Spin® Life Blog

Training for a Triathlon with Spinning® – Part 1

Training for a Triathlon with Spinning® – Part 1

Posted by Spinning® on Apr 18th 2018

 Ask any of the participants in your Spinning® class, and chances are that a few will have already completed a triathlon. The odds are even better those participants either know someone who has completed a triathlon or want to compete in one themselves.This is great for your Spinning classes! Having a performance goal outside of class gives our riders a real sense of focus, direction and excitement. It not only benefits their commitment to their specific training (like swimming, biking and running), but also gives them a much clearer focus when participating in their Spinning classes. Our job is to ensure we support them in getting the most effective training benefits during their indoor cycling sessions. This will translate into improvement in their outdoor riding and their race results.

The Spinning Energy Zones™ and Program Planning

The Spinning Energy Zones™ were created with performance gains in mind. An athlete using heart rate parameters will see incredible gains when they work at intensities that are suited to a particular stage of their training cycle. For someone new to Spinning, the Energy Zone may just seem like a fun way to label classes. However, when a person begins to train for performance, you may notice a shift. They will start to become more interested in and understand the real necessity and benefit of having a structured plan to their weekly rides.Each Energy Zone can be matched perfectly to the various cycles that exist in a periodized training year. This is key to keeping our triathletes coming back to classes and giving them the option to ride indoors when they cannot ride outside. When people train to race, a class needs to be about much more than just fun, music and sweat. They have a plan, they want results, and every single hour of training is focused on making them the fittest and fastest athlete they can be when race day comes. Your classes most definitely can support their pursuits.

Periodization Defined

Simply defined, periodization is when a set period of time (like a season or year) is divided into training periods. These periods then have a different focus and allow for the manipulation of volume and intensity to meet fitness requirements that are specific and necessary to peak for race day.With periodization, the periods of training refer to time. These periods are referred to as Prep, Base, Build, Peak, Race and Transition (Friel, 2009). Each period has a specific training focus. The closer these periods get to race day, the more specific to race conditions they become (Friel, 2009).In order for a person to create a personalized annual training plan, they would need to establish a number of key factors:

1. When are they racing

2. How many training hours they can manage on average each week?

3. How many sessions can they do each day?

Other than the above there are certainly a number of other considerations to include in order to create a successful plan, such as limiting factors, strengths and race goals. However, this is definitely a good starting pointing for anyone completing their first triathlon.Once a training plan is established, the athlete will then be able to identify what period they are in and therefore what type of training sessions they should be doing during that period. Basically, a yearly plan is established by working backwards from the date of the athlete’s race.The table below illustrates the periods over the course of a year and how we can use the Spinning Energy Zone class formats to suit each period.Capture

Periodization Application

If your participants know what training period they are in and have a heart rate monitor, they can modulate the intensity in their Spinning classes to suit their training goals. At times, the class may not fit their training purpose, but there is always the option to ride at their own heart rate parameters that suit their goal without necessarily following the class format. In order to avoid any disruption in your students’ plans, I always suggest to my participants before class that they plan to ride at a different, self-directed pace. That is what the Spinning program was founded on; an individualized ride where the rider chooses their own intensity.

Principle of Specificity

Although the Spinner® bike is a great training tool to build fitness, you can’t ride it on race day! That requires riding your own bike outdoors. Specificity in training in very beneficial, and for triathletes, riding on a real road with conditions like weather and aerodynamics would yield the best training outcomes. However, keep in mind that this depends on where the athlete is in their training cycle. If they are in their Prep, Base or Transition period, then Spinning classes are a fantastic option. Then, as they get closer to the Build and Peak period, more of their rides should be as race specific as possible, which means saving the Spinning classes for recovery sessions.

Training Volume

Because most Spinning classes last between 45 and 60 minutes, the duration of an indoor cycling session may not provide enough training time on the bike. Even a sprint-distance triathlon will have even the fastest riders on the bike for at least thirty minutes. The ride time for triathlon races ranges from thirty minutes up to 6–8 hours on the bike. Therefore, it is necessary that participants ride for at least one hour or more when they are training for triathlon goals. This may mean that they arrive early to classes or stay on the bike longer to replicate the duration of a triathlon.


Stay tuned for part two of “Training for Triathlons with Spinning”, which will include examples of weekly training schedules and how instructors can independently include Spinning Energy Zone rides into their weekly classes. Please feel free to post your comments or questions to
Friel, J. (2009). The triathlete’s training bible (3rd ed.). Boulder, CO: VELO Press.
Natashia is a Melbourne based Spinning® Master Instructor. She has worked in the fitness industry in Australia for nearly twenty years and with the Spinning® program since the late 1990’s. She is a vocational college qualified fitness teacher, a Level 1 triathlon coach and for the past several years has been racing all distances of triathlon.