Stacking EN Training Plans Across Your Season

150 150 Rich Strauss

[box]Please Note: This guidance is for our 2012 or EARLIER OutSeason® Training Plans. The 2013 OutSeason® plans are 14-weeks long and do not follow this template. 

[/box]Our OS Seminar and recent series in the blog have solicited several emails from training plan customers, inquiring about how to stack our plans across a season. Let’s discuss:

The Plans Themselves
We currently offer:

  • 20wk OutSeason
  • 12 and 20wk IM and HIM training plans

Low volume, high intensity solutions to make you much faster. Notes:

  • 5-8hrs total volume per week
  • Divided into 3 training plans: a FTP/Threshold/T-pace block, a Vo2Max block, another Threshold block.
  • Swims are not scheduled into the plan, but the plan includes tables with 20wks x 2-3 swim per week x Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced options, so you can insert them into the weekly training schedule wherever you want, if you do chose to swim in the OutSeason.

Long Course Training Plans (HIM and IM)

  • 20wk plans = 8wks of General Prep + 12wks of Race Preparation training. These are written from the perspective of “this person may be starting this plan without a good base of fitness = we start things out slowly and ramp up gradually.” Think you pick this plan up in January to train for Coeur d’Alene after having not done much organized training since your last race at the end of October…as an example.
  • 12wk plans = this 12wk Race Prep phase above. That is, the 12wk plans are IDENTICAL to the last 12wks of the 20wk plans. In contrast to the 20wk plans, we assume that you have been doing at least 8wks of organized training before dropping into this 12wk plan. We drop you right into Race Prep training on Day 1 with no gentle ramp up.

Now, after this preface, let’s talk about how we recommend you fit all of this togther across season. Notes:

  • The OutSeason® plans are our bestest tools for making you much, much faster while also keeping your training volume committment very low for a long time. This is a very, very good thing for you as an age grouper. So, whenver possible, we like you to default to this OS flavor of training because it’s so effective, the volume is so low, allowing you to preserve your head and your lifestyle committments for a long time.
  • You are going to exit the OS plan very, very fit, even with it’s low volume requirement. You will exit the OS plan far more fit than Week 1 of our 20wk plan assumes you to be. For this reason…
  • We prefer that our OS graduates only train for their A-race (HIM or IM) for 12 to 16wks. By this, we mean feet on the floor at 5:30am, head focused and actually training for this one event 12-16wks away. In our experience maintaining this focus for longer than 16wks begins to take a large mental toll.

Let’s now apply these thoughts to some annual schedule case studies:

Early Season (April – mid June) Half Ironman:

  • Start the OS plan on whatever date of the calendar you can committ yourself to hard, but short, work for 20wks. We strongly recommend that you do not end your season and then drop right into our OS plan. You’ll want 2-4 or more weeks to decompress, pretend you’re a normal person, etc before you committ to making yourself much faster. So when exactly you start the OS plan is not as important as “is your head in the right place to start?”
  • Next, back plan 6-12wks from your early season HIM.
  • How does the end of your OS fit within this 6-12wk window? In our experience, you can go straight from our low volume OS right into the last 6wks of our HIM training plan and have a very, very successful race. Not so sure? Exit the OS plan at 8, 10, or 12wks out. Or you can add 30-45′ to the OS long run option and 1-1.5hrs to the OS long bike option, to give yourself a head start on the HIM plan volume while still keeping yourself in the OS plan…and making yourself much, much faster.

The guidance above works for a sorta early season IM as well, like Coeur d’Alene, for example, or IMUSA if you are cold-winter athlete.

  • Stay in the OS plan until ~16wks out from your IM
  • Consider adding volume to the OS long bike and long run, per above, if weather permits.
  • Better yet, schedule an April or May HIM, doing:
    • 20wks of the OS plan, or as much as you fit in
    • Then insert yourself into the last 16wks or so of our 20wk IM plan, inserting your HIM into this IM training plan.

Late Season Ironan (IMCA, Louisville, WI, etc)

  • Full 20wks of the OS
  • 6-12wks of HIM training for a May or June HIM, then…
  • Transition to the last 10-12wks of our 12wk plan in route to your Ironman
  • If you find yourself with some messy weeks or just not sure what to do, your default solution is the OS plan.

Within this guidance there are many, many more considerations and we could talk this stuff for days. Questions?

Become an ENFan to save 10% on our training plans, and get a FREE Four Keys DVD.

By Rich Strauss

  • Hans

    Hi Rick,
    I'm ending my season on Sept 12 and was thinking about:
    – Starting OS Plan in 10th Oct 2010 (4 weeks rest) and do full 20 weeks
    – Starting IM Plan on 27 Feb 2011 and doing 19 weeks of the program (for IM Distance race in 10 July 2011)
    The question is: should I do 19 weeks of the IM Plan? In theory I would be in good shape at that time, but I'm still 19 weeks away… would it be best to just start the OS 3 weeks later:
    – OS Plan in 31st Oct 2010 (7 weeks rest) and do full 20 weeks
    – Starting IM Plan on 20th Mar 2011 and doing 16 weeks of the program (for IM Distance race in 10 July 2011)

  • Rich Strauss

    Hi Hans,
    You should:
    * Purchase the OS plan and start it in October, per below. Just do unstructured training and generally whatever you want to do after your race until that OS start.
    * Do all 20wks of the OS
    * Recommend you then repeat the last 4-6wks of the OS
    * Then start the IM plan at 14-16wks

    One important note with this schedule is that it would be a good idea if you found a week in there for a “Transition Week:” a week of easy to unstructured training, maybe at the end of the OS plan and before you start up that shortened block. The OS is tough and requires a lot of mental focus. Having a down week is a good idea, to step back from the training, recharge your head before getting back at it. This is what we do with our Team inside.

    Good luck and thanks for your business!


  • Mager494

    I would like to use the OS plan to get me ready to dust off my local arch rival in next season's local sprint races. After the 20 week OS plan, will I be ready to take on those sprints right away, or is there some other training I should do? Then…what plan should I train with for the rest of the sprint season? (May through early Sept) …should I just re-cycle through the OS plan to keep me sharp for the sprints, or will that lead to over training?

  • Rich Strauss

    @Andy, good question. You'll be more than ready to PR any sprint or Oly after exiting the OS plan. Many of our members use the OS plan as a short course training solution. In fact, Patrick and I plan to use the OS plan to create set a specific sprint and Oly training plans, as another product offering in our Store. Not sure when those new plans would be live but I expect February or so.

  • Zach

    I was wondering if a person joins the team do they have acess to all the training plans or do they still have to purchase the plans they want to train with as well?

  • Rich Strauss

    Hi Zach,
    When you join the team we ask you to take a survey, telling us your race schedule. Patrick and I do the smart guy thing and get you started with one of our plans. You can then manage your own training by inserting any of our training plans into your account. Short answer, yes, you have access to all of our training plans and do not have to purchase additional plans.

    When you become an ENFan (see the Join tab on the home page), you'll be sent a couple emails explaining all of this is in much more detail. Hope this helps!


  • Patrick joslin

    I train with HR on bike. On my 40 min. test my results were: average hr= 157bpm and ave speed 18.2 mph. I do not have power meter so do I do my intervals at 18.2 mph or do I go at a speed that puts my ave HR during the interval in zone 4? 18.2 mph seems a little easy. Patrick Joslin

  • teamen

    Patrick, are you doing this test indoors on a trainer or outdoors? If

    indoors, I would completely discount speed. If outdoors, I would say that

    not all 18.2mph are created the same, given terrain, wind, rider weight,

    etc. Short answer is to do your intervals using HR, not speed.


  • VA


    I'm a little behind the power curve on starting my OS training but my A-race (IMFL) isn't until 5 Nov 2011 so I think I”m ok. I just purchased the OS plan and intend on starting on 6 Dec as I will be out of town and away from my bike until then. After reading your information on stacking plans I'm confused on what my next step after OS should be.

    Right now my plan looks like this:

    6 Dec -24 Apr : 20 wks OS

    25 Apr – 8 Aug: ?

    8 Aug : start 12 wk IM Plan

    I guess I'm just wondering if I should just join the team so I don't have to purchase 2 more plans on top of the one I already have.

    Thanks for your help in advance,


  • teamen

    Hi Virginia,

    Thanks for your training plan purchase! My notes:

    – As a training plan purchaser, we have given you a code for 40% off your

    next plan purchase. We've parked that code in the Training Plan Wiki (though

    it may be coming to you in an email after you register for the wiki).

    – So, yes, one solution would be to purchase the 12wk IM plan. You could

    then repeat a 4-6wk block of the OS plan to fill that gap.

    – Or you could purchase the 20wk plan = gives you another 8wks of our IM

    plan as a tool to help you fill that gap, or…

    – You can click on the upgrade link in the Training Plan Wiki to create a

    free 5-day trial. Take the team for a test drive and, if you decide to join,

    it's 3 x $29/mo for you. That might be a good $100 investment for you in

    seeing if a continuing relationship with us have value…and of course you

    can cancel you membership at any time during that first three months.

    Hope this helps, let us know if you need anything else!


  • Joslinpl

    If I am going by HR, should I try to pick a speed that keeps me just under the max HR for say zone 4. Or is it ok to exceed the max HR for the zone interval I am in.

  • Rogerb

    Late Season Ironan (IMCA, Louisville, WI, etc)

    •Full 20wks of the OS

    •6-12wks of HIM training for a May or June HIM, then…

    •Transition to the last 10-12wks of our 12wk plan in route to your Ironman

    •If you find yourself with some messy weeks or just not sure what to do, your default solution is the OS plan.

    This is the plan I want how do I find this?

  • L-E

    Just purchased the OutSeason® training plan. If I start the OS training now in January, I will finish the 20week period in mid-May.
    The goal 2011 is IM Frankfurt, July 24 (aiming at ~10.40) , so when is a good time for a half IM?
    I'm looking at these races:
    Mallorca – May 14
    Barcelona – May 29
    Pescara, Italy – JUne 12



  • teamen

    I'd aim for Barcelona at the end of May. Starting at week 14 you can begin to extend the weekend bikes to 2-2.5 hours per our guidance in the Wiki (you _are_ registered, right?) as well as add in swims. Drop the final tests in week 20 as race day is too close. You can race sim instead. Recover for a week after and then over to IM focus!






    Sent from my mobile, plse excuse any spelling errors or brevity.

  • Patty

    Hi –
    I have some questions regarding plans. I'm planning on doing IMLP this year with 2 other HIMs, one before and one after. Additionally, I will do two marathons, the Boston Marathon and a late season one to qualify for next year. My concerns with the EN plans are that they are 1) geared towards the singular goal of one IM race and won't be able to incorporate my other race goals, 2) They seem to start from square 1, so it doesn't take into account current baseline, and 3) are targetting the “beginner”, not that I am so experienced, but I am hoping to aim high for strong finishes. Can you provide me some insight as to your approach?

  • teamen

    @Patty – You are right, we don't have a plan that fits a marathon / half

    Iron / iron / half iron / marathon season! That's a very aggressive, and

    unique schedule…but our plans can still work for you. All our plans start

    with testing, so the workouts are as hard as your fitness dictates…there

    is no backwards “loss” of fitness or “too hard” feeling you might get

    elsewhere. The plans are targeted to one race, but we have guidance in our

    online Training Plan Wiki (which you get access to as a plan customer) where

    you can access our season planning guidance as well as our marathon “add on”

    to your plan, etc. Finally, we have plenty of fast/advanced folks on the

    team; they plans are marketed to the “age grouper” in that we don't kill you

    with hours and volume — we have a simple and effective week in which we use

    intensity to create your training stress and build your fitness. Please see

    any testimonials on our blog or facebook page…the plans work! Please let

    me know if we can do anything else for you!

  • lori

    I just picked up the OS and HIM plans, and will start OS on 1/24. My HIM race is Grand Columbian @ Coulee Dam on 9/17. I think I've got a handle on how the plans integrate and my thought is to do the whole 20 weeks of OS, but I have a question about incorporating a marathon in late June. Traditionally my marathon prep includes ever-increasing long runs starting 3 months or so before the race. Any thoughts on how I could tweak my OS plan to prep for a late June marathon? thanks, Lori

  • teamen

    Lori –

    We have a marathon hack that we give folks for the race. It's about 12 weeks

    long, the standard long run stuff on Sundays (Mon still off!), which is hard

    post Sat rides! Then we do interval runs on Wed (think threshold stuff,

    1,1.5,2 mile repeats) and then longer tempo runs on Friday (45 up to 90

    mins). 12 weeks means no real VO2 running starting in week 9 of the

    OS…that's when the runs go out the window.

    It's tough for sure, but do able. Feel free to create a table and post/send

    it over, I can give more feedback!

    ~ Patrick

  • an


    I want to purchase the OS plan – not sure if the beginner or intermediate is right for me? I have run several marathons, and am an experienced runner, but only 1 HIM and a few sprints triathlon wise. Any guidance would be great.

      • an


        Just bought the OS plan. One more question, where/how do I buy/download the marathon hack?

        I am signed up for IMAZ, and would like to run a marathon end of April. Not a PR attempt, but would like a Boston Qualifying time.again. Prepared to back off to half if the plan feels too intense, but I’d real like to run the full for several reasons.

  • Anthony

    Hi there I am training for the long distance tri at Lake Havasu (HITS series) on Nov 10, 2013. Would like to train using the EN plan, then join up with the team for the 2014 season. I did IM Canada in 2006 and 2002 but have been out of the game for a few years. I’m back in half marathon shape again and short distance triathlon. Was thinking of working off the 20week Long distance training plan starting in about 6 weeks. What would you recommend?
    Many thanks,

    • admin

      Anthony, thanks for the note. Your plan sounds perfect — use the plan to get up to speed and then join us in October to kick things off for a winter of Pain and Gain (and a great 2014). Let us know if you need any further help!

    • admin

      Anthony, thanks for the note. Your plan sounds perfect — use the plan to get up to speed and then join us in October to kick things off for a winter of Pain and Gain (and a great 2014). Let us know if you need any futher help!

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