Your Companion Guide to the Training Peaks

Beginner Triathlon Plan for Olympic Distance


Whether you’re a complete novice to triathlon or an experienced athlete coming back from a layoff, this plan will get you ready to comfortably finish an Olympic distance triathlon and become a Better Animal.

We will guide you to steadily build fitness as well as cover equipment, logistics, and nutrition needed to complete the distance of: 1.5km Swim, 40km Bike, and 10km Run.


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a group of women swimming in a triathlon in open water

The aBetterAnimal Approach

Prepare the Whole Animal

While the physical training for a triathlon is the biggest component of your preparation, there are many other elements to incorporate into your plan such as daily and race-specific nutrition, lifestyle, mindset, logistics, equipment, environment, and your support system.

Throughout the 14 weeks, we will incorporate these key components with the training to help you prepare as best possible for your race.

Prepare the Individual

While this plan lists specific daily work to do, it will almost certainly not work for you exactly as written.

We all have specific strengths, weaknesses, starting fitness, available hours, and life restrictions.  You will also have your own unique unexpected life interruptions that come along the way.  Use this plan as a rough guide towards your preparation and adapt it as you need.  

Within any training week, the sessions can be moved around to fit your schedule.   Recommendation: if/when you miss training, don’t be tempted to to load up the next days with the missed sessions–just let them go and continue the plan.  

There’s plenty of buffer built into the overall plan so that even with some missed some sessions, you will still be ready for race day.   

If you need a highly customized plan, I encourage you to find a local coach who can tailor your preparation to fit you.

an amateur triathlete running down the finishing chute

Three Phases Over 14 Weeks


3 weeks

1.  Build training consistency
2.  Get familiar with assessing your intensity levels, especially keeping work easy with basic endurance training (Zone 1 and 2)
3.  Swim technique focus areas
4.  Run strides–learn to move fast
5.  Daily logistics improvement
6.  Equipment: Well maintained bike and well fitted run shoes
7.  Identify areas of support


6 weeks

1.  Continue New Habits tasks and focus areas
2.  Extend training hours and length of individual sessions
3.  Introduce brick workouts and bike-to-run logistics
4.  Bike climbing skills
5.  Run cadence analysis
6.  Hydration and Fueling basics


5 weeks

1.  Continue skills and practices from the first 9 weeks
2.  Build to race distance duration
3.  Introduce higher  intensity (Zone 3 Tempo effort)
4.  Race Week Planning and Race Day Planning:
  • Equipment
  • Clothing
  • Race hydration and fueling
  • Race times and logistics
  • Course knowledge
  • Race rules
  • Wetsuits and open water swimming
  • Bike equipment and setup
  • Bike safety and maintenance
  • Transition setup

Starting Point Details

Below are are some times and distances we will cover in the first week.  Assess yourself to see if you can: 1) Do the minimums and 2) Have the overall endurance and time to complete 6 days of training during the course of the week.

Recommended minimum capabilities to start:

  • Swim:  Able to swim for about 30 minutes total time and about 300m without stopping using freestyle stroke
  • Bike:  Able to bike for about 45 min of steady pedaling (indoor or outdoor)
  • Run:  Able to run easy for about 30-40 minutes/5km without stopping
  • Training days per week:  You are consistently doing some endurance training 1-3 days per week or have a strong endurance background

There are a couple options if your current fitness is less than times/distances/days above.  One option is to just start the program and complete as much of each session as you can and allow your fitness to build.  This is most feasible ithere is only 1 of the 3 disciplines needed to get to the minimums.  The sessions in first 3 weeks of the plan are the same length from one week to the next to allow you to adapt to the training before trying to increase time and distance.

A second option is to give yourself additional weeks or months ahead of the start of the program to build up to the minimums. 

Training Volume and Progression

  • This training plan has 6 workout days per week + 1 rest day.
  • Training days have 1 swim, bike, or a run with 2 days during the week also including a short strength session.  See the section below on strength options.
  • Weekly hours start at just under 5 hours (including strength) and builds to just over 7 hours.  There is only a modest increase in week-on-week over the entire 14 weeks for two main reasons:
      • The training volume is sufficient to comfortably finish the race distance.
      • Consistently executing 6 endurance and 2 strength sessions week after week is a big challenge for most of us with busy lives.
  • It’s likely that you are much stronger in one or more of the swim, bike, or run disciplines than this plan prescribes.  In this case, increase the workouts to match your current fitness level and/or available time capacity–go for it.  
  • One caveat and recommendation to the above point: don’t sacrifice the 6 days of training per week due to big workouts in one sport.

Measuring Training Intensity

This Training Peaks plan is designed to be as simple as possible to follow using minimal equipment and technology.  The workouts are all specified prescribed using a range of 5 zones, from Zone 1 very easy to Zone 5 very hard.  These zones are also mapped to both a description and a commonly used scale called the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) which rates effort from 1 to 10.  

While you can train and execute a great race by just basing your efforts on how hard the work feels, we have also included heart rate ranges for the bike and run.   These ranges also fall into Zones 1 to 5.  

Training Zones Canvas

This PDF template gives you mapping of heart rate for the run and heart rate and power on the bike.  

(Note: heart rate zones are based on knowing your Lactate Threshold heart rate, and power on the bike requires knowing your FTP)

Setting Heart Rate Zones

Heart rate zones for the bike and run are based on a percentage of your Lactate Threshold (LT) heart rate–this is the approximate HR that you could sustain in an all-out 1 hour effort.

To determine your LT heart rate, follow the 30 minute test protocol below, and then plug the values into Training Peaks settings and/or the canvas above.  Note that your bike and run LT values are different and you will need to do a separate test for each.

30-Minute Lactate Threshold Test

  1. Warm up easy for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Start your watch for the test and go as hard as you can for the 30 minutes, keeping a steady effort.
  3. At the 10 minute mark, hit the lap button on your watch.
  4. At the end of the test, find the average heart rate for Lap 2–this is approximately your Lactate Threshold (LT). 

Strength Training

I include strength training twice a week in this plan, but it is a general strength plan and not a triathlon-focused plan.  There are a couple reasons for this approach:

      1. For a goal to comfortably finish an Olympic distance race, you can simply swim, bike, and run without added strength work.
      2. However, this program is 14 weeks long, and that is about 27% of your entire year– that’s far too long to avoid strength work for general good health and fitness such as preserving and improving lean tissue, bone density, and connective tissue.  This is especially important for those of us over 35 years old, where limiting the effects of sarcopenia (the gradual age-related loss of lean muscle) is important for a year-round wellness plan.

I prescribe 6-8 exercises (examples below) and 1-3 sets of each, depending on the week.  Do an internet search for any exercises you are not familiar with–YouTube is great for this.  

There is no periodization planned–if you haven’t been regularly strength training, you can easily make progress on the same plan over 14 weeks (and longer) without having to “mix it up.”  If you have your own favorite program, feel free to substitute or add additional exercises to this plan.

table of strength training exercises for upper body, lower body, and core

Race Canvases

These templates can help you prepare and execute your plan. 

Tip: If you have an iPad and pencil, you can import these canvases into Good Notes/Notability and write directly on them.

Race Week Planner

Capture important event dates & times as well as your own logistics, training, and nutrition in the days leading up to your race.  

Race Day Planner

Map out your pacing, expected times, nutrition, mindset, and other race day notes.

About/Contact Info

Time to celebrate?!  Let me know if you crossed the finish line and how your day and prep went!  and/or tag me on Instagram @abetteranimal.

More about Coach Scott:  See my profile here