12-Week Olympic Triathlon Training Plan

So, you’ve just signed up for your first Olympic triathlon?

Time to get serious about your training!

A 12-week Olympic Triathlon training plan should be sufficient to get you fit enough to complete the distance. The Olympic Triathlon training plan below will see your workouts intensify and become more frequent as you progress through the weeks, ensuring you are in top condition for the challenge!

In this article, we’ll be covering:

  • How Long Is An Olympic Triathlon?
  • Workout Intensity Levels
  • Before You Start Your Olympic Triathlon Training Plan
  • Understanding Your Olympic Triathlon Training Plan
  • Your 12-Week Olympic Triathlon Training Plan

Ready to get triathlon-ready?

Let’s dive in!

Olympic Triathlon Training Plan: Title Image

What Is An Olympic Triathlon?

Often considered the ‘standard’ triathlon distance, an Olympic Triathlon follows the traditional swim-cycle-run format.

Olympic Triathlons start with a 1500-meter swim, followed by a 40 km bike ride, and conclude with a 10 km run.

Olympic-distance triathlons are a challenging but achievable goal for moderately fit amateur athletes, and they’re a great way to put your physical and mental fitness to the test.

Workout Intensity Levels

The two key things that will allow you to fully take advantage of your Olympic Triathlon training plan are consistency and utilizing intensity levels.

You will complete all of your workouts in 1 of 5 intensity levels, ranging from easy to very hard.

There are two ways you can measure the intensity you are working at to ensure you are at the correct level.

Use A Heart Rate Monitor

The 5 intensity levels are also known as training zones. They are based on a percentage of your maximum heart rate. The most accurate way to find out what your maximum heart rate is by using a heart rate monitor.

When you first use a heart rate monitor built into a smartwatch or a chest strap, you’ll need to do a workout. For example, you should do a flat-out 800-meter run so you can see how high your heart rate goes. Your smartwatch or heart rate monitor app will guide you to determine your maximum heart rate.

Rated Perceived Exertion

If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, you can estimate which training zone you are in by how you feel at any given time. Here’s a guide on training zones based on your rated perceived exertion (RPE):

Zone 1: This is the lowest intensity level, so your breathing will be easy and rhythmic. You can expect to be in zone 1 when you go for an easy swim, jog, or bike ride.

Zone 2: When you are working out in zone 2your breathing is a little harder and faster. But you should still feel comfortable while exercising and still be able to hold a conversation with a training partner. 

Zone 3: When exercising in zone 3, you will find it more challenging to talk to someone. Your breathing will be more labored while maintaining a moderate pace.

Zone 4: This is when you move at a pace that is difficult to maintain. Your breathing will be fast and hard as you will be getting close to your maximum speed.

Zone 5: You can only stay in zone 5 for about 5 minutes due to the intensity. You should be at 90-100% of your maximum effort.

A triathlete transitions from swimming to cycling on blue flooring.

Before You Start Your Olympic Triathlon Training Plan

To be successful, you should already be exercising multiple times a week. You need a solid base level of fitness built over the past few months.

Before starting your Olympic Triathlon training plan, you should be able to:

  • Swim: 1000 meters continuously
  • Bike: cycle continuously for 60 minutes at a steady pace
  • Running: run for 45 minutes non-stop

Understanding Your Olympic Triathlon Training Plan

As you go through your Olympic Triathlon training plan, you’ll see several abbreviations and jargon. Here’s what they all mean and what they’re telling you to do:

Brick Workouts

Brick workouts help you practice transitioning from the bike to the run. They also help you get used to having wobbly legs and allow you to power on regardless. Check out our full guide to Brick Workouts here.

In your Olympic Triathlon training plan, you’ll see a bike ride on a Saturday, followed by a transition run. This means you should put your running shoes on as fast as possible and start pounding the payment straight away.

TI-10 (Tempo Intervals):

  • Do 10 minutes in zones 1/2, then 4 minutes in the middle of zone 4, followed by 6 minutes in zone 1 (Primer). Then do 10 minutes in the middle of zone 4 using power or heart rate.
  • Recover in zone 1 for 3 minutes
  • Repeat 2 more times

MPI 2/1 – Max Power Intervals  

Warm-up: Do 10 minutes in zones 1/2, then 4 minutes in the middle of zone 4, followed by 6 minutes in zone 1.

