Adapting Triathlon plan for military prep – 80/20 Endurance

Adapting Triathlon plan for military prep

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    I was hoping you could offer some advice on how to modify the triathlon plans for my military fitness preparation. I think that triathlon fitness is very similar to the endurance requirements I have; just with 4 modalities instead of 3 (running, freestyle swimming, swimming with dive fins – only kicking, and ruck marching).

    My main goals are to put up good scores on the 2 PT tests- 1.5-mile run + 500m freestyle swim, and 3-mile run + 1500m fin swim, and to comfortably ruck march for 8-miles in 2 hours. I want to eventually work up to 3-5k fin swims, and a 15-mile ruck march in 4 hours.

    The principles in the book really made sense to me. Virtually every military training plan I’ve seen is at least 50% moderate to high intensity, up to almost all high intensity. Low volume, high intensity is something that’s become in vogue lately. That kind of training will give me improvements for a month, but then I hit the wall and over train, which leaves me back to where I started or worse (ex: I went from running 10x400m in 1:27-1:28 one week, couldn’t even do a single 400 in 1:35 the next). At the same time, low intensity only endurance training has never improved my performances, and those usually end up with me being injured (like now). I’m hopeful that 80/20 will be the special sauce for me.

    I was originally planning on starting with the level 1 sprint plan, but I ended up with Achilles tendinitis from my previous training. So, I think it would be smarter to build up to it with the first 9-weeks of the 0 plan (2 runs, 2 rucks (substituted for the cycling), 1 free swim, 1 fin swim- or maybe free and fin both days). My gym is reopening, but unfortunately the pool will not be; with no current time frame for it to. I was thinking of substituting swimming with rowing or elliptical until then. Hopefully I can swim again before getting to the start of the level 1 plan. The lower volumes of these plans will also give me more room for strength training.

    For the level 1 plan, my idea is 3 runs (my biggest weakness), and 2 sessions of everything else – which will be easy to plug into the original 9 session per week template. I can just plug in workouts from the swimming appendix for the fin sessions.

    I am unsure of how to gauge the intensity of the ruck marches. Even at my top walking speed, my heart rate is only in Z1 of my running HR zones. That event is more leg endurance than aerobic capacity, IMO.

    Thank you for your time.

    David Warden


    Best of luck to you in your PT tests. I hope I can offer some helpful advise.

    The first thing that comes to mind is strength training and how essential it will be for the ruck march. There should be a minimum of two sessions per week regardless of if you are on a Level 0 or Level 1 plan.

    I’m aligned with your Level 0 to Level 1 transition based on your injuries, but I’d consider an Oly plan over a Sprint plan. It’s the 15-mile ruck march that I keep coming back to. The Sprint plan does not feel like enough volume for a run what will end up being close to a Marathon in total time (15 miles with backpack, maybe 10 miles per hour = 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours). An Oly race is 2-3 hours, and the plan accommodates for that length of an event, so I think you’ll be better off overall with an Oly plan if you can meet the time commitment. In fact, I’d rather have you on an Oly Level 0 than a Sprint Level 1 or 2 based on the PT.

    Finally, consider replacing one of the 3 bike sessions a week with a run so that you are running 4 times a week and cycling 2. If your run is a weakness, let’s make it a strength. Just perform the cycling workout as written, but as a run. Your cycling fitness will not end up being an asset for the PT, but the run is essential.

    I’m aligned with all of you other modifications and suggestions.



    Hey David,

    Your suggestion on using the Olympic plan is a good idea. As much as running is already my weakness, long distance running in particular is the worst. The Olympic plan should help with that too, then.

    So your recommendation for weekly sessions is 4x run, 3x swim, 2x ruck? Do you think I should swim both freestyle and fin swim each of the swim sessions?

    I found your article on dryland swim training. I’ll be using that until I can get back in a pool.

    I’ve been thinking of finally investing in a Garmin watch. That should help me pace my rucks and intensity runs better.

    • This reply was modified 2 days, 1 hour ago by TheSlowest.
    David Warden

    Not necessarily 4x run, 3x swim, 2x ruck, but 3 run, 3 swim, 2 bike, 1 ruck. as you get closer and closer to your PT, the ruck should increase, maybe 3 run, 2 swim, 2 bike, 2 ruck.

    The ruck does not have to be long every time, it’s the specificity that needs to be frequent. Don’t forget that strength training!



    Ah, so keeping in some cycling for crosstraining. I understand now.

    No worries about strength training. It’s something I actually enjoy.

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