer how much, how often, and how hard you should workout. Then collate it all into a dedicated individual endurance training program.

In the following articles, we’ll walk you through – 

How to start endurance training – The best way to begin anything is with a realistic assessment of your own abilities – there’s no point in starting an astrophysics course without basic knowledge of maths. The same is true of endurance training, you need to have a realistic understanding of your physical and mental abilities, so you can make a good self-assessment and start at the right level.

Endurance training and racing – Most training seasons revolve around a main race. So, how do you identify it, and what are your training objectives? Do you have a specific time in mind or would completing it be an achievement in itself?

Training volume in endurance sports – You’ll need to slowly build up your capacity over the course of the season, via a series of training sessions. But how many hours do you need to train to achieve your goal – how much and how often do you need to work out?

Endurance training zones – The intensity of your training is vital. Whether you base your training on heart rate, pace or effect, your training zones are the foundation for all training and racing. How hard do you need to work out? How can you avoid overtraining?

Endurance training plan – Most things in life are about quality rather than quantity. Thus, you need to periodize your training. Training for training’s sake is much less helpful than targeted training with a specific purpose. This is why an individual training plan, with different phases, is so important. When do you train what?

Welcome to TOT Endurance

Read more about endurance training

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Individual triathlon training plan

Our free individual triathlon training plan will structure your triathlon season. It will answer how much, how often, and how hard you should train.

Whether you are a beginner and ask yourself – how to start triathlon training? – or a seasoned triathlete or endurance athlete, we know that you want to make the most out of your training effort.

So, for your training to become relevant, motivating, and also to help prepare for an upcoming triathlon race, you are served by an individual triathlon training plan.

How to structure triathlon training?

We help you to structure your training and racing season. Our coaching is based on your experience in triathlon, your current physical capacity, and your goal. Out of this, we provide you with a periodized triathlon training plan.

Your individual training program will then guide you in how much, how often, and how hard you should train.

Sign up for your own triathlon training plan

If you want our help to structure your training, register your information in the form below. We will then send you a recommended structure for free.

If you are a swimrunner, use this form instead.

  • Background

  • In case we need to contact you for follow up questions.
  • Training

  • Enter the date you think you are ready to start with structured training.
    Date Format: YYYY dash MM dash DD
  • A rule of thumb: Sprint (6-10h), Olympic (8-12h), Ironman 70.3 (8-14h), Ironman (10-14h)
  • Racing

  • If you have not yet decided, enter an approximate date.
    Date Format: YYYY dash MM dash DD
  • Other

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Training volume in endurance sports

We discuss how much and how often you need to train during your endurance training season, by focusing on the frequency and duration of your workouts.

We all have an unfortunate habit of assuming that more is always better – more knowledge is better than less knowledge, more money is better than less money, a faster car is better than a slower car. This problem is often more pronounced in successful people, who have spent their entire lives doing more and getting more out of the world. However, despite working in many situations, more isn’t always better. More has the potential to lead to a reduction in quality while doing things to excess can also lead to problems such as addiction.

This is the fourth in our series of articles on our training philosophy, check out the others here –

  1. Our philosophy
  2. How to start endurance training – define your baseline
  3. Endurance training and racing – finding your goal
  4. Training volume in endurance sports
  5. Endurance training zones – intensity in endurance racing
  6. Endurance training plan – how to periodize training

Endurance athletes are particularly prone to such thinking – planning to run for 26 miles, swim for 2.4 miles, and cycle for 112 miles, clearly shows that a person sees some value in the concept of more! This often extends to the volume of training an athlete does – it’s only natural to assume that 12 hours training is better than 11 hours training because 12 is more than 11. However, that fails to take a holistic approach to a training schedule – focussing on the quantity of training, rather than the quality of training.

Quantity vs quality

This debate between quantity and quality occurs in numerous other aspects of our lives. We usually come down on the side of quantity, because it’s much easier to identify quantity than it is quality. Imagine that you are working as a manager in a company and you have a choice between two prospective employees – one will do 40 hours of average work a week, while the other will do 2 hours of exceptional work each week and sit around doing nothing for the other 38 hours.

Every instinct in your body will probably tell you to hire, the worker who will do 40 hours each week because that is a greater quantity and thus, sounds better. However, in many cases, you may actually be better off getting the 2 hours of exceptional work, illustrating the difficulty that we have of selecting high-quality over, high quantity.

