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home | Free Training Plans | 12 Week Duathlon Training Program fo . . .

12 Week Duathlon Training Program for Beginners

12 Week Training Plan for the Esprit De She Duathlon

By Coach Troy Jacobson

Welcome to the 12 --week program designed to prepare you for a peak performance at the Esprit De She Duathlon. I am looking forward to coaching you in this process and I am confident that if you follow the program I've outlined, use it as a blueprint for success and train with focus, dedication and a sense of purpose, you'll achieve great results!

Before we get started however, it's important that we review some of the criteria required to begin this 12-Week progression. This particular program is designed for the beginner to intermediate level athlete with zero to two years of multisport experience who has a strong desire to finish the race and do their best. It is assumed that you are 'serious' about your training and can devote about 9-12 hours per week to training. This progression also requires that you have trained consistently over the winter with an emphasis on strength training, technique development and aerobic base building. You should be 'in shape' and have a great foundation of fitness, but certainly not yet in 'race shape'. If the training volumes described in this plan seem excessive to you because of your current level of conditioning, attempt to follow the general structure day by day but reduce your volume by about 10-20%, otherwise try to complete the workouts to the best of your ability. And if you have more experience and are aiming for a PR or top slot in your age group, you can increase your volume while using the same general structure for even better results.

And prior to starting this or any exercise program, be certain to have a complete physical check up with your doctor as a precaution.


It's important that all endurance athletes, regardless of their experience, develop a highly tuned level of 'self awareness' and become experts at 'monitoring their gauges'. In other words, just as a race car driver keeps an eye on the tachometer and oil gauges, you need to watch out for signs of oncoming injury and possible overtraining.

Everyday, you should get in the habit of performing a self assessment where you check resting heart rate (elevated HR over three or more days can indicate overtraining), monitor bodyweight (dehydration can impede your performance) and emotional state (irritability or difficulty sleeping can indicate overreaching).

As with a lot of things, use your common sense and good judgment at all times. If you don't 'feel' like training, your body is likely telling you something and that might mean its time for a day of rest. Listen to your body at all times and by all means, stay healthy!


As a pro tri coach since 1992, I truly believe in sticking with the fundamentals and keeping things simple and straightforward. Complex training programs, multiple training zones and excessive gadgets aren't in my vocabulary. Sticking with the basics has always and will always yield the best and most consistent results.

To get started on my plan, you'll need a base level of fitness both cardiovascular and in terms of overall muscle strength and conditioning. I encourage my athletes to follow a winter program that emphasizes full body strength training, technique development and aerobic base work. I find this brings the athlete into the pre-season strong and with a high level of motivation to start a training progression working towards their peak event. Assuming your base level fitness is well established, the next step is to perform a benchmark test in order to determine your current fitness and training intensities.


If you have access to a human performance lab, now is the time to get tested in order to determine your V02max and Lactate Threshold for both the bike and the run, as your results will be different in each sport. If you don't have the ability to get tested at a lab, then you can perform a field test that will help determine your levels.


Benchmark tests should be performed on 'fresh legs' so I recommend that you do your tests after one or two days of rest.

To perform the run test, you must first find a track. Warm up adequately with a series of dynamic stretches, easy jogging and striders. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself early in the season during a test so warm up well! When you're warm, begin your test which consists of a three mile run at your 5K race pace effort around the track. This is a very hard run, but at a pace that is sustainable. Attempt to run at a pace that allows you to even-split each mile. As you run through the mile markers, have someone record your run split as well as your heart rate. At the end of the test, take your average heart rate to determine your approximate lactate threshold, plus or minus 5 bpm. (NOTE: If you ran a poorly paced effort and each mile split is more than 15 seconds apart, for example: Mile 1 = 7:00 min., Mile 2 = 7:15, Mile 3 = 9:20), your results won't be accurate you 'll need to REDO the test at a later date.)


Similar to the run test, you'll do a steady state 'race pace' effort of about 20-30 minutes. The bike test can be done on the roads or on the trainer. To perform the test on the road, find a flat or slightly rolling stretch of road from 8-10 miles long and time trial it at your best sustainable effort. As with the run, if your pacing is poor, your power output might see a rapid decline as the duration of the test increases and you'll have to redo the test. For this test and for the purpose of this article, we'll be using heart rate as a measure of intensity and not power. While power training is highly recommend, more athletes tend to have heart rate monitors at this point in time.

