Speedo Q&A 6: How to juggle three sports

Hello all,

This lunchtime (1-2pm) we're joined by triathlon coach Steve Trew who'll be answering your questions about balancing your training - how to combine three sports effectively and how to turn this into top racing performance.

Steve has been involved in professional sport (chiefly triathlon) as an athlete, coach and GB team manager since 1988. At the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Steve had the dual role of triathlon race commentator and member of the British coaching team. Steve was also BBC TV commentator and analyst at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. He has written a number of books on the subject of fitness, contributes regularly to articles in leading publications and speaks nationally and internationally on all aspects of health and fitness.  

We're opening the discussion now Steve so can get answering your questions at 1pm (rather than having to deal with a rush of questions at once). 




  • Hi Steve,

    Here's what I expect is a pretty common dilemma - when is your training enough and when is it too much? Is it ok to have periods of training where you're struggling to raise your HR to the required levels due to fatigue or does the failure to hit the target HR mean that you're wasting your time and better off with some recovery?

    If you think you can or you think you can't you're probably right.
  • Afternoon Steve,

    how should a brick session (bike/run) best be broken down?  80%/20% bike/run?  Or does it depend on where in your race build up you are.


  • With limited time during the week to squeeze ironman training, what would be the one session for each discipline that you'd recommend as a minimum?
  • Steve,

     We all know that July's heroes are forged in January image

    When does it become too late to get any fitter? 

  • hi there little M.iss Ultra Happy!

     triathlon is all about struggling and juggling, isn't it? There's nothing wrong with being tired, it goes with the territory. The real issue is making sure that you're NOT tired all the time. it's essential to have a rest day, whether you need one every week or maybe one day off every 10 days or so, you have to give time for your body (and your mind!) to recover. As triathletes, there's almost a guilt feeling when we're not working hard and you need to get over that. If you don't have a rest day scheduled in, injury will come along and make you have a rest week! Look to get a balnce in your training not only over the 3 disciplines, but also over training hard, medium and easy. As a real rough guide, if you're training 9 sessions each week, go for one each of H, M, E, in each discipline. Make sense?

    steve t

  • Hi Kittenkat,

     love the name! the crossover from cycling through running is largely aerobic as I'm sure you kjnow. However I think there are two other benefits. When you're cycling, try to maintain around 90 to rpm on most rides (but see below!) as the leg speed for running would seem to indicate about the same (as in 180 foot strikes per minute) so muscle memory will help decent running off of the bike. The other benefit is working hard on hills to build leg strength. Most of us DON'T do anought speedwork and strength work for triathlon, so good hill sessions (on bith bike and run) will make a huge difference to your racing.


     steve t

  • Ferrous ferret.... or is that IRON CAT!?

    lots of different ways of working brick sessions; one of my favourites for Olymic and sprint distance is a 12 minute effort on th bike (either road or turbo) straingth into a one kilometre run repeated five times. In the winter, we'd maybe do that straight through without any break. Going into the season, we'd aim at racing speed on th bike and then look to run faster each rep on the run. To keep quality up, we'd look for a 3 minute break between efforts. On ironman training, my athletes will do something like a 40 minute ride going into a 20 minute run perhaps three times through. it is SO important that you maintain good running speed and technique when you're working brick sessions and not just doing them for the sakes of. I wouldn't overdo brick sessions either, great for training but too many of them ghets you shattered!

     steve t

  • M.TRIumphant,

    you need to maintain the pure endurance stuff of course for Ironman but you also need quality!

    I try to put emphasis with my athletes on a cycle quality week with an endurance running week going into a cycle endurance with a run specific quality week. I think it balances out the training a little more and ensures that when you need to do quality stuff, you're not too tired. make sense?

    Back to your question, I wouldn't recommend one particular session for each week, spread it/them over a two or even three week period.

    hope that makes a little sense.....

    steve t

  • Hi David,

    not Meller as in politician is it!?

    it's NEVER too late to get fitter, honest! the difficulty is when you're trying to get that fitness back, and also trying to race at the same time.

    If you've had to miss base training for whatever reason, don't try to ruch back too quickly; you're much better off going back to basics and putting the endurance stuff in before you go for speed. too much speedwork too early is going to lead to injury if you're not careful..........

    Back in the mists of time, I picked up a stress fracture and when I was able to get stated training again I picked up another stress fracture by trying to get into speedwork too early. A big lesson learned. I guess 'Make haste slowly' is the cliche to go with.........

    steve t

  • Thanks for that Steve,

    another question if I may.  I tend to ride long/run long at the weekend, but tend to cycle on the Sunday (as the roads are quieter).  Would it be (far) better to run on the sunday on tired legs and cycle on fresh ones?  Or do you try to get your athletes to avoid monster weekends which may compromise training in the following week...

  • come on guys! any more questions out there?

    steve t

  • Cycling is the 'new' sport for for me and I just got my first road bike this month. Mainly I just go out and ride a fairly flat distance or combine it with a brick session (20k/5k - training for a sprint tri). Can you suggest any good training sessions I can try to mix things up on the bike a bit? I'll hope to fit two 1 hour bike sessions in every other week and a distance specific brick session in at a weekend when I can. It doesn't help that I'm training for a half marathon too!

  • The Iron Cat returns....... so must be doing something right...... allegedly!

    I think ideally that I'd look to alternate every week so long run on Saturday week one, and long run on Sunday week two, vv for cycling.

    It's very easy to get sucked into pretty much doing the same format week after week, isn't it? If one of the definitions of stupidity is 'doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome'......... then looking at our own make-up of each training week and the progression from each week is essential. Again, make sense?

    steve t

  • Steve,

     I've heard snowflakes are merely the teardrops of gods angels. is this Trew?

  • Spacegal flies down to earth.......!

    Every athlete I've ever coached has worked on a very basic AT (anaerobic threshold session) in each discipline; the dreaded 6 x 6 minutes!

    For swimming, we'd look to go 6 x 400m with a minute recovery, for running 6 x 1 mile, and for cycling, get the turbo out and work that 6 x 6 minutes. Pace is race pace plus a little bit, recovery is restricted to just that one minute (as we tend to get no recovery after each mile in racing etc.... do we....)

    OK, having written that down, don't feel that you go out and push straight into that session. depending on your fitness, you might want to go, say, 4 x 4 minutes to begin with and work up.......... Hope that makes sense, come right back to me if it doesn't.

    steve t

  • David,

     you are indeed a silver tongued lizard.........!

    As all my athletes know, "Today's teardrops are tomorrow's rainbows"....... and of course, 'tomorrow's rainbows we will share'...... thanks David!

    any more cliches needed out there?!

    steve t

  • Following the fiasco that was the Long Course Weekend swim in Tenby. Any tips on navigating and swimming in tidal currents, especially those running across the bay?

    Oh, and jelly fish, should we learn to love them
  • Hi Steve,

    Great advice so far. I am new to triathlon and have managed to get the endurance levels up problem is I feel I have plateaued speed wise - especially swimming.

     I have now introduced resistance training 3 x weekly to try and give me some more fire power.

     THis inevitably has knocked out some enduro stuff and in an already tight schedule with job and young family - is the switch in training likely to offer sufficient improvement or is more a case of practice makes perfect with technique.

    Watched a video of Jodie Swallow on you tube last night looking for pointers and she seems to swim hard and fast, in fairness so do alot of other open water swimmers - so brute force or technique? Don't just say both either that would be a cop out ; )


  • 20 minutesto go, and counting.......... anything else lovely ladies and gentlemen?

    steve t

  • slimshadyslimshady ✭✭✭


    I've heard that body adaptation to a 'monster' weekend of training will take 5 weeks?  Wondered what your thoughts on this are in relation to Ironman training?  Is there any point in doing big sessions closer than 5 weeks to target race?

    Many thanks


  • Makes perfect sense thanks Steve. Sort of like interval sessions for bike and swim. Although 6x400m swim would be a real push for me at the moment. I'll look to building my swim distance and endurance over the winter.

    I only intended to try one triathlon this year to see if I liked it. The fact that I'll do 3 and am already planning which ones I want to do in 2012 should tell you how hooked I am.

    Thanks for the advice. 

  • and that, as they say -whoever 'they' are- is just about it.

    lovely talking guys, thanks for the questions, hope we answered a little of what you wanted.

    "if you're going through hell, just keep going"

    steve t

  • Hi all,

    I'm afraid that might just be all we have time for. Thanks to Steve for your good humour and great advice, and thanks to all of you for coming along.

    We'll be back with our penultimate Speedo Friday webchat next week.

    Until then, happy training all!


  • and not quite yet! Hi Slim Shady.

    adaption is a weird thing and varies a lot from one athlete to another. we used to work on a 10 day adaptation (as used by the great Finnish middle distance runners from the 70s) from a monster session when the body would overcompensate. Even for ironman, I think three weks might be a little nearer....  trial and error, i guess. can you try it out well before actual race day and see what happens?

    steve t

  • Interesting stuff.  Sorry I missed the Q&A though image
  • i wish these sessions were advertised more........missed another oneimage
  • Calling RW! Can you please advertise these more in advance? 
  • @seren nos and Little ninja - I shouldn't worry they don't actually answer your question when you take the time to ask anyway!!! Cheers Steve, glad I took the time.

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