Jen Rulon

Triathletes are lazy! What? Yes, we tend to get in the grind of long, slow distance workouts, and tend not to get into our phosphagen energy (i.e.: anaerobic) system, which is engaged when doing maximum intensity for 3-30 seconds. I was just talking with a coach at The Tribe about how triathletes tend not to go into the high intensity systems but CrossFit athletes tend not to go in the aerobic system. It is definitely a balance but what a great way system to tap into during the “Season of Improvement!”

Why should triathletes get into the phosphagen energy system if we are running in the aerobic system?  Triathletes need to get in that system occasionally. We want YOU to have a better kick at the end of your race, or surging past someone during the run at an Ironman, or applying more force to the pedals on a hill in a race.  Especially as an Ironman triathlete, we want you to tap into the phosphagen energy system.

How do we train the phosphagen energy system? By applying high intensity efforts, either during the swim, bike, and run, or in the gym. Remember, these efforts don’t have to be long because you are tapping into the oxidative system (your aerobic system), which you do on a 30 minute run or a 6 hour bike.

Rulon Rules: Best HIIT Workouts for Triathletes

1. EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute)

  • Purpose of an EMOM is interval work. No more than 12 minutes for this workout.
  • You would do a “couple” of exercises all within a minute. If you get done with your exercises in 40 seconds, you have a 20 second rest. If you get done with your exercises in 50 seconds you have 10 seconds rest. I would like to see at least a 10-20 second rest within that minute.  You push yourself within that minute, knowing that you will have a little bit of rest.
  • At Home Workout: 8 Burpees/10 Air Squats for 10:00 minutes
  • At Gym Workout: Beginner: 5 Front Squats/5 Burpees for 10:00 minutes. Advanced: 5 Power Cleans/5 Box Jumps for 10:00 minutes

2. Helen (CrossFit workout) 

  • It is FANTASTIC, and you should keep this under 12 minutes. You have cardio, bodyweight, strength, and power.
  • 3 Rounds for Time: 400 meter Run/21 KBS (Kettle Bell Swings) (24 kg for men/16 kg for women)/12 Push-Ups
  • I use this workout as a Benchmark or a “test” to see where I am throughout the year.
  • What if I can’t do pull-ups? Quite all right; do ring rows or pull-ups with a band. Remember to adjust for YOU!

3. Tabata Intervals 

  • Tabata intervals can work with swimming, cycling, running, and body weight exercises (burpees, sit-ups, air squats, push-ups, etc.)
  • 8 minutes of work: :20 seconds on/:10 seconds rest
  • The purpose of Tabata is to go max effort for 20 seconds and rest the 10. You should NOT be able to do numerous Tabata intervals in your workout. One and done.
  • Check out this article from

4. Bodyweight Workouts

  • You can do these at home. I have gathered a variety of workouts, and put them together for triathletes.
  • 150 Sit-Ups for Time (Under 10 minutes): Every 1 minute, including the first minute, you have to do 3 Burpees
  • 5-8 Rounds for Time (RFT): 10-15 Sit-Ups/10-15 Air Squats/10-15 Burpees or Push-Ups
  • 3 RFT: 7 Burpees/ 14 Sit-Ups/28 Walking Lunges (EACH LEG)

5.  At Gym Workouts (Global Gym/Home Gym or CrossFit Gym)  

  • Some of these exercises are a little advanced BUT through proper instruction and understanding the movements, it can be done
  • 3 RFT: 400 meter Row/ 10 Push Press (85 lb men/65 lb women) (Adjust as needed)/10 Box Jumps
  • 21/15/9 (You do 21 back squats, 21 push press, then 15, 15, etc). Back Squats and Push Press (Same bar, so weight has to be what you can do for push press).
  • 8-10 Rounds for Time: 3 Power Cleans/6 Box Jumps/9 Burpees

There are so many combinations for triathletes for bodyweight workouts and gym workouts as well. I try to think about what is needed for triathletes, which would be posterior chain movements, a push and pull movement, and something that spikes their heart rate in the phosphagen energy system.

Start adding these to your workouts and you will see a HUGE difference in your training. If you are a science geek like me, check out this PDF about high intensity training for endurance athletes. Fantastic article!

Interested in more about Strength Training for the Triathlete? Check out my book,  “Rulon Rules: Strength Training & the Triathlete,” Click HERE. I will Sign, Seal and Deliver the book personally!

AUTHOR: Jen Rulon

I have been coaching triathletes, runners, and cyclists for over 21+ years; I received my Master's Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. And as you may have learned, there is more to life than swimming, biking, and running. It is a lifestyle, and I am here to help you cross that finish line with a smile, whether it is an Ironman Triathlon or the Ironman of Life. You can find my knowledge shared in Triathlete Magazine, Runners World, on the TEDx Stage, the Health and Wellness Expo in San Antonio, TX, Southwest Research Institute Human Performance Summit, Training Peaks Workshops, "Self Motivation Strategies for Women" on Amazon, Men's Journal Online, and the New York Times. I also practice what I preach—she's a 15x Ironman Triathlete who participated in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, on October 14, 2017.

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