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How To Convert Your 80/20 Triathlon Plan to a Duathlon Plan

by David Warden

A common question from our athletes is, “Can I use an 80/20 triathlon plan to train for a duathlon? Can’t I just cut out the swim workouts?”

It would be disingenuous for us to claim that our 80/20 triathlon plans are ideal for duathlon training. There are a number of differences in the specificity, run:bike ratios, and event distances between duathlon and triathlon training. There are also, however, some modifications that can be made to turn an 80/20 triathlon plan into an effective duathlon plan.

1. Pick an 80/20 triathlon plan that most closely matches your duathlon distance. Most duathlons are not triathlon-distance less the swim, but they are close. For example, the standard duathlon distance is a 10k run, 40k bike, and 5k run. The Olympic triathlon distance is the closest match to the standard duathlon distance.

2. Sure, cut out the swim workouts. Fortunately the 80/20 intensity ratios are calculated separately for the bike/run and swim. If you removed the swim altogether, the remaining bike and run workouts would still maintain 80 percent low and 20 percent moderate to high intensity. Consider that swimming is an excellent cross-train and recovery activity, and you might actually benefit from completing the bulk of those scheduled swim workouts.

3. Round the total weekly run training up to the nearest half hour. For example, if your total scheduled run training for the week was 2.75 hours, round up to 3 hours. If your total scheduled time was 2.25 hours, round up to 2.5 hours. This aligns the total run:bike ratios closer to actual duathlon distances. Of course, you’ll want to ensure that the extra running time you add is close to 80/20 intensity to maintain the total weekly intensity balance.

The additional run time can be added to existing scheduled runs in the plans or used to create a whole new run. For example, if you round up and add another 30 minutes of running per week, those 30 minutes can be a separate additional run of 30 minutes, or those 30 minutes can be split into three sections of 10 minutes added to three other runs.

4. When using the 80/20 70.3 and IM plans, perform 30 minutes of the run portion of long week-end brick workouts before the bike, making your long brick a run-bike-run workout. Conveniently, the 80/20 Sprint and Olympic plans already utilize a run-bike-run format, which will provide excellent specificity to your short course duathlon training.

Despite the necessary modifications, is it likely that these modifications to an 80/20 triathlon plan will provide superior results to a 3rd-party duathlon plan that does not use the 80/20 system.

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