triathlon swimming

Holiday Triathlon Training Guide

By Paul Ruggiero
CTS Triathlon Coach

Now that the calendar has rolled to its last page, it’s a super fast sleigh ride from here to New Year’s.  Everything is crammed and accelerated during the Holiday season.  There’s not enough time for anything.  From Holiday parties to end-of-year work projects to family schedules, on top of triathlon training, December can often become a lost month for athletes.

Don’t let the December chaos set you back.  Take this busy time to shake up the proverbial Christmas tree of your training.  Here’s a Peppermint Spiced Latte flavored guide to cheer up you December Holiday training.


This month, STOP doing what you’ve been doing.  Your routine may have served you well or it may have unwittingly put you in a rut.  Regardless, STOP.  (sidebar – if you’re on a plan with a Coach, chat with them first!)

Now, take a deep breath and turn this month on its head.  Change it up.  A month of doing things different isn’t going to kill you.  Try this:

Week 1: swim 5 times – A distance set, a sprint set, a very long set, a set focused on drills, a short recovery session.

Week 2: bike 5 times – 2 to 3 times during the week, 90 minutes to 2 hours is perfect. Then on the weekend, get back to back long days (2-4 hours) in.  (Spoiler Alert: tips for running off the bike coming later in this article)

Week 3: run 5 times – An easy run. A 10 K for pace and distance. An interval workout. Another easy run. And a long slow distance run.

Week 4: Strava Festive 500 challenge.  (500 K on the bike between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve)

Week 5: All Star Week – One of each of your favorite workouts from the last 4 Weeks!  Change it up, have FUN.


You know there’s a hard group ride on Sunday, and you never go.  You know there’s a masters swim at 5:30 Monday morning, and you never go.  You know there’s a track down the street and you’ve never done any track work on it.  You have a smart trainer but haven’t hit up a Zwift race yet.  Let’s go.  December is a good time to expand your horizons.

So you get dropped, big deal.  Go back next week and you’ll hang on a bit longer, I promise. You’re getting lapped in the medium lane on the Masters swim.  Don’t worry about it. Focus on the PROCESS, the building blocks, not the goal way off in the distance. Be present and focused during each session. Celebrate bold new endeavors proudly.  No matter how good or bad it goes, you tried something different.  And that’s a win!


Ask yourself one question after your training session: Did you do your best? Don’t overthink it too much, you most likely know the answer right away. You may not admit it out loud but you know. If you nailed it, you know. And you also know if you mailed it in.

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In December, commit to do your best.  Every workout. Do your best to plan, and execute. Do your best to be positive in the face of adversity. And do your best to hang onto the group, do your best interval, and do your best victory dance.


Running off the bike is a skill learned and honed by repetition.  The run off the bike is an art form.  I often get asked:  “What’s the best workout to get better at triathlon?” I almost always answer with “Run more off the bike.”  I believe almost every bike ride should end with some sort of run.  Run length is dependent on your current training block, but my rule of thumb (if no huge race is close by) is the shorter the ride, the longer the run. The longer the ride, the shorter the run.

If you’re on the bike for 5 hours, a simple 10 to 20 minute run off the bike is good.  If your bike is an hour, then a 30 to 90 minute run is good.  Remember to GO OUT SLOW off the bike!  Start with an easy jog for  5 to 10 minutes, then accelerate and find your groove.  Make the last 5 to 10 minutes of the run the fastest.

Honing this adaptation is a great benefit to race day success.  Making running off the bike “automatic” gives you an advantage over those who only do it occasionally.  Even try spinning on the trainer 10 minutes before a mid week training run.  Running off the bike is a skill.  Own it.


Remember last year when your Auntie offered you a Lebron James-sized helping of pecan pie at Christmas dinner?  And you said, “No, I’m stuffed.” but what you really meant was “Yes! Please! But, you know, race weight. So, I better not.” Remember that conflicted moment?  This year, when asked if you want the pie, just say “Yes, please!

You want the pie, eat the pie.  Don’t eat the whole thing, but a piece won’t hurt and you’ll make Auntie happy. Don’t be so hard and rigid on yourself this Holiday Season. Try to be awesome to yourself.  And turn that to being awesome to yourself into being awesome to the people who spend the year supporting your desire to train and compete.  Give back to them not with gifts, but with yourself.  Be thankful to the people who accommodate our long weekend bike rides.  Give an extra hug to the people who wake up alone while we are at the pool.  Make breakfast for those who listen to us endlessly moan because we missed our PR at the Turkey Trot 10K.  Hang with the kids. And maybe have another piece of that pie.


Triathlon training camps are rare. If you see one, take advantage. Imagine nothing but focused swim, bike and runs under the watchful eyes of professional coaches.  Swim video analysis, run form break down, bike threshold tests to pinpoint proper pacing for race day.

I’m a bit biased because I’m one of the coaches at CTS triathlon camps, but I think everything above coupled with great food, massages, and the camaraderie of other triathletes from around the world make our tri camps second to none.  We cater our camps to the participants, so if you’re coming in looking for Ironman glory or wanting to learn the fastest way through your local sprint tri, we’ll make sure you get what you need. Grab a buddy from your tri club and join us at a triathlon camp!

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