How To Train For A Duathlon

If you’re pushed for time or you simply dislike swimming, training for a duathlon might be a great idea for you.

With just two disciplines to worry about, it’s easier to fit in your workouts around work, family and any other time constraints.

Even so, it’s easy to get things wrong too. Most of the training is leg-based, meaning that muscle fatigue and injuries are common. Essentially you need to balance your bike and run training in a way that enables you to grow your fitness without getting injured in the process.

In this blog I’ll provide you with a four-week training plan and a set of training zones to help you get fit while avoiding common pitfalls. It includes recovery days, endurance sessions, speed workouts and short duathlon simulations. In other words, everything you need to increase your race readiness and confidence for a duathlon.

Before I explain how to use this training plan, here are a couple of other options:

  • If you want a longer duration or a more in-depth duathlon training plan, I have designed several that you can browse here.
  • If you prefer following a book, I would recommend this one by Gale Bernhardt:

Training For A Duathlon

Essential:

Bike, bike helmet, cycling gear, running shoes, running gear.

Nice to have:

Cycle shoes with cleats and clip-less pedals, heart rate monitor, indoor static bike or wind-trainer (also known as a turbo trainer).

Duathlon Training Plan Guidelines

The 4-week training plan below is designed for anyone aiming to do a sprint duathlon (5km/20km/2.5km) or a standard distance duathlon (10km/40km/5km). It’s designed with novice and intermediate level athletes in mind and it’s geared around a Monday to Friday working week. It will get you in shape to race a duathlon on the last Sunday of the four week plan.

Try and do as many of the sessions as you can but don’t panic if you miss the odd one. If the scheduling of the days doesn’t work out for you, feel free to shift the sessions to different days as long as they’re within the same week. Just try and space them so that you don’t do the hardest sessions on consecutive days.

Try not to catch up any missed sessions by cramming them in – this can make you too tired as well as increasing your injury risk. And regardless of what the plan says, if you start losing your appetite, struggle to sleep, or become abnormally grumpy it probably means you need to take at least a couple of days rest.

Your Training Zones

These simple training zones are a way of making sure you train at different intensities, rather than doing everything at one intensity. You can use “feel” which is based on a score out of 10, describing how hard it feels (where 10 is the hardest). Or you can use heart rate  based on a percentage of your maximum. If you don’t know your maximum, base it on the highest heart rates you’ve seen in the last 18 months while cycling and running. Neither are exact measures, so don’t stress about being 100% exact. Just adhere to the zones as best as you can, train consistently and you’ll do well on race day.

Zone 1. Easy. Feels like 1-2 out of 10. Heart rate 68-73% of max.
Zone 2. Light aerobic. Feels like 3-4 out of 10. Heart rate 74-79% of max.
Zone 3. Moderate aerobic. Feels like 5-6 out of 10. Heart rate 80-85% of max.
Zone 4. Threshold.  Feels like 7-8 out of 10. Heart rate 86-91% of max.
Zone 5. Above threshold. Feels like 9-10 out of 10. Heart rate 92-100% of max.

The 4 Week Duathlon Training Plan

Race Distance: 5km/20km/2.5km and/or 10km/40km/5km
Level: Novice & Intermediate

 

Week 1.

Monday
Bike to Run.
– Ride 45 minutes in Zone 2, straight into a 30 minute run in Zone 2.
Tuesday
Run Intervals.
– Run 15 minutes in Zone 2,
– 4 x 2 minutes in Zone 4 with 60 seconds recoveries,
– 5 minutes in Zone 2.
Wednesday
Pilates class.
Thursday
Bike Intervals Into A Run
– RIDE: 10 minutes in Zone 2. Followed by 8, 7, 6 minutes all in Zone 4 with 60 second recoveries.
– RUN: 15 minutes as (5 minutes in Zone 4, 10 minutes in Zone 2)
Friday
Rest Day
Saturday
Run a 5km race (see ParkRun.org.uk) or do a solo 5km time trial in Zone 4 to 5.
Sunday
Aerobic Endurance Ride
– Ride for 90 minutes mainly in Zone 2.

 

Week 2.

Monday
Aerobic Endurance Run.
– Run 40 minutes in Zone 2
Tuesday
Run/Bike/Run Brick Workout (no rests)
– Run 20 minutes in Zone 2,
– Ride 60 minutes in Zone,
– Run 10 minutes in Zone 2.
Wednesday
Pilates Class
Thursday
Run Intervals.
– Run 15 minutes in Zone 2,
– 3 x 3 minutes in Zone 4 with 60 seconds recoveries,
– 5 minutes in Zone 2.
Friday
Rest Day
Saturday
Timed 20km Ride Into Easy Run
– Warm up for 15 minutes in Zone 2,
– Ride 20km in Zone 4 (timed),
– Then run 5-10 minutes in Zone 2.
Sunday
Aerobic Endurance Ride
– Ride for 90 minutes mainly in Zone 2.

 

Week 3

Monday
Aerobic Endurance Run.
– Run 45 minutes in Zone 2
Tuesday
Run/Bike Brick Workout (no rests)
– Ride 90 minutes in Zone 2,
– Run 30 minutes in Zone 2.
Wednesday
Pilates Class
Thursday
Run Intervals.
– 15 minutes in Zone 2,
– 9 x 1 minute in upper Zone 4 to Zone 5 with 60 seconds recoveries,
– 5 minutes in Zone 2.
Friday
Rest Day
Saturday
Bike Intervals Into Easy Run
– Warm up for 15 minutes in Zone 2,
– Ride 5×5 minutes in Zone 4 with 60 second recoveries.
– Then run 10 minutes in Zone 2.
Sunday
Run/Bike/Run Brick Workout (no rests)
– Run 15 minutes in Zone 2, 5 minutes in Zone 4.
– Ride 10 minutes in Zone 4, 40 minutes in Zone 2, 10 minutes in Zone 4.
– Run 5 minutes in Zone 4, 5 minutes in Zone 2.

 

Week 4

Monday
Rest Day
Tuesday
Aerobic Endurance Ride
– Ride 75 minutes in Zone 2.
Wednesday
Run Interval (no rests)
– 15 minutes in Zone 2,
– 5 minutes in Zone 4,
– 10 minutes in Zone 2.
Thursday
Bike Interval (no rests)
– 20 minutes in Zone 2,
– 10 minutes in Zone 4,
– 20 minutes in Zone 2.
Friday
Easy 25 minute run in Zone 2
Saturday
Rest Day
Sunday
Race Day

Good luck with your training!

If you want a more detailed duathlon plan you can browse my Training Peaks plans here.

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Phil Mosley (Coach & Founder)
Phil Mosley (Coach & Founder)

Phil is a recognised expert in the field, having featured on many endurance sports publications. He founded MyProCoach in 2010 to sell premium training plans complete with email coach support for triathlons, duathlons, running & cycling.

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