Record your average heart rate for the 20 -- 30 minute time trial effort and this will approximate your LT.


It's important that you record the results of your test as well as the conditions in which you performed them so that you may repeat them at a later date in order to measure improvement. Wind conditions, temperature and your physical state of readiness are all things you should note in your log book.

Now that you have your numbers, you'll need to start using them! In keeping it simple and sticking with the fundamentals, we'll use your LT to determine three basic zones, namely: the blue zone (aerobic), the gray zone (aerobic/anaerobic) and the red zone (anaerobic). As an example, if your LT was determined to be 150 for the run, you'll subtract 10 bpm to find the upper end of your aerobic zone (140) and add 10 bpm to find the upper end of your 'tempo/interval' zone (160). Your 'gray zone' will be that range of 10 bpm between your blue zone and red zone. Simple , right! And remember, the biggest mistake most athletes make is to train in the Gray zone too often! They train too easy on their hard days and too hard on their easy days. More on this concept in a future article.

Now that you have an idea of your training zones, let's get rolling with your first four week training block! Keep in mind that this training program is designed to give you a general blueprint for your personal program. There is NO substitute for having a knowledgeable and experienced coach develop a plan just for you.


The duathlon is a unique event that requires the athlete to cycle effectively immediately after a fast initial run and then follow the bike again with a fast run. To develop this ability, you will be performing several 'transition' or 'brick' workouts where you immediately go from one sport to another with very little rest in order to create familiarity in the nervous system and muscles with this type of effort.

12 Week Esprit De She Duathlon Training Program

This program is designed based on the fundamental training principles of progression, periodization and specificity where the focus will be on building volume and intensity and allowing for adaptation to occur through planned recovery. Here are some terms you should know before starting this program:

'Aerobic' Training workouts are workouts done at a comfortable and sustainable pace where you maximize the use of your aerobic energy system. These workouts are to be done at a controlled pace that is comfortable, yet still somewhat challenging. On a scale from 1-10, ten being a full-out sprint, aerobic training is at a 6-7. Much of your training will be done in this general intensity range for this program while more advanced runners can do more 'speed' training.

'Tempo' or 'Threshold' training refers to run workouts that are done near or slighter faster than your race pace. The intensity, on the perceived effort scale from 1-10, falls somewhere between 8-9 and is done at a very hard level that is sustainable without having to slow down. Tempo work is highly effective at improving pace for distance runners and cyclists and, when done properly, can help reduce risk of injury normally associated with traditional speed work training.

"Strength Training" is an important component in every athlete's training program. In this training schedule, I recommend strength training once or two times each week, focusing on short, full body workouts of higher reps and lighter weights to build muscular strength and endurance simultaneously. Our StrEndurance Training DVD (Vol. 1) was created for this specific purpose. Other muscle strength and coordination activities like Yoga and Pilates can also be very effective. Please consult with a certified personal trainer or coach to insure your safety and to maximize the effectiveness of your strength training routine.


As a reminder, this program can be either enhanced or reduced, according to your current fitness levels, by increasing or reducing your training volumes (duration) for each session. For example, if the program calls for a 60 minute 'aerobic bike ride', and your fitness is not quite to that level, then feel free to reduce the duration to 45 minutes. Be smart, and progress slowly. Try to avoid 'over reaching' and doing too much as an injured or overtrained athlete is just as ineffective as an undertrained athlete. When in doubt, do less as opposed to doing more and remember to keep an 'eye on the gauges' at all times. Consider consulting with a certified coach for your specific training needs.

Aerobic = Blue zone intensity
Tempo = Gray zone intensity


The strength program consists of basic exercise, is for maintenance only and should constitute a small percentage of your overall weekly training time commitment. Do your strength training at the end of the day, after your sport specific training.

  • Push-ups: 3 sets of 30 seconds (do as many reps as you can in 30 seconds) on 1 min rest.
  • Crunches (use a swiss ball): 3 sets of 30 seconds (as many reps as possible) on 1 min. rest
  • Back Hyperextensions: 3 sets of 30 seconds (as many reps as possible) on 1 min. rest
  • Weighted Squats: 3 sets of 30 second (as many reps as possible) on 1 min. rest

Good luck with your training process for the EDS Duathlon, and enjoy being in the best shape of your life!

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