Volume vs intensity

The debate between quality and quantity in endurance sports can be simply expressed as – training volume (how much and how often) vs training intensity (how hard). Clearly, both are important, and you will never be able to complete an endurance race without some training volume. However, we believe that the intensity of your training is more important than how much you train. We think that you should judge success according to the quality of the training that you do, as opposed to the amount that you do.

So, instead of seeking to increase the amount that you train each week, we believe that you should seek to improve the quality of your training over time. This is why a periodized training plan is so vital, it allows you to improve the quality of your training in a coherent way and gives structure to your overall schedule. Endurance sports are all about doing the right things, doing them right, and doing them right consistently!

Enjoy the journey

This approach will save you time because you won’t have to keep adding volume to your training schedule each week; ensure that you don’t over-train; and allow you to stay motivated for your training each week. Endurance training is a journey, and you have to enjoy the journey because racing is a very small part of your overall commitment to endurance sports.

Every athlete has training they enjoy and training they do because they have to, and they don’t enjoy so much. Do the training you love, remind yourself why you do it and hopefully, it’ll all come good for you.

Alistair Brownlee, double Olympic champion in triathlon

In this article, we will explain the different parameters that you build your training plan around. Examining two of the following ideas in more detail –

  • How much should I train? – Training duration
  • How often should I train? – Training frequency
  • How hard should I train? – Training intensity

So, if we leave the last variable out for now (more about intensity here), and focus on duration and frequency…


Duration refers to how many hours you can commit to training. This is usually a highly personal decision, which is impacted by your friends, family and work commitments. Only you can know how many hours that you can commit, however, it’s important to be consistent – there’s no point in training 20 hours one week and 0 the next. 

As we saw in the article on goals, you generally need to commit the following numbers of hours a week to training to prepare for a race –

  • 6-10 Supersprint/sprint
  • 8-12 Sprint/Olympic/Middle distance
  • 10-12 Middle and long distance
  • 10-14 Long distance

However, this needs to be divided over the sports. Typically, for a triathlon, you’ll need to do double the amount of cycling than the other sports – so, if you plan to train for 8 hours a week, then you need to commit 4 hours to cycling, 2 hours to running and 2 hours to swimming.


As a general rule, it’s better to train for a short time and often, than for a long time and seldom. As we said earlier, endurance training is consistent work overtime. You have to gradually build your skills and fitness levels to do well in endurance sports.

Thus, your workouts should reflect this – even if you have scheduled your workouts a certain way that is not possible on a particular day – switch it to another day or shorten it so it can fit into your life.

Volume – the combination of frequency and duration

The training volume is what it is. If you have committed to training a certain number of hours on average, that is your base. Try to stick to this base as much as possible, to avoid the damage that can be done by overtraining or undertraining.  After that, you portion it out during your week to work out training frequency. Remember, when you are short on time, the recipe is to train more often (frequency) with a shorter duration, than to save everything until the weekend (less frequent with a high duration).

Finally, you have to take into account the intensity of the workout. Imagine that you are doing a really tough running session on Tuesday morning. Then, we do not recommend that you do another hard session in the evening. If you are doing two sessions close to each other, see to it that they match so that you can get as much out of it as possible. Training volume in endurance sports is very important. Regardless of if you are training for a sprint distance or a long distance, all endurance sports are built around training in higher volumes at a lower intensity.

Start training smarter

Our digital service will help develop a highly individualized training program. It seeks to understand you as an athlete and then help you find the right duration, frequency and intensity for your endurance training journey. If you’re interested in finding out more, then fill in the form below, or sign up and start training smarter.

If you are a swimrunner, use this form instead.

  • Background

  • In case we need to contact you for follow up questions.
  • Training

  • Enter the date you think you are ready to start with structured training.
    Date Format: YYYY dash MM dash DD
  • A rule of thumb: Sprint (6-10h), Olympic (8-12h), Ironman 70.3 (8-14h), Ironman (10-14h)
  • Racing

  • If you have not yet decided, enter an approximate date.
    Date Format: YYYY dash MM dash DD
  • Other

Read more about endurance training

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Endurance training zones – intensity in training

The fourth article in our series on endurance sports. We explain what a functional threshold is, how you can use this to measure how intense your workouts should be, and which training zones you should seek to train in.

Intensity levels of endurance training

Training intensity and how to measure it can often seem like an obscure concept that can only really be done by professional athletes and sports scientists. Questions such as “what is the lactic threshold” – appear to be unnecessarily complicated and not worth worrying about during your endurance training journey. However, they’re actually far simpler, than their complex names suggest and play a vital role in ensuring that you make the most out of your training plan.

