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8-Week Olympic Distance Triathlon Training Plan

8-Week Olympic Distance Triathlon Training Plan exit swim

The Ultimate Performance Boost Using the 80/20 Polarized Training Approach

This Olympic triathlon training plan was written by Coach Karen Parnell at ChiliTri

Are you thinking of doing an Olympic distance triathlon this year? Maybe you have always wanted to do an “Oly” but have never been able to find the time? 

This plan will get you to the finish line of your triathlon and help you have fun training for it in just 8 weeks. It’s ideal if you have already completed a Sprint distance triathlon and want to step up to the Olympic distance.

This plan is designed to help you complete an Olympic or Standard distance triathlon which involves a 1,500m swim, 40km bike (24.8 miles), and a 10km run (6.2 miles).

The Olympic distance is a challenging race distance and consistency in your training is key to completing this endurance event. This plan will help keep you on track and motivated.

What to Expect With This Training Plan

Olympic Distance Triathlon Training Plan Cyclists in Mountains

This plan follows the 80/20 training methodology which means you will spend 80% of your time at low intensity building your aerobic capacity and 20% at high intensity to build your speed and anaerobic capacity. This way of training was identified by Dr. Stephen Seiler and has been used by professional and age group endurance athletes worldwide with great success. 

This plan uses Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and Heart Rate (HR) zones which are explained at the end of the article if you are unfamiliar with these approaches.

I would recommend including strength and conditioning and mobility sessions in your plan and I have put some suggestions for these are the end of the article along with videos of the different exercises.

Before you begin the plan, you should be able to comfortably swim and run for 40 minutes and cycle for 60 minutes. You should already be able to comfortably complete at least three hours of aerobic exercise per week. Week 1 starts at about 5 hours per week. 

I have set your rest day as a Monday as you will have longer workouts at the weekends so this will enable you to absorb this training fully before the next round of training sessions. 

Rest is crucial for triathletes as it facilitates muscle repair, prevents overtraining and injuries, supports your immune system, aids mental recovery, balances hormones, optimizes race-day performance, allows adaptation to training, replenishes energy stores, and contributes to overall well-being. 

Your 8-Week Olympic Distance Triathlon Training Plan

8-week Olympic Distance Triathlon Training Plan TT

Week 1

Monday: Rest and Recovery Day. You may like to do some gentle stretching today or mobility work (see a suggestion at the end of this article). 

Tuesday Run: Foundation Run 50 mins

  • Warm-up (WU) 5 mins in Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Main Set 40 min in Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • Warm down (WD) 5 min in Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Stretch after

Be disciplined with these runs and walk if your heart rate is getting too high.

Wednesday Swim: Swim test to benchmark where you are today. 900m/yds

  • WU 200
  • 400 best effort
  • 5 min active recovery
  • 200 best effort. Record your times
  • WD 100 any stroke easy effort.

Thursday Bike: Bike Intervals 38 mins

  • WU 5 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 5 mins Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • 18 mins Z3 (RPE4-6)
  • 5 mins Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 5 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)

Focus on your cadence and try to keep in the range of 80-90 rpm throughout.

Friday Swim: Cruise Intervals 1500m/yds

  • WU 4 x 50 drills, 300 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 5 x 100 Z3 (RPE4-6) Rest Interval (RI) 15sec
  • WD 300 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 200 any stroke easy

Suggested drills are the Closed Fist or Side-Kicking drills.

Saturday Run: Tempo Run 50 mins

  • WU 5 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 15 min Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • 10 min Z3 (RPE4-6)
  • 15 min Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 5 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Stretch after

Suggested pre-run drills are: High knees, butt kickers, A Skips and Carioca.

Sunday Bike: Cruise Intervals 90 mins

  • WU 10 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 20 mins Z2 (RPE1-2)
  • 3 x (5 mins Z3 (RPE4-6)/ 2 min Z1(RPE1-2))
  • 30 min Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 10 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Stretch after

Focus on keeping your cadence high. This can be completed inside or outside.

Week 2

Monday: Rest and Recovery Day. You may like to do some gentle stretching or mobility work today.

Tuesday Bike: Cruise Intervals 60 mins

  • WU 5 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 20 mins Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • 3 x 5 min Z3 (RPE4-6) / 3 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 5 mins Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 6 min Z1 (RPE1-2)

Wednesday Swim: Mixed Intervals 1750m/yds

  • WU 4 x 50 drill
  • 300m Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 5 x 100 Z3 (RPE4-6) RI15s
  • 250 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 5 x 50 Z4 (RPE7-8) RI20s
  • WD 150 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 100 Any Stroke easy

Thursday Run: Cruise Intervals 60 mins

  • WU 5 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 20 mins Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • 3 x (5 mins Z3 (RPE4-6) / 3 min Z1 (RPE1-2))
  • 5 mins Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 5 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Stretch after

Friday Swim: Aerobic Intervals 2000m/yds

  • WU 3 x 50 drills
  • 100 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 3 x 500 Z2 (RPE2-3) RI60s
  • WD 200 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 50 any stroke easy

Saturday Run: Foundation 90 mins

  • WU 5 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 80 min Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 5 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Stretch after

Sunday Bike: Cruise Intervals 120 mins

  • WU 10 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 20 min Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • 3 x (5 min Z3 (RPE4-6) / 2 min Z1 (RPE1-2))
  • 60 mins Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 10 min Z1 (RPE1-2)

Week 3

Monday: Rest and Recovery Day. You may like to do some gentle stretching today.

Tuesday Bike: Cruise Intervals 65 mins

  • WU 5 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 5 mins Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • 4 x (8 mins Z3 (RPE4-6) / 3 mins Z1 (RPE 1-2))
  • 5 mins Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 6 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)

Wednesday Swim: Foundation 1500m/yds

  • WU 4 x 50 Drills
  • 100 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 2 x 450 Z2 (RPE203) RI30s
  • WD 200 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 100 any stroke easy

Thursday Run: Aerobic Intervals 90 mins

  • WU 10 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 4 x (15 min Z2 (RPE2-3) / 5 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Stretch well after last 5 mins interval

The focus here is to be disciplined to stay in the right zones.

Friday Swim: Cruise Intervals 2000m/yds

  • WU 4 x 50 drills, 50 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 10 x 100 Z3 (RPE4-6) RI15s
  • 500 Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 150 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 100 any stroke easy

Saturday Run: Cruise Interval 60 mins

  • WU 5 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 10 mins Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • 4 x (7 mins Z3 (RPE4-6) / 2 mins Z1 (RPE1-2))
  • 5 min Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 5 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Stretch after

Sunday Bike: Aerobic Intervals 150 mins

  • WU 30 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 4 x (20 mins Z2 (RPE2-3) / 10 min Z1 (RPE1-2))
  • WD is last Z1 interval

Week 4

Monday: Rest and Recovery Day. You may like to do some gentle stretching today.

Tuesday Run: Foundation 90 mins

  • WU 5 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 80 min Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 5 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Stretch after

Wednesday Swim: Swim test to assess your progress. 900m/yds

  • WU 200
  • 400 best effort
  • 5 min active recovery
  • 200 best effort. Record your times.
  • Warm down 100 any stroke easy effort

Did you improve your times from your last test?

Thursday Bike: Tempo 60 mins

  • WU5 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 15 min Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • 20 min Z3 (RPE3-4)
  • 15 min Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 5 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)

Friday Swim: Cruise Intervals 2000m/yds

  • WU 4 x 50 drills
  • 300 Z1
  • 5 x 100 Z3 RI15s
  • 500 Z2
  • WD 300 Z1
  • 200 any stroke easy

Saturday Run: Tempo 50 mins

  • WU 5 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 15 min Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • 10 min Z3 (RPE4-6)
  • 15 min Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 5 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Stretch after

Sunday Bike: Cruise Intervals 90 mins

  • WU 10 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 20 mins Z2 (RPE1-2)
  • 3 x (5 mins Z3 (RPE4-6)/ 2 min Z1(RPE1-2))
  • 30 min Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 10 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Stretch after

Focus on keeping your cadence high. This can be completed inside or outside.

