Entries are open for our 2017 events - click on the Events page for more info on the line up!

read more


2017 Entries are flying in - make sure you dont miss your spot by leaving it too late!

read more


Results will be published here after each event

read more


Training guidelines, tips and advice from our in-house coaching team

read more

Vital Events Training Guide

(n.b. the training guide below can be applied to both single and multi sport training activities - if you would like further training/coaching advice and guidance please see links at the bottom of this page)

Organising the Training Week

The structure of the week depends on the phase of the annual plan which are: Preparation (general and specific), Pre-competition or Build, Competition and Recovery. Different aspects are covered all year round.  You should aim to perform a variety of training sessions covering the skills and conditioning demands of your chosen sport.

Building an Annual Plan

There are 4 main phases of the annual plan depending on the time of the year and/ or the date of your target race or event. 

Preparation Phase

In this phase you should be identifying areas for and working on improvement in technique and baseline fitness level.  By identifying these targets you can then begin to establish a plan for addressing any technical issues and begin to create some specific, achievable and above all realistic goals to work towards i.e. “by 30th March I’ll be able to tumble turn effectively and run 5k 20 seconds faster than in February”

For endurance athletes it is important to develop the aerobic system during this time performing proportionally more aerobic endurance workouts gradually building to threshold level but not forgetting other types of workout completely. Aerobic Endurance sessions in the base phase should be of a higher volume and lower intensity to train the muscles to work for longer periods of time by absorbing oxygenated blood. During the Preparation phase you should still perform some sessions that work on aspects such as speed, strength, lactate tolerance and power to ensure effective transition to the Pre Competition (or Build) phase.

Towards the end of the Preparation Phase threshold work will give the optimal aerobic training effect, provided the intensity is correct. Too intense and there is a greater contribution from anaerobic metabolism, and too easy and you could be going faster! (See training intensity table)

Pre-Competition (or Build) Phase

Intensity is beginning to increase whilst volume may be reduced.  Specific race skills are introduced here such as deep water starts, transition practice etc. There is more of a focus on speed endurance and lactate tolerance as you work towards achieving race pace and going more into overload.  Intensity will rise here so get ready to push the boundaries a little!

Competition Phase

During the Competition phase the intensity increases in general (although remember, it’s important to keep your aerobic endurance levels high and your technique honed) main sets in workouts will now be pushing into levels 4 & 5 on the intensity table.  You will be racing during this period so too so you’ll need to adjust the volume and work on developing speed to enhance performance. Lactate production and Tolerance sets can be introduced into your main sets.

Recovery Phase

The Recovery phase is often either overlooked completely or taken a little too literally! This phase is vital for ongoing development and improvement, intensity here will be lower in general and workouts should be more fun and of the “this is what I WANT to do” type. Many athletes even try different sports during this time. Remember not to lose sight of the overall plan though and it won’t do any harm to bash out the odd speed session.

Remember to keep testing yourself through the whole process, simple time trials every 3-4 weeks will do, just try and make it the same every time. Use the same run route, swimming pool or cycle circuit.

Training Intensity


Heart Rate Level

(% of max)

Perceived Effort*

(6 – 20)



Easy / recovery

50 – 65

6 – 10

Very easy – could maintain this pace for extended periods


Lower aerobic endurance

65 – 70

10 – 12

Easy – could maintain this pace for about an hour


Upper aerobic endurance

70 – 75

12 – 14

Steady – could maintain this pace for about ½ hour


Threshold endurance

75 – 85

14 – 16

Starting to feel quite hard, but could maintain for 10mins +


Overload endurance

85 – 90

16 – 18

Hard, can only maintain for a few minutes


Maximum effort

90 +

18 – 20

Very hard, can only maintain for seconds

*Reference to the BORG scale (1998) of perceived effort

Session Structure

Depending on which training phase you are in, you will cover varying sessions on endurance/ stamina work and speed/ power/ strength work. Some examples of what to include in those sessions are listed below. The intensity and how much rest should be given are illustrated. These examples are to be used as the "main set" for a single training session. A quality warm-up which can include some technique work should be of low intensity.  A building set may then be used to bring the heart rate gradually to the level required for the main set and to thoroughly warm up the muscles. The main set should always be followed by a recovery cool-down, depending on the length of the session, training cycle, etc.

Session Types & Themes

Aerobic Endurance

This involves working at a heart rate level of 65 to 75% of your Max heart rate (MHR) (L2 / L3). Rest intervals will typically be between 10 to 60 seconds depending on the discipline and distance of the repeats you are performing.

Example sets:

Swim: 15-20 x 100m @ 60 to 75% MHR (L2 / L3) 10 to 15 seconds recovery

Cycle: 4-6 x 20mins @ 60 to 75% MHR (L2 / L3) 20 to 45 seconds recovery

Run: 6-8 x 800m @ 60 to 75% MHR (L2 / L3) 20 to 25 seconds recovery

Threshold Endurance

This involves working at a heart rate level of 75 to 85% MHR (L4a). Rest intervals will typically be between 10 to 60 seconds depending on the discipline and distance of the repeats you are performing.

Example sets:

Swim: 8-10 x 200m @ 75 to 85% MHR (L4a) 15-20 seconds recovery

Cycle: 5-8 x 15min @ 75 to 85% MHR (L4a) 30-60 seconds recovery

Run: 8-12 x 400m @ 75 to 85% MHR (L4a) 15-30 seconds recovery

Overload/ Overload Endurance

This involves working at a heart rate level of 85 to 90% MHR (L4b). Recovery time will typically be shorter in order that a certain level of fatigue is maintained throughout the set.

Example sets:

Swim: 4-6 x 200m @ 85 to 90% MHR (L4b) 15 seconds recovery, PLUS 8-12 x 100m @ 85 to 90% MHR (L4b) 10 second recovery

Cycle: 8-12 x 10min @ 85 to 90% MHR (L4b) 30 seconds recovery PLUS 8-12 x 5min @ 85 to 90% MHR (L4b) 15 seconds recovery

Run: 1200m, 800m, 600m, 400m, 200m, 400m, 600m, 800m, 1200m @ 85 to 90% MHR (L4b) 20 seconds recovery PLUS 6-10 x 200m @ 85 to 90% MHR (L4b) 10 seconds recovery


Strength in any discipline helps increase speed, power, efficiency and the ability to hold technique and body position during the race/ workout

Example sets:

Swim: 10-20 x 50m Pull with band, 30 seconds recovery.

Cycle: 15-20 x 2-5min Seated hill climb or over-gearing, 30 seconds recovery

Run: 12-20 30sec-2min Hill repeats, recovery on downhill


Power is similar to strength but is measured over a much shorter period of time, and is defined as “the ability to exert a maximal force in as short a time as possible”

Example sets:

Swim: 8-12 x 12.5m band Maximum effort, 12.5m steady, 30 seconds recovery

Cycle: 8-12 x short (15-20sec), steep (the steeper the better!) hill repetitions, 30-40 seconds recovery

Run: 8-12 x 50m sprints, 20-30sec recovery

Lactate Production

This involves working at a heart rate level well above the threshold level. Efforts will be of 90%+ MHR / L5, with longer rest periods. The aim is to work close to maximum speed and then to rest sufficiently in order to give time for the lactate to be largely eliminated.

Example sets:

Swim: 6-12 x 50m @ Maximum pace (L5), 2-3 minutes recovery

Cycle: 10-20 x 1min @ Maximum pace (L5), 2-3 minutes recovery

Run: 5-8 x 300m @ Maximum pace (L5), 2-3 minutes recovery

Lactate Tolerance

The aim of this type of set is also to exercise at close to maximum but with less rest in order that the body may experience working with a lactate build-up in the system.

Example sets:

Swim: 10-16 x 50m @ Maximum pace (L4b / L5), 45sec recovery

Cycle: 12-24 x 1min @ Maximum pace (L4b / L5), 30sec recovery

Run: 6-10 x 300m @ Maximum pace (L4b / L5), 30sec recovery


This is where we look at the pure speed aspect of any sport. Fewer repeats are performed at max effort with longer rest intervals focussing on the speed of muscle movement and development of fast twitch fibres.

Example sets:

Swim: 10 x 25m @ Maximum pace (L5), 1 minute recovery

Cycle: 10 x 2min @ Maximum pace (L5), 1 minute recovery

Run: 10 x 200m @ Maximum pace (L5), 1 minute recovery

Speed Endurance

These workouts are designed to allow your body to perform faster for longer.  Much like the speed sessions but with longer main sets and less rest, intensity will tend to be slightly lower in the L4a bracket.

Example sets:

Swim: 30-40 x 25 metres @ 80-95% (L4b / L5), 15 sec recovery

Cycle: 15-20 x 2min @ 80-95% (L4b / L5), 20 sec recovery

Run: 16-20 x 200m @ 80-95% (L4b / L5), 15 sec recovery



  • Vital events can offer multi and single sport coaching and/or customised training plans for specific Vital Events races (or any other races) from beginners to elite athletes from our in house BTF Level 3 coach - for more info click here