In this article, we’re going to examine training zones in endurance sports – what they are, how you can measure them, and what they mean, before also looking at how you can implement your knowledge of them into your training schedule.  

This is the fifth in our series of articles on our training philosophy, check out the others here –

  1. Our philosophy
  2. How to start endurance training – define your baseline
  3. Endurance training and racing – finding your goal
  4. Training volume in endurance sports
  5. Endurance training zones – intensity in endurance racing
  6. Endurance training plan – how to periodize training

Functional threshold

The aim of endurance training is simple – to firstly discover your functional threshold, and then improve both the level of it and the period of time that you can operate at it.

So, what is functional threshold?

Your functional threshold is the maximum amount of hard exercise that you can sustain over a specific period of time (usually an hour). When Usain Bolt runs a 100m sprint he is operating significantly above his functional threshold, forcing his body to create energy anaerobically, which produces lactic acid, eventually meaning that he has to slow down. 

Sprint times are an excellent example of just how difficult it is to maintain hard exercise for long periods of time – the world record for 400m is 43.03 seconds, while the world record for 100m is 9.58 seconds. If you multiply the 100m time by four you get a value of 38.32, showing that even the best athletes in the world, can’t operate at maximum effort for around 40 seconds. 

To be an endurance athlete you have to be able to exercise for a lot longer than 40 seconds – meaning that you should forget any notions of going all out, all the time. Instead, you need to discover your personal functional threshold – the intensity of exercise that you can maintain, without having to stop.

How to measure intensity

Training intensity can be measured in the following ways –

  • Perceived effort – A relative measure that can be used for all sports.
  • Tempo – A measure that is usually used for swimming and running.
  • Power – A measure that is used with cycling.
  • Heart rate – A measure that is traditionally used with cycling and running.

Perceived effort

Perceived effort is often measured by the Borg-scale and can be hard to define. It’s a relative measure that allows you to apply a number between 6-20, to the amount of effort it takes you to do a particular activity. The lowest, which would have a rating of 6 would be something like reading a book, whilst the highest, which would have a rating of 20, would be something like the final kick in a sprint race that you really can only maintain for a couple of seconds.

However, there are obviously flaws to this, because our perceptions of how difficult something is can often be incorrect. For example, if you are training with a group, it is easier to get dragged into the “group psychosis” and go with the flow of the group. But, if you don’t have a heart rate monitor, tempo or power meter, then this is your best option.


The tempo is measured via the value of speed over a distance. It can be minutes per kilometer in running, time over 100 meters in swimming or kilometers per hour in cycling. This can be a good way of keeping track of your training, but it doesn’t take into account your form on a specific day. 

Imagine that you usually run a 10k in 45 minutes, which gives you a kilometer pace of 4:30 per kilometer. However, on some days, that tempo will be as tough as your usual time splits over a 3k run. You are not suddenly out of shape, but your body is trying to tell you something. Perhaps you have had a bad night’s sleep, are getting sick, or simply have something on your mind that prevents you from focusing? 

We use tempo to measure swim training zones, because it is the most reliable way – heart rate monitors are unreliable in water. This is most commonly expressed as T-pace, which is the amount of time it takes you to swim 100m.


Measuring power is mostly associated with cycling. Though we are seeing a rise of power meters for running, and power meters for swimming exist, but are rare. Your power is measured in watts. Watts is energy over time, fun fact: 1 horsepower is 735 watts. Power helps you to understand the number of calories that you are burning and by measuring the amount of power you produce; you will also gain an insight into how well your cardiovascular system is functioning.

Your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is the maximum amount of power that your muscles can produce, while still being able to remove lactic acid from them. Your aim is to train at this level for a long period of time, which will eventually increase your FTP, allowing you to operate at it for longer.

Heart rate

Heart rate is commonly used to measure your functional threshold for running and cycling. Your aim should be to discover your functional threshold heart rate, which is the maximum heart rate that your body can maintain, while still being able to remove lactic acid from your muscles.

Much like FTP with cycling, you then seek to train at (or below) this level for a long period of time, allowing you to travel at faster speeds over longer periods. Remember, you’re aiming to be an endurance athlete, not Usain Bolt, meaning that your functional threshold will be significantly lower, than your maximum all-out speed.

Using tests zones

To understand where your threshold is, you can do tests. And in our training programs, we regularly do tests in all sports. This is because your functional threshold is specific to each sport, so you might have a higher one for running, then you do for cycling. 

