This article is essential to get started in triathlon training. We will explain how to determine swim paces in the pool, heart rate zones on the bike and run, as well establish power zones on the bike. In addition, we’ll show you how to input these numbers into your Training Peaks account so your workouts can be effective and measurable.

To start with, bike and run training efforts are based on heart rate zones and perceived exertion. For swimming, we will use pacing, as it is difficult to determine heart rate zones in a pool.

In swimming, we want to find out what our ‘average pace per 100 (meter or yards)’ is. In order to determine this number, we can do a number of tests. The simplest test, in my opinion, is the 1,000 yard (or meter) Time Trial (TT). In the TT your goal is to swim a fairly hard effort for the entire distance. The key is to not slow down in the second half of the swim. It’s best to start out at an effort that you can maintain by the end, but you must also be able to push yourself the whole way. You should finish knowing you gave it everything you had.

Swim test protocol:

300-500 yd warm up.
6-8 x 50 yds on 10 seconds rest.
1,000 yd TT.
300 easy cooldown.

Example:

Johnny swims 17:45 for his 1,000 yd TT. This tells me Johnny’s swim pace is 1:46 per 100/yds. His 1:46 is called his T-pace. Now that we have the T-pace of 1:46 we can create swim workouts adjusted to this pace. For example, a very hard set for Johnny might be 10×100 @T-Pace on 10 seconds rest. This would mean Johnny’s goal is to swim the 100s at 1:46 pace. An easier set might be 10×100 @T+10 seconds on 30 seconds rest. Johnny’s goal for the 100 is 1:56. Another set might be 6×100 T-pace minus (-) 5 seconds rest. This means Johnny’s goal is to swim the 100 in 1:41.

As you can see there are many of variables and many workouts we can derive from that TT. It is recommended that you re-test your TT every 4-6 weeks.

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In biking, we want to know our heart rate training zones and power zones. To make this as easy as possible, we will use a standard 30 minute TT. From this TT we will be able to determine the correct training zones. I do advocate doing both an inside and outside LT tests.

Bike test protocol for inside testing:

The warm-up is 15 minutes of cycling, moving through the different gears, always keeping the cadence above 90 RPMS. Do a few short sprints to get your heart rate up and ready for the test!

You should start out in a gear that you can maintain 90 RPMS in. Make sure you remember what gear you started in.

The 30 minute TT begins. Give this your best effort throughout as if you were racing a 20k TT or sprint triathlon. The average power and heart rate for the entire 30 minutes is your Lactate Threshold or LT and/or your FTP (Functional Threshold Power).
You should finish knowing you gave it everything you had.
15 minutes easy cooldown.

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In running we want to know our heart rate training zones, power zones, and pace. To make this as easy as possible, we will use a standard 30 minute TT. From this TT we will be able to determine the correct training zones. This is best if done on a flat uninterrupted path or trail.

Run test protocol:

After a 15 minute warm-up of easy running, finish with a few quick 20 seconds bursts to get your heart rate in the correct training zone.

The 30 minute TT begins. Same as the bike test, we want to give this the best effort we can over the 30 minutes. The average heart rate and or power for the entire 30 minutes is your Lactate Threshold (or LT) and or your Functional Threshold Power. You should finish knowing you gave it everything you had. Conclude with 15 minutes easy cooldown.

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Once you have your Swim Paces, your bike, and run threshold heart rates, along with power numbers and paces, you can then input those numbers into your Training Peaks calculator and they will automatically populate for you. See the following video for help: