Matt Fitzgerald: Reach Full Ironman Potential on 12 Hours A Week

“[M]any triathletes can race a faster Ironman by following a well-constructed 12-hours-a-week program than they could with a higher-volume approach,” says Matt Fitzgerald. He describes how it can be done in an article entitled, “Minimalist Ironman Training.” According to Fitzgerald:

You can prepare for a successful Ironman triathlon with a program that has an average training volume of only 12 hours per week and a briefly-maintained peak training volume of 16 hours.  And by “successful” I don’t mean finishing alive. I mean covering the distance as fast as your genetic potential allows.

Fitzgerald proceeds to identify and explain his five reasons why a minimal approach may be better than a higher-volume approach:

  1. Swimming performance is all about technique, not fitness
  2. The swim just isn’t that important
  3. Cycling fitness crosses over well to running
  4. High-intensity indoor cycling is time-efficient and effective
  5. A dozen century training rides won’t give you much more cycling endurance than two or three

A seasoned endurance athlete himself, Fitzgerald derives his recommendations from personal experience and the training examples of other elite athletes. Of course, there is also plenty of scientific evidence in support of his ideas, particularly fitness crossover, high-intensity intervals, and reduced training volume.

Despite the title of his article, Fitzgerald’s plan is not the most minimal we’ve ever seen. After all, it still calls for regular weekly long runs (we presume over an hour) and regular 3.5 hr bike rides, sometimes longer.  Some coaches and athletes have found that even these can be reduced or eliminated.

Still, it’s noteworthy to see another athlete/coach/writer embrace what many of you already know (and what Jessi Stensland echoed yesterday): volume might work well for some, but for many others there’s a better way.

Thanks to Brett of @Zentriathlon for the tip.


  1. Greg says:

    It appears that the research points to the direction of higher functionality and presence of the aerobic system. If this is the case, would it not be prudent to train that system more? and there by making it more efficient? Am I missing something?

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