10 of the best HIIT training sessions to maintain your Triathlon Fitness

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the secret behind keeping you TRI fit and fast when limited training time is on offer

So many of us tend to be sucked into that “go long – go slower” mentality that we often forget that short and sharp, when structured properly can be just as, if not more beneficial to our overall triathlon fitness maintenance

There are not many age group triathletes abound who have the benefit of time on their hands to do as much training as they like, when they like.

Time waits for no triathlete – we often need to cram in our training sessions to accommodate for the rest of the day’s activities that normally involve work and family.

What can you do in the form of HIIT sessions on a weekly basis to ensure you stay maintain your triathlon fitness with limited time availability?

  • You need to structure the sessions properly. Normally leaving a rest day or “easier” day in between so you don’t go too hard over consecutive days – no sense in throwing in the HIIIT stuff and then getting injured or sick because you pushed yourself over the safety limits
  • Make sure you are up for it when an HIIT training session is planned. For example, you may already be tired from a late night out or a bad sleep/over work and stress and come time for the session – the body and mind do not feel up to the effort. The best approach then is to delay the session to another day and not press on – if you cannot give it full gas, you are best suited to take an easier day of training or rest and wait for when the body is ready to respond in earnest
  • You also need to ensure that when you do these HIIIT sessions, they look “pretty”. By that we mean ensuring that the proper form-technique is maintained. For example, you throw in a massive effort in the swim pool. No sense in you swinging your arms like a mad-man windmill and the technical part of the swim stroke is thrown out the window. It has to be hard yes but also efficient. That means as technically sound as possible


We have put together a total of 10 HIIIT sample sessions that you can do to ensure you maintain your triathlon fitness within a shorter training time-frame



– Super-setting is one of the best forms of HIIT work you can do in the gym

* 4 sets of 20 arm curls using a LAT MACHINE followed immediately by 20 tri-cep pushdowns for example is a great way to work the arms (triceps and biceps) and get full benefit from the gym program. Rest Periods are short – between 15-20 seconds after each set (each set is a combination of 20 curls/20 pushdowns)


* 4 sets of 20 leg extension efforts followed by 20 hamstring-leg curls will also give your legs a great workout and minimise the time spent in the gym. The rest period is kept as short as possible while the weight limit can be tweaked for each individual

  • 4 x sets of 30 seconds planking (building up to 60 seconds per each set) followed immediately by 20 plyometric jumps
  • NB: If you have knee issues – be weary of the jump routine
  • A fantastic core (planks) workout program coupled with some explosive plyometric jumps




If you train your swim to be slow, your race day swim will be slow. You cannot expect to swim say 1:45 per 100m repeats in a race when you are only training at 2:00 per 100m during training sessions. You need to add some speed into the swim sets to ensure you stay sharp and fast.


  1. The Energy Swim Set


6 x 50m moderate pull-buoys swim – rest only 5 seconds between followed immediately by

6 x 50m normal swim – hard race pace effort – rest 20 seconds between followed immediately by

3 x 100m pull-buoys swim – breathing every 5th stroke only – rest 10 seconds after each one followed  immediately by

3 x 100m hard race pace swim – breathe normally – rest 30 seconds after each one followed by

6 x 25m super hard sprints – breathe every 9th stroke – rest 20 seconds after each

150m easy cool down



TOTAL SWIM SET 1.5km (the secret is no rest between the 5 hard sets on the swim program – move from one directly to the other)


  1. The Build Swim Set


100m easy swim warm-up followed by

200m hard race pace swim – rest 60 secs followed by

3 x 100m hard race pace swim – rest 20 secs after each one – followed by

8 x 50m fartlek swim (25m moderate/25m fast sprint) rest 20 secs after each one followed by

500m pull-buoys (change breathing per each length – breathe every 3rd, then every 5th, then every 7th then every 9th and repeat this pattern until the distance is done)




  1. The Power Swim Workout


8 x 25m sprints moderate effort to start off with (no warm-up) rest 10 secs at each wall

8 x 25m kick hard (no fins) rest 10 secs at each wall

8 x 50m fartlek (25m max effort sprint – followed by 25m recovery swim) rest 20 secs at each wall

400m Time Trial (100m moderate/100m hard/100m harder/100m hardest)

200m recovery






  1. The Indoor Wattbike or Turbo Training Session

* 5 mins of easy spin to warm-up the engine

* 5 x 20 second maximum sprints out the saddle at hard resistance level followed by 40 seconds easy spin recovery

* 2 minutes easy spin for a full recovery followed by

* 5 x 60 second hard intervals (stand for 30 seconds – then sit and try maintain the power output for the nest 30 seconds – spin easy 60 seconds between each hard effort

* 3 minutes easy spin recovery followed by

* Another 5 sets of 20 secs max “out the saddle sprint” followed by 40 secs easy recovery


TOTAL 30 minutes


  1. The Outdoor Interval Session


  • 10 minutes easy spin warm-up followed by
  • 1 minute hard TT followed by 2 minutes spin recovery followed by
  • 2 minutes hard TT followed by 3 minutes spin recovery followed by
  • 3 minutes hard TT followed by 4 minutes spin recovery

REPEAT this same set (total 15 minutes each) 2-3 times depending on how much time you have available with a cool down period after the last set


TOTAL (including warm-up and cool-down) 45-60 minutes


  1. The Hill HIIT Bike Session (can also be done indoors on a turbo if you are able to adjust the resistance levels)

Find a short hill around 100m- 500m long – not too steep

  • Warm-up 10 minutes
  • Then do 5 x 100m max up-hill sprints – turn around and free-wheel down slowly for recovery then do
  • 5 x 200m seated hill climbs in a heavy gear – turn around and free-wheel down for recovery then do
  • 3 x 500m sprints uphill (stand for 250m – sit for 250m) as hard as you can go – free-wheel down for recovery
  • Cool-down for 10 minutes


TOTAL (including warm-up and cool-down) 45-60 minutes


3 x FIIT RUN programs – least fuss – easiest to do

With no need to find a swim pool or take the bike along – the run programs are probably the easiest to fit into a busy day – they can be done at any time and if kept at between 30-45 minutes in duration, they can easily fit into anyone’s daily scheduling routine. Make sure you spread the load with the run sessions – leaving at least a day’s rest from running or an easier day between these hard-fast run sets. If you are not used to the fast stuff to start with – then take your time and “ease” into it. Run at a lower speed intensity to start out and as the week’s progress, you can increase the speed and level of intensity. Too fast too soon and you run the real risk of picking up slight strains and full blown injuries. This is especially relevant for the newbies that are not used to explosive speed run work-out sets just yet.


Run Session no 1


  1. The 30 1-1 (basically 30 minute’s worth of running)

– This can be done on a track/grass field or on the street (around the block for example)

* run 1 minute easy – then run 1 minute hard

* You then repeat this process until the 30 minute period is up (once you are fit you can extend this to 60 minutes

* the 60 seconds hard is as hard/fast as you can run while the 60 seconds slow – can be a walk-jog – as slow as you can go so the recovery is as effective as possible

* A nice touch is to do this with a few mates/colleagues/training buddies. The faster guys and girls in the bunch might run a further distance on the fast intervals while the slower guys and girls are able to play catch up by running a little faster on the recovery intervals. Using a GPS, you can track your distance per each one of these sessions and see how far you get. As you get fitter and faster, your distances will increase.

* If you want to mix things up a little – try a 30 secs ON HARD – 30 secs OFF EASY as an alternative – this can then be restricted to a maximum of 20 minutes – the workout is un-believably hard and the limbs will feel the “aches and pains” the morning after.


TOTAL 20-30 minutes (progressing to 60 minutes for the really fit)


Run Session no 2

Track Session (or done on a measured grass field)

A STEP Session

  • Run 200m easy then
  • Run 400m hard then
  • Run 200m easy then
  • Run 600m hard then
  • Run 200m easy then
  • Run 400m hard then
  • Run 200m cool down


Rest 60-90 secs between the set and repeat the above set (2.2km total distance) another 1-2 times

TOTAL 4.4-6.6km in distance


Run Session no 3

2 x 400m easy run repeats with 10 seconds between as a warm-up followed by

5 x 60m moderate to harder sprints (1st set take a bit of heat off the sprints in this one) rest 30 seconds after each one

400m recovery in between

5 x 60m fast sprints with 45 seconds rest between (an extra 15 secs rest after each for set no 2

400m recovery after the 2nd set

Followed by 1200m cool down (fartlek style – 300m moderate/100m sprint)


TOTAL 5km (good stretch after)



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