Main Set:

  • Bike 2 minutes at max power, then recover in zone 1 for 3 minutes 
  • Bike 2 minutes at max power, then recover in zone 1 for 3 minutes 
  • Bike 2 minutes at max power, then recover in zone 1 for 3 minutes 
  • Bike 1 minute at max power, then recover in zone 1 for 4 minutes 
  • Bike 1 minute at max power, then recover in zone 1 for 4 minutes 
  • Bike 1 minute at max power, then recover in zone 1 for 4 minutes 
  • Cool down for 10 minutes in zone 1

Note: If you don’t manage to complete 90% of the interval, go a little easier next time.

MPI 4/2 – Max Power Intervals

Warm-up: 10 minutes in zones 1/2, then 4 minutes in the middle of zone 4, followed by 6 minutes in zone 1.

Main Set:

  • Bike 4 minutes at max power, then recover in zone 1 for 6 minutes
  • Bike 4 minutes at max power, then recover in zone 1 for 6 minutes
  • Bike 4 minutes at max power, then recover in zone 1 for 6 minutes
  • Bike 2 minutes at max power, then recover in zone 1 for 3 minutes
  • Bike 2 minutes at max power, then recover in zone 1 for 3 minutes
  • Bike 2 minutes at max power, then recover in zone 1 for 3 minutes
  • Cool down for 10 minutes in zone 1

Brick Taper 1:

Cycle:

  • Do a 10 minute warm-up on the bike in Zone 1-2
  • 3 Minutes in zone 4, then 2 minutes in zone 1
  • Repeat 2 more times.

Run:

  • 3 Minutes in zone 4, then 2 minutes recovery in zone 1
  • 3 Minutes in zone 4, then 2 minutes recovery in zone 1
  • 3 Minutes in zone 4, then 2 minutes recovery in zone 1

Finish the session with a 10-minute cooldown or an easy 10-15 minute swim with 2-3 one-minute race pace intervals.

Brick Taper 2:

Cycle:

  • Do a 10 minute warm-up on the bike in Zone 1-2
  • 2 Minutes in zone 4 and 3 minutes recovery in zone 1
  • 2 Minutes in zone 4 and 3 minutes recovery in zone 1
  • 2 Minutes in zone 4 and 3 minutes recovery in zone 1

Run:

  • 2 Minutes in zone 4, then 3 minutes recovery in zone 1
  • 2 Minutes in zone 4, then 3 minutes recovery in zone 1
  • 2 Minutes in zone 4, then 3 minutes recovery in zone 1

Finish the session with a 10-minute cooldown or an easy 10-15 minute swim with 2-3 one-minute race pace intervals.

Swim Drills:

WU = Warm-Up
CD = Cool Down

Triathletes swim around a yellow buoy in open water.

Your 12-Week Olympic Triathlon Training Plan

Week 1

Monday – Rest Day

Tuesday – Bike: MPI 2/1

Wednesday – Swim: WU 200m, Drills 4 x 50m, Main 800m Zone 2-3, CD 200m

Thursday – Run: 1-mile WU, 3×1200, 1 mile CD (5-8 min walk between intervals)

Friday – Swim: WU 300m, Drills 6 x 50m, Main 4 x 100m zone 3 intervals, CD 200m

Saturday – Bike: 60 min zone 2

Sunday – Run: 45 min zone 2

Week 2

Monday – Rest Day

Tuesday – Bike: MPI 2/1

Wednesday – Swim: WU 200m, Drills 4 x 50m, Main 900m Zone 2-3, CD 200m

Thursday – Run: 1-mile WU, 3 x 1200m zone 3 intervals, 1-mile CD (5-8 min walk between intervals)

Friday – Swim: WU 300m, Drills 6 x 50m, Main 5 x 100m (zone 2-3), CD 200m

Saturday – Bike: 65 min zone 2

Sunday – Run: 50 min zone 2

Week 3

Monday – Rest Day

Tuesday – Bike: MPI 2/1

Wednesday – Swim: WU 200m, Drills 4 x 50m, Main 1000m (zone 2-3), CD 200m

Thursday – Run: 1-mile WU, 3 x 1200m zone 3 intervals, 1 mile CD (5-8 min walk between intervals)

Friday – Swim: WU 300m, Drills 6 x 50m, Main 6 x 100m (zone 2-3), CD 200m.

Saturday – Bike: 70 min Zone 2

Sunday – Run: 55 min Zone 2

Week 4

Monday – Rest Day

Tuesday – Bike: 30 min easy Zone 1

Wednesday – Swim: 25 min easy Zone 1

Thursday – Run: 30 min easy Zone 1

Friday – Swim: 25 min easy Zone 1

Saturday – Bike: 45 min Zone 2

Sunday – Run: 35 min Zone 2

Week 5

Monday – Rest Day

Tuesday – Bike: MPI 4/2

Wednesday – Swim: WU 200m, Drills 4 x 50m, Main 900m zone 2-3, CD 200m

Thursday – Run: 1-mile WU, 4 x 1200m (zone 3), 1-mile CD (5-8 min walk between intervals)

Friday – Swim: WU 300m, Drills 6 x 50m, Main 6 x 100m (zone 3), CD 200m

Saturday – Bike: 65 min zone 2

Sunday – Run: 50 min zone 2

Week 6

Monday – Rest Day

Tuesday – Bike: MPI 4/2

Wednesday – Swim: WU 200m, Drills 4 x 50m, Main 1000m (zone 2-3), CD 200m

Thursday – Run: 1-mile WU, 4 x 1200m (zone 3), 1-mile CD (5-8 min walk between intervals)

Friday – Swim: WU 300m, Drills 6 x 50m, Main 7 x 100m (zone 3), CD 200m

Saturday – Bike: 70 min zone 2

Sunday – Run: 55 min zone 2

Week 7

Monday – Rest Day

Tuesday – Bike: MPI 4/2

Wednesday – Swim: WU 200m, Drills 4 x 50m, Main 1100m (zone 2-3), CD 200m

Thursday – Run: 1-mile WU, 4 x 1200m, 1 mile CD (5-8 min walk between intervals)

Friday – Swim: WU 300m, Drills 6 x 50m, Main 8 x 100m (zone 3), CD 200m

Saturday – Bike: 75 min zone 2

Sunday – Run: 60 min zone 2

Week 8

Monday – Rest Day

Tuesday – Bike: 35 min zone 1

Wednesday – Swim: 25 min zone 1

Thursday – Run: 30 min zone 1

Friday – Swim: 25 min zone 1

Saturday – Bike: 45 min zone 2

Sunday – Run: 40 min zone 2

Week 9

Monday – Rest Day

Tuesday – Bike: TI-10

Wednesday – Swim: WU 200m, Drills 4 x 50m, Main 1000m (zone 2-3), CD 200m

Thursday – Run: TI-10 

Friday – Swim: WU 300m, Drills 6 x 50m, Main 3 x 200 (Race Pace), CD 200m

Saturday – Bike: 70 min zone 2, followed by 10 min transition run

Sunday – Run: WU 10 min, then 25 min at Race Pace, 10 min CD

Week 10

Monday – Rest Day

Tuesday – Bike: TI-10

Wednesday – Swim: WU 200m, Drills 4 x 50m, Main 1100m (zone 2-3), CD 200m

Thursday – Run: TI-10 

Friday – Swim: WU 300m, Drills 6 x 50m, Main 4 x 200m (Race Pace), CD 200m

Saturday – Bike: 75 min zone 2, followed by 10 min transition run

Sunday – Run: WU 10 min, then 30 min at Race Pace, 10 min CD

Week 11

Monday – Rest Day

Tuesday – Bike: TI-10

Wednesday – Swim: WU 200m, Drills 4 x 50m, Main 1200m (zone 2-3), CD 200m

Thursday – Run: TI-10 

Friday – Swim: WU 300m, Drills 6 x 50m, Main 5 x 200m (Race Pace), CD 200m

Saturday – Bike 80 min zone 2, followed by 10 min transition run

Sunday – Run: WU 10 min, then 35 min at Race Pace, 10 min CD

Week 12

Monday – Rest Day

Tuesday – Short Brick – 20-30 min cycle (zone 2), followed by 10 min run (zone 2-3)

Wednesday – Swim: 25 min (zone 2)

Thursday – Brick Taper 1

Friday – Rest Day

Saturday – Brick Taper 2

Sunday – RACE DAY

Two triathletes run through a transition section.

Time To Start Your Olympic Triathlon Training Plan!

An Olympic Triathlon is an excellent way to progress through the various multisport events.

While you might find it occasionally challenging to get motivated to do your workouts, you’ll have an incredible sense of achievement once you’ve completed them!

But the true sense of achievement comes from how fit you become throughout the process, topped off by getting a great Olympic distance triathlon time.

Found this article helpful? Check out more from the BikeTips experts below!

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One of BikeTips' regular content creators, Tom lives in the French Alps. When he isn't writing, he can be found charging downhill on a mountain bike or snowboard. Tom's other passion is fitness, which goes a long way to help him make the most of the Alpine lifestyle.

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