Week 5

Monday: Rest and Recovery Day. You may like to do some gentle stretching today.

Tuesday Brick: Bike to Run Session (Brick)

  • Bike 60 min Z1-Z3 (RPE1-6)
  • Run 30 min Z1-Z3 (RPE1-6)
  • Stretch well after

Wednesday Swim: Cruise Intervals 1900m/yds

  • WU 4 x 50 Drills
  • 300 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 3 x 300 Z3 (RPE4-6) RI15s
  • WD 300 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 200 any stroke easy

Thursday: Extra Rest Day

Friday Swim: Foundation 2000m/yds

  • WU 4 x 200 drills
  • 100 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 2 x 700 Z2 (RPE1-2) RI30s
  • WD 200 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 100 any stroke easy

Saturday Run: Foundation 105 mins

  • WU 5 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 95 min Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Stretch after

Sunday Bike: Foundation 150 mins

  • WD 10 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 60 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 60 min Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 10 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Stretch after

Week 6

Monday: Rest and Recovery Day. You may like to do some gentle stretching today.

Tuesday Swim: Cruise Intervals 2500m/yds

  • WD 4 x 50 Drills
  • 300 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 5 x 300 Z3 (RPE4-6) RI15s
  • WD 300 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 200 any stroke easy

If you have not done so already, it’s time to put on your wetsuit and swim in open water to practice your open-water skills.

Wednesday: Extra Rest Day

Thursday Brick: Bike to Run Session

  • Bike 60 min Z1-3 (RPE1-6)
  • Run 30 min Z1-3 (RPE1-6)
  • Stretch well after

Friday Swim: Aerobic Intervals 2500m/yds

  • WU 250 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 4 x 500 Z2 (RPE2-3) RI60s
  • WD 250 Z1 (RPE1-2)

Saturday Run: Foundation 90 mins

  • WU 5 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 80 min Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 5 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Stretch after

Sunday Bike: Foundation 150 mins

  • WD 10 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 60 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 60 min Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 10 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Stretch after

Week 7

This week you should train in your race kit and lock down your nutrition strategy.

Monday: Rest and Recovery Day. You may like to do some gentle stretching today.

Tuesday Bike: Foundation 45 mins

  • WD 5 mins Z1(RPE1-2)
  • 35 min Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 5 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Stretch after

Wednesday Swim: Cruise Intervals 2500m/yds

  • WU 4 x 50 Drills
  • 300 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 5 x 300 Z3 (RPE4-6) RI15s
  • WD 300 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 200 any stroke easy

Thursday Brick: Bike to Run Session

  • Bike 60 min Z1-3 (RPE1-6)
  • Run 30 min Z1-3 (RPE1-6)
  • Stretch well after

Friday Swim: Aerobic Intervals 2500m/yds

  • WU 250 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 4 x 500 Z2 (RPE2-3) RI60s
  • WD 250 Z1 (RPE1-2)

Saturday Run: Foundation 90 mins

  • WU 5 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 80 min Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 5 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Stretch after

Sunday Bike: Foundation 120 mins

  • WU 10 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 40 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 60 min Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 10 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Stretch after

Week 8

Monday: Rest and Recovery Day. You may like to do some gentle stretching today.

Tuesday Run: Cruise Intervals 30 mins

  • WU 10 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 3 x 3 min Z3 (RPE4-5) / 2 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • WD 5 min Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Stretch after

Wednesday Swim: Short Intervals 1750m/yds

  • WU 250 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 500 Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • 10 x 25 Z5 (RPE9) RI10s
  • 500 Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 250 Z1 (RPE1-2)

Thursday Bike: Foundation 30 mins

  • WU 5 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 20 mins Z2 (RPE2-3)
  • WD 5 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Stretch after

Friday Swim: Cruise Intervals 1500m/yds

  • WU 4 x 50 drill
  • 300 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 5 x 100 Z3 (RPE4-6) RI15s
  • WU 400 Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • 100 any stroke easy

Saturday Brick: Bike to Run

  • Bike Easy 20 mins Z1 (RPE1-2)
  • Run 10 mins (Activation): WU 5 min Z1, 6 x 20 sec Z4 (RPE7-8) / 40 sec rest. WD and stretch.

Sunday: RACE DAY!

80/20 Training Methodology Explained

olympic distance triathlon training plan swimmer

This plan follows the 80/20 training methodology which means you will spend 80% of your time at low intensity building your aerobic capacity and 20% at high intensity to build your speed and anaerobic capacity. This way of training was identified by Dr Stephen Seiler and has been used by professional and age group endurance athletes worldwide with great success.

Here are the benefits associated with this approach:

  • Efficient Fat Burning: Low-intensity training enhances fat oxidation, promoting efficient fat burning during workouts.
  • Reduced Injury Risk: Prioritizing low-intensity exercise minimizes the risk of overtraining and injuries often associated with high-intensity workouts.
  • Improved Recovery: The balance between low and high-intensity training allows for better overall recovery, reducing the likelihood of burnout.
  • Enhanced Aerobic Capacity: The focus on low-intensity training improves your aerobic capacity and endurance, providing a solid foundation for overall fitness.
  • Sustainable Long-Term Approach: The balanced approach is more sustainable over the long term, making it easier for you to adhere to your training routine.
  • Optimal Performance Gains: Incorporating high-intensity workouts strategically helps improve your anaerobic capacity and performance in shorter bursts of intense activity.
  • Adaptability to Various Fitness Levels: 80/20 training can be adapted to accommodate different fitness levels, making it accessible for both beginners and seasoned athletes.
  • Prevention of Plateaus: The variation in training intensity helps prevent performance plateaus by continuously challenging your body in different ways.

Olympic Triathlon Training Plan Zones

8-week olympic distance triathlon training plan swimmers exit water

This plan uses Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and Heart Rate (HR) Zones if you use a heart rate monitor.

RPE stands for Rate of Perceived Exertion, and it is a subjective measure used to gauge the intensity of physical activity based on an individual’s perception of effort. The scale typically ranges from 0 to 10, with 0 being no effort at all (complete rest) and 10 representing maximal effort (maximum exertion). 

Triathletes and other athletes often use RPE to adjust their training intensity based on how hard or easy an activity feels, taking into account factors such as fatigue, environmental conditions, and overall fitness.

The diagram below details your training zones:

Heart Rate Zones & RPE Chart: Z1-Z6

Key to your training plan:

  • Brick = Bike to Run session where you go from the bike to run as quickly as you can.
  • Reps = Repetitions
  • RI = Rest Interval
  • RPE = Rate of Perceived Exertion
  • WD = Warm Down
  • WU = Warm Up
  • Z = Heart Rate Zone

Always check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program or training plan.

Triathlon Strength and Mobility

Strength Training Triathlon Fundamentals

I would strongly recommend doing at least one strength training session and one mobility session per week. Here are examples of a time-efficient strength session and mobility session:

Triathlete Strength Session

Here’s a short bodyweight training session tailored for triathletes, focusing on overall strength and stability:

1. Bodyweight Squats (Quadriceps and Glutes):

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Lower your body by bending your knees and hips, keeping your back straight.
  • Go as low as comfortable without compromising form.
  • Push through your heels to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 1-3 sets (depending on your level of fitness) of 15 reps.

2. Push-Ups (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps):

  • Start in a plank position with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Lower your body by bending your elbows while keeping a straight line from head to heels.
  • Push back up to the starting position.
  • Perform 1-3 sets (depending on your level of fitness) of 12-15 reps. Push-ups can be challenging so you can start be performing the move on your knees and progress to your toes over time

3. Lunges (Legs, Glutes):

  • Stand with feet together.
  • Take a step forward with one foot and lower your body until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Push back to the starting position and switch legs.
  • Complete 1-3 sets (depending on your level of fitness) of 12 reps on each leg.

4. Plank with Shoulder Taps (Core, Shoulders):

  • Start in a plank position on your hands.
  • Tap your right hand to your left shoulder, then left hand to right shoulder.
  • Keep your hips stable and minimize body rotation.
  • Perform 1-3 sets (depending on your level of fitness) of 20 taps (10 each side).

5. Tricep Dips (Triceps, Shoulders):

  • Sit on the edge of a sturdy surface with hands placed next to hips.
  • Slide your hips off the surface and bend your elbows to lower your body.
  • Push through your hands to return to the starting position.
  • Aim for 1-3 sets (depending on your level of fitness) of 12-15 reps.

6. Plank to Downward Dog (Core, Shoulders, Hamstrings):

  • Start in a plank position on your hands.
  • Lift your hips towards the ceiling, bringing your body into an inverted V shape.
  • Return to the plank position.
  • Repeat for 1-3 sets (depending on your level of fitness) of 12 reps.

Remember to warm up before starting the session and cool down and stretch afterward. Adjust the repetitions and sets based on your current fitness level and focus on maintaining proper form throughout each exercise. If you have any existing injuries or health concerns, it’s advisable to consult with a fitness professional or healthcare provider before starting a new exercise routine.

Triathlete Mobility Session

Mobility sessions are crucial for triathletes as they enhance flexibility, reduce injury risk, and improve overall performance by optimizing joint range of motion essential for swimming, cycling, and running.

Here’s an example of a quick mobility session:

1. Standing Quad Stretch

  • Perform 4 sets of 10 seconds per side.
  • Stand on one leg, bend the opposite knee, and bring the foot towards the glutes for a quad stretch.

2. Psoas Stretch

  • Perform 4 sets of 10 seconds per side.
  • Kneel on one knee and lunge forward, feeling a stretch in the front of the hip and thigh.

3. Calf Stretch

  • Perform 4 sets of 10 seconds per side.
  • Place hands on a wall, extend one leg back, and press the heel into the ground to stretch the calf.

4. Plantar Stretch

  • Perform 4 sets of 10 seconds per side.
  • Sit on the ground with one leg extended.
  • Use your hand to flex and point your foot, actively stretching the plantar fascia on the bottom of your foot.
  • Switch to the other leg and repeat.

5. Thoracic Spine Rotation (Upper Back and Core)

  • Kneel on the ground with hands under shoulders.
  • Rotate your upper body to the right, reaching your right arm towards the ceiling.
  • Return to the center and repeat on the left side.
  • Perform 10 rotations on each side.

6. Cat-Cow

  • Perform 8 reps.
  • Start on hands and knees, arch your back upwards (cat), and then lower it while lifting your head and tailbone (cow).

Remember to breathe deeply and consistently throughout each stretch, and focus on smooth, controlled movements. Adjust the intensity and duration based on your comfort level, gradually progressing as your mobility improves. 

This routine is designed to enhance flexibility, reduce muscle tension, and improve overall mobility, making it suitable for triathletes or anyone looking to improve their range of motion. 

From the Coach

Good luck with your training and race day. If you have any questions about this plan, you can contact me at karen.parnell@chilitri.com.

Need a training plan? I have plans on TrainingPeaks and FinalSurge. I also coach a very small number of athletes one-on-one for all triathlon distances, open water swimming events, and running races, email me for details and availability.

Karen Parnell
Karen Parnell
Triathlon Coach at Chili Tri | Website

Karen Parnell is a Level 3 British Triathlon Coach, 8020 Endurance and IRONMAN Certified Coach, WOWSA Level 3 open water swimming coach, and NASM Personal Trainer and Sports Technology Writer. Learn more about Karen.