We take test values from –

  • Swimming – Time/100 meter
  • Cycling – Heart rate or power
  • Running – Heart rate or tempo

There is no magical test that will define your functional threshold for all sports. In swimming, you will not be able to get the same puls as in running or biking. And your power on the bike does not apply to your running. That is why you need to do sports specific tests. 

When you have your test scores, it is time to look at what intensity you should train at.

Endurance training zones

Once we have discovered your functional threshold, we will help you break your training down into 5 zones, in each sport, which are defined according to your functional threshold in that sport. We will examine the zones in more detail in a later article, however, as an example for running –

  • Zone 1 – less than 85% of LHTR
  • Zone 2 – 85-89% of LHTR
  • Zone 3 – 90% to 94% of LTHR
  • Zone 4 – 95% to 99% of LTHR   
  • Zone 5 – more than 100% of LTHR

(LTHR – Lactate Threshold Heart Rate)

Training intensity

Most people assume that athletes spend most of their time training in Zone 5 – putting in maximal training effort and reaping huge benefits from it. However, this is totally incorrect – most people should spend little to no time in zone 5, as training in zone 5 for too long, would inevitably lead to burn out or injury. 

You will train in zone 2 for the majority of your training volume, with most athletes spending up to 80% of their training in zone 2. With the remainder divided between zones 3-5. Zone 5 being around 5 – 15 percent depending on where you’re at in your season and your race distance. 

Training in lower zones will give you effect over the whole spectrum. Training in zone 2 and zone 3 will push your functional threshold upwards. This is because of the work done in the lower zones, will widen your range of those zones, and that will help to push your zone 4 upwards. Remember it’s impossible to train in Zone 5 for very long, meaning that the aim of most training programs is to make your scope to go into zone 5 less.  

When doing your training plan, you need to focus on these numbers. If you are unsure about anything in the top end of the zones. We recommend that you focus on zone 2 and zone 4. That will be the most beneficial.

To conclude, your training zones are individual, and not applicable to others. Therefore, you need to keep track of your own progress. Following other people’s training zones, no matter how good they seem, will never help, because your training zones are individual to you.

Do the right thing

We will help you to discover how intense your endurance training should be, allowing you to train smarter. Sign up, today, for an individualized plan that will allow you to add structure and purpose to your training program.

If you are a swimrunner, use this form instead.

  • Background

  • In case we need to contact you for follow up questions.
  • Training

  • Enter the date you think you are ready to start with structured training.
    Date Format: YYYY dash MM dash DD
  • A rule of thumb: Sprint (6-10h), Olympic (8-12h), Ironman 70.3 (8-14h), Ironman (10-14h)
  • Racing

  • If you have not yet decided, enter an approximate date.
    Date Format: YYYY dash MM dash DD
  • Other

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Triathlon race day checklist – All your essential gear

Packing list for triathlon

Doing a triathlon race, there is a lot of gear that you need to bring. Combining three sports into one is great, but logistics-wise? Well, it leaves you with something to think about. That is why we created this Triathlon race day checklist for all to download.

You have been training structured and disciplined for months coming up to this event. This is the culmination and reward of all that training! It would be a shame if you find yourself at the race having forgotten something that is essential for your racing. 

Take the chance to win a training program with us, joining our Race time prediction challenge. Where you try to estimate your finish time, the closest person to his/hers guess wins!

There is a lot to think about pre-race. So let us help you take your mind of some of it, helping out with this checklist for packing. Just follow our list, and you will have all the gear you need! 

Examples of things that can be easy to forget. Probably not the bike, but a bicycle pump is really easy to miss in packing. Same with a towel. 

We suggest printing this list and ticking off the boxes while packing. That way, when you arrive at your race, you can focus on your race. Not where you put that body glide.

This packing list is also perfect as inspiration for the beginner triathlete who os thinking about what gear you will need in your adventures in endurance sports.

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Alexander Graham Bell

Download our Triathlon race day checklist, and start packing!

Register below for your checklist and minimize your stress when it comes to race day.

  • If you have not yet decided, enter an approximate date.
    Date Format: YYYY dash MM dash DD
  • Choose how many hours you plan to train on an average per week. When you define your training volume, our rule of thumb is, Sprint distance (6-10 hours), Olympic distance (8-12 hours), Ironman 70.3 distance (8-14 hours), Ironman distance (10-14 hours).