Endurance training in 10 minutes

There are numerous books and articles about endurance training. Very fast they go into details and keep you wondering, what is really important and what is just a cherry on the top.

This article includes condense knowledge from:

  • Triathlon Training Bible (Joe Friel)
  • Training and racing with power-meter
  • 80/20 Triathlon Training
  • Fast-Track Athlete
  • Going Long
  • numerous individual articles

Use the below principles for any endurance sport you want as the training principles are universal. I am also providing some specific tips for triathlon training. Principles are arranged by importance.

Specificity principle

Spend most of the time training the sport you’ll compete in. Do other sports only if you want to restore your mental energy.

80/20 principle

The most important thing is that you define your training zones before you commence training. I recommend training with power meter, but heart rate monitor will also suffice. I advise you to establish 5 zones (recovery, endurance, tempo, lactate threshold and VO2 max (and beyond)) by adhering to this calculator.

Spend 80% of your training time (not distance!) in zones 1 and 2 (up to approx. 77% of HR max; for me it’s 150 bpm). Avoid zone 3 (except in the last 2 weeks before your race). Spend 20% of time in either zone 4 or 5 (92% of HR max and above).

If you want to learn more about the 80/20 principle, I recommend reading this article and skipping the book; everything you need to know is already in the article.

The goal is to accumulate as much training load in a week as possible, without over-stressing the body; by doing this you prevent injuries and overly sore muscles the next day, which usually requires a day or two off. To achieve this, increase training load gradually and split hard workouts evenly throughout the week, when possible.

For example:

  • instead of doing 1h 30min lactate treshold (LTHR) training in a single training, do two trainings; 30 min of LTHR training in one and 1h of LTHR training in the other session.
  • instead of accumulating 20min of VO2 max intervals in a single session, split it to 2 sessions evenly, each time 10 min of VO2 max intervals.

But, you cannot “split” the training session, which primary purpose is duration – i.e. “long-slow-distance” or LSD sessions. These have to be done in a single session; i.e. 2h run, 4h bike etc.

Season planning

Start with specific race preparation only 12-24 weeks before the race.

Make a recovery week once every 3 consecutive weeks of training.

Intervals in a nutshell

First 1/3 of your training cycle you should do predominantly endurance training and incorporate VO2 max intervals. As you come closer to 2/3 of your training cycle, you should focus more on LTHR intervals and decrease the number of VO2 max intervals.

In the 2/3 you should focus predominantly on LTHR intervals and do VO2 max intervals less and less often.

In the 3/3 of your training cycle you should skip VO2 max training alltogether and do only LTHR and tempo training in the last weeks prior to race.

Last 2-4 weeks before the race do predominantly endurance and tempo workouts. This is the only time that you train in zone 3, because this is also the zone you are going to compete in in training.


List of things with bad “bang for buck”:

  • bike technique skills (single leg drills, high and low cadence drills etc.) (They such mental energy, which shall be conserved for other interests or just for having fun on the bike)
  • brick workouts (I only do them for the reason of time efficiency. Trainingwise, I didn’t notice any improvement when I did it and when I didn’t)

Also, don’t stress if your training conditions are not ideal or different from best recommended method. For example, if you’re a triathlete you’re supposed to do all of your workouts on a TT bike in a position and on terrain that resembles race conditions and terrain. But, I would say this takes a lot of fun out of training. I do most of my FTP and VO2 max intervals on a road bike on a climb (and not on the flats/rolling terrain). I also do many long rides on my MTB, which has a very different position.

Strength training

Do strength training. And don’t try to convert strength training to endurance training e.g. by doing workouts with light weights and short recovery times.

Ironman specific tips

  1. Once you can swim 1 min 30 sec/ 100 m for the whole distance (3.8 km), swim only as much it is necessary for you to remain this swimming fitness. If you’ll want to improve from this speed, you’ll need to put in a lot of work for marginal gains. Spend freed time for improving your cycling or running.
  2. The more you manage to increase training load without overtraining, the better you are going to be prepared on a race day. In order to achieve that, try to distribute training load evenly throughout each training week. To do that, have more hard training days (breakthrough workouts) and less killer workouts. For example: instead of doing 3 x 20min at FTP in a single training, do 2x15min of FTP training in two separate training sessions. Also, instead of squeezing long ride and run into a single weekend, try to do a long run training during a week and only a long bike ride on the weekend. Doing “killer” workouts will impair your recovery and you won’t be able to put as much training load (TSS) into a week of training as if you would split the monster sessions.

Written by marko