Key Workouts for Your Next Sprint Triathlon

Sprint triathlons can be surprisingly tough, as most of the race can be close to and often beyond your lactate threshold. To learn to deal with this discomfort, it is important that you work to develop the ability to race at a high heart rate and power output. This type of training will help boost your LT and will improve your physical and mental ability to tolerate high levels of lactic-acid production.

The following sprint-specific workouts are short but intense and should only be used by triathletes who have a built a solid base over the winter months. Proper rest and recovery are especially important following these intense workouts; so be sure to schedule the appropriate number of easy recovery or complete off days in between these efforts.

Now, blend some of the following key sprint workouts into your build-up (4 to 6 weeks out) to your opening sprint race of 2014, and kick-off your season with a PR.

Tempo Brick:

45 to 60-minute bike—warm-up and then include 4 x 5K intervals at race-pace effort (2-minute recoveries) on a course that simulates your A-race course.
15 to 20-minute run—following the bike effort, quickly transition to the run at your 5K race-pace.  Walk/easy jog for a few minutes for your cool down.

Track Brick:

Complete a 4 to 5-mile ride with the last mile at race-pace effort.  Then quickly transition to a 1-mile run on the track.  Build speed each quarter, so that the last quarter is at 5K race-pace effort. Complete this pattern 2 more times for a total of 12-15 miles of cycling and 3 miles of running. Following the last mile run, do a walk/easy jog for a few minutes for your cool down.

TABATA Bike Intervals:

45 to 60-minute bike—warm-up well and then complete 8 x 20 seconds “all-out” with 10 seconds easy spin-rest interval. Complete an easy spin for your cool down.

30-30’s Bike Intervals:

Warm-up well and then complete 15-20 x 30 seconds at 90% effort (9 on 1-10 RPE scale) with 30-second easy spin recoveries. Cool down with an easy spin to round out the 45 to 60-minute session.

TABATA Run Intervals:

30 to 45-minute run—warm-up and then complete 8 x 20 seconds “all-out” with 10 seconds easy spin-rest interval. Walk/easy jog for a few minutes for your cool down.

30-30’s Run Intervals:

30 to 45-minute run—warm-up well and then run 5-20 x 30 seconds at about 20 seconds per mile faster than your 5K race-pace per mile. Recover by jogging easily for 30 seconds after each interval, and then easy run for the remainder of the session, ending with a short walk for your cool-down.

Fast 50s Swim:

WU: 200 easy swim, 100 easy free kick with board, 2 x 100 drill by 25s.
Drill is 25 right-arm, 25 left-arm, 25 catch-up, 25 fast swim.
(For an explanation on swim drills, go to )

4 x 50 descending (30”).
50 kick easy.
4 x 50 holding fastest 50 time from previous set (30”).
50 kick easy.
CD: 100 easy swim, 100 easy free kick with board.

Speed-Play 75s Swim:

WU: 100 swim, 50 kick, 50 drill (25 right-arm, 25 left-arm).
MS: Recoveries are indicated in parentheses as seconds.
4 x 75 done as 25 easy, 25 fast, 25 easy (15”).
50 kick easy.
4 x 75 done as 25 fast, 25 easy, 25 fast (30”).
50 kick easy.
4 x 75 done as 25 easy, 50 fast (30”).
CD: 200 easy swim.

Here is a sample build week:

Monday: 45 to 75-minute rolling run, easy effort
Tuesday: 30-minute Tabata run & swim-Fast 50s
Wednesday: 30-45 minute form swim including drill work and fast form 25’s (10” RI)
Thursday: 45-minute 30-30 bike (can follow with a 15-minute transition run)
Friday: OFF
Saturday: 1.5 to 2.0 rolling bike & swim-Speed Play 75s
Sunday: Track brick

 Karen Buxton is Level-III USA Triathlon certified coach with over 25 years of coaching experience and author of The Triathlete's Guide to Off-Season Training. Coach Buxton works with athletes of all abilities online and in person. Find out more about Coach Buxton at or contact her and take the next step towards targeted training for maximum benefits.

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