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By: j.e.mcgowan

A Simple Guide To The Long Swim, Bike, or Run Workout

If you’ve have ever followed a training plan or have had a coach help you train for a triathlon, I’m sure you are familiar the “long” swim, bike, or run. These long workouts typically involve going long and fairly slow (aerobic) for an extend period of time to better prepare you for your event.

The problem with the long swim, bike, and run workout is determining just how long this workout should be. For example some coaches recommend that triathletes training for an Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) need to run at least 20 miles leading up to the event while others say 26 is better. With the all confusion piling up the long run topic, below is the definitive guide to determining your long swim, bike, and run workouts.

Disclaimer:The following is just an estimate of how long a “long workout” should be for a given triathlon distance and discipline. As discussed in every article here on fitegg.com, every athlete is completely different. This being the said the number below work about 70% of the athletes I work with, which is why I believe this information is worth sharing. If you’re an elite or novice triathlete these numbers will be of little help.


Swim: 20 minutes or 800 meters

Bike: 30 minutes or 12 miles

Run: 20 minutes or 3 miles

The sprint distance is fairly short therefore, the term “long workout” is of little use. For sprint triathletes almost all workouts should be at least the distance or duration above and be of fairly high intensity.


Swim- 25 minutes or 1500 meters

Bike- 1 hour or 25 miles

Run- 45 minutes or 6 miles

Similar to the sprint distance, once an athlete can achieve these durations or distances comfortably other workouts need to started increasing in intensity and duration. After a certain point athletes racing at this distance can benefit from going longer than distances and durations above.


Swim: 30 minutes or 1 mile (1600 meters)

Bike: 3 hours or 50 miles

Run: 1.5 hours or 12 miles

Unlike the Sprint and Olympic distance I see little benefit in biking or running over the distances or duration’s above. However, swimming is slightly different as some athletes benefit from swimming 60 or more minutes in a swim workout.


Swim: 1 hour or 2 miles (3200 meters)

Bike: 6 hours or 100 miles

Run: 3 hours or 20 miles

Ironman triathlon training is truