12 Month Ironman Training Plan | 80/20 Endurance

12 Month Ironman Training Plan

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    Hi all, my name is Aidan I am 30 years old and I’m from Belfast, Ireland. I am requesting advice regarding training for my first Ironman 1 year from now in Cork, Ireland (15 August 2021). I have never done a triathlon before, however, I have completed 5 marathons and 4 half marathons. I have also been training on and off with a local triathlon club and running club this past few years, although I would still consider myself very much beginner level.

    This past few weeks I have come across the 80/20 model work of Matt Fitzgerald, David Warden and Stephen Seiler. Whilst initially sceptical, I very quickly became convinced and found the arguments well articulated and the evidence very compelling. I have just finished the excellent book 80/20 triathlon.

    I intend to use the Ironman beginner 23 week plan, therefore, counting back from August 15 2021 that means I would start that the week beginning 08 March 2021. Specifically, I am seeking advice regarding how I should train between now and then (08 March 2021). As I am a beginner I just want to ensure that I leverage the time that I have as best as possible and train with purpose and structure.

    I have a few questions below:

    1. One idea I have is to possibly do two maintenance plans back to back, but I’m not sure if this would be optimal?

    2. Swimming is easily my weakest discipline (I am the slowest in the slow lane!), therefore, I was thinking of using this time to swim 4 days a week to strengthen my technique/fitness (I intend to follow the SwimSmooth model), although I’m not sure for how long I should do this for?

    3. I intend to do a few Sprint and Olympic triathlons next summer before the Ironman. How many is optimal, and could I do a middle distance triathlon also or would that be pushing it?

    4. I have just taken out the TrainingPeakes 2 week trial to get a look at it, when that’s finished should I take out the 80/20 subscription or should I wait until March when the training plan starts?

    Apologies if you get this type of question on a regular basis!

    Thanks very much in advance, any advice is greatly appreciated.




    I can’t comment on the training plans, I only do the running plans, so just a couple of comments on your questions 1 & 4.

    I’ve been using Training Peaks for several years. I keep an annual plan on TP and update if often as circumstance dictates. I don’t develop my training plans from scratch, I use the 80/20 Plans and apply them to the calendar depending on my needs.

    Here’s how I use TP…
    I choose races I want to participate in over the course of the year and apply the appropriate 80/20 plan to the calendar, then copy the TSS levels from the calendar to the annual training plan.

    I code each ATP segment by period (i.e. Base, Build, Peak and Race). This isn’t really necessary, but if there is a running activity I want to participate in I like to decide if is consistent with my mid to long term goal, for example if there is a hilly trail run and I have a hill workout scheduled during the week I will make small adjustments to the calendar in order to participate. Likewise, using the ATP is helpful to find tune up races when building for “A” priority race.

    I use the ATP to give me some assurance that I am meeting the prerequisites when I begin the next stage. For example, I plan to make my “A” race a 10K in the spring of next year; I am currently following the maintenance plan, but the mileage is a bit low to make the jump, so I have applied the Stride Academy plan as a bridge to the 10K Plan. Training Peaks gives me some confidence that this approach should work.

    Finally, Training Peaks logs all of my workouts. With several years of data I am able to look back and learn how I respond to seasons and training loads. This historical data is a gold mine for self discovery and evolutionary development towards my goals.

    David Warden

    Aidan, welcome! And congratulations on your goal of an Ironman.

    Charles has provided some great information. Let me add a few more comments:

    1. 7 months is a long time until your formal IM training begins. I recommend that you not use the Maintenance plan back-to-back, but split the next 7 months into two “seasons” of about 12-18 weeks each. The first 12 weeks can indeed be the Maintenance plan, leaving you 18 weeks before your IM training. I recommend you use that remaining time for marathon training, using the cross-train options in the marathon plan to swim and bike. It can be an actual marathon (if we are so lucky in 2021) or a virtual marathon. That puts right up to your March 8 IM training start. Does not have to be marathon, could be an Oly or Sprint, but less likely you’ll find a March 8ish triathlon date in Ireland.

    2. The Maintenance plan will give you enough swimming, but you may indeed want to add 1-2 days more swimming on top of the cross-train options in the marathon plan.

    3. The first 10 weeks of the IM plan accommodate Sprint and Oly events well. After than, they can interfere with the important race-simulation IM bricks. How many is ideal? That’s a bit too specific to the athlete to confirm here, but 2-3 over the first 10 weeks is not out of the question. A 70.3 event after 10 weeks is a good idea, as that closely matches the scheduled week-end volume of any given week-end anyway.

    4. I don’t know that you need the 80/20 subscription. If you are going to just do a marathon, Oly, and IM over the next 12 months, that’s $200 in plans (if you use our electronic plans as opposed to just following the book) and $109 for 12 months of TrainingPeaks. Brings your total cost to $309. The Gold subscription would be $360 for a year ($30 a month), so you’d save a little by buying the plans and TP separately, although paying more up-front. Keep in mind that with the subscription you don’t keep the plans, but when you buy them separately you do and can use them over and over. See https://www.8020endurance.com/compare-options/ for more details.



    Hi guys, Thank you both for your quick responses.


    Thank you for that detailed response, I found it very useful. I’ll take your great advice regarding utilising the ATP and applying the appropriate training plans etc. I agree that the historical data captured by TPs could be a treasure trove for development and learning.


    Firstly, I just want to say how much confidence (and relief) your 80/20 model and this advice has given me to achieve my goal of an Ironman and to develop myself as an amateur endurance athlete generally. It makes the seemingly impossible, possible – importantly though, I like the fact that as you state in your book, we can use this training to complete our goals ‘with a smile’ and not have to fear that we need to wreck ourselves in the process.

    This is great advice, it was exectly what I was hoping for. I have been wrecking my brain these past few weeks and months trying to work out how i’m going to do this – thankfully, I found your work and this forum!

    Thanks again


    Hi guys,

    I have a question regarding the maintenance plan as suggested by David above. I chose the Run and Bike HR plan to start this week. However, having looked into it a bit more I feel that I should change it to Run Pace and either Bike power or HR – but i’m not sure which one for the bike. I completed the 20 min FTP test on a stationaey bike in the gym and the 20 min run pace test at the weekend using my Garmin Forerunner 735xt.

    I know that ideally i should go for Bike Power, however, I have a few concerns with that:

    1. I don’t have a power metre (and can’t afford one as yet).

    It seems I could complete my bike workouts on the stationary bike on the gym, but then I don’t think i’ll be able to transfer the power data to TrainingPeaks.

    Alternatively, I am getting a new bike in the next few weeks and I already have a classic trainer. It seems that I could buy a speed and cadence sensor and connect it to the trainer and then connect with Zwift to calculate my estimated power output?

    2. Regarding the 20 min pace TP test. I was struggling to understand how to workout my TP. I tried to reverse engineer the example given in the ‘Intensity Guidelines for Triathlon’ article using my own pace. In 20 mins I ran 4.26 km at an average pace of 4.42km. I worked out that that gave me a TP of 4.25 per km – is that correct?

    Again all and any advice is greatly appreciated.

    BTW the website and forum are fantastic!



    Regarding Query 2 i.e. TP calculation – I had another go at calculating it and came up with a different figure which I suspect is more accurate:

    TP = 4.56 per km

    David Warden


    1. If the gym trainer will provide you with an average watts for the ride, this is close enough for you to manually enter that data into TP after the workout.

    Yes, you can estimate Power from cadence/speed BUT your tire pressure and contact point on the bike must remain the same for all rides (rolling resistance). If the rolling resistance changes from ride to ride, the power data will not be consistent. Also, even if you manage to have the power data be consistent with this setup, it will not necessarily be accurate. An effort of 250 watts on the gym machine may manifest as 280 watts on your classic trainer. In other words, an FTP test is really only valid for use in training if you are training on the same device in which took the test (that statement is oversimplified, but but the idea is that from device-to-device, there will always be some variance. My car says that my outdoor temperate is 80 degrees, and a road sign I’m driving by says it’s 90 degrees).

    – 4.26 km in 20 minutes = 12.78 kph
    – 12.78 kph = 4.695 minutes per kilometer (in decimal form)
    – 4.695 = 4:42 minutes per kilometer (in mm:ss form)

    BUT with a 20-minute test we take 95% of the speed. We only use 100% in a 30-minutes test. Therefore:

    – 0.95 * 12.78 kph = 12.141 kph
    – 12.141 kph = 4.942 minutes per kilometer (in decimal form)
    – 4.942 = 4:56 minute per kilometer (in mm:ss) as your threshold pace.

    Eureka! We came to the same result!



    Hi David,

    That makes a lot of sense.

    I think i will continue to train on the gym bike and change my plan to Run pace — Bike power (using heart rate as a secondary measure). The maintenance plan will be a good learning curve for me to workout what works best for me before my formal Ironman plan begins.

    Happy days, im glad i got that right,took me while but i got there haha – thanks for confirming.

    Thanks once again for your help with this!

    All the best


    Hi Aidan

    The 80/20 plans definitely work.. it’s a bit of leap of faith the first time, but I used this for my first Ironman and completed it quite comfortably!
    Just trust the plan and try to stick to it.. the only times I have come unstuck (injury etc.) is when I have deviated from the plan 🙁

    The most important week in each block is the recovery week and the key to progression is making sure your training zones are reset accurately as you improve.

    Good luck for the training!


    Hi Cmlracing,

    Thanks for the advice!

    Although i trust the plans as i have researched a fair bit about the science, Its great to hear from someone like yourself, it gives me much more confidence. Also, my experience of doing the training so far has been very good as i feel fit and strong.



    Hi all,

    Quick question

    I was thinking of getting a sports massage when i transition from my maintenance tri plan to my marathon plan.

    Ive never had one before, and i hear they can be intense so just wondering if there is an ideal time to get one or is it fine anytime?

    Many thanks


    Hi Aidan,

    Find a therapist that is willing to work with you on the pressure they use. There is no ideal pressure and it should feel comfortable and relaxing. It is ok to feel a bit of soreness after but it should not be overwhelming.

    The most common usage is after a hard workout for a ‘flush’ and recovery for your next workout. It sounds like during your transition into the marathon plan it is a good time to get one.


    Dr. AJ


    Hi Dr. Gregg,

    That’s great advice, much appreciated!

    I’m glad to hear that they do not necessarily need to be painful, though i’m happy to tolerate a significant amount of pressure as long as it is useful.

    Many thanks


    Hi David,

    I’m about to transition from my triathlon maintenance plan into my marathon plan. I feel great so far!

    Do all the marathon plans have the crossfit options built in or do I have to choose a specific plan?

    It looks like the Level 1 plan would be the best fit for me.

    Many thanks

    David Warden


    All the run plans have cross-train options in them. Not crossfit, but cross-train options (cycling, weights, swimming, rowing…).

    The number varies by distance and level. See https://www.8020endurance.com/run-level-comparison/ which shows the number of cross-train option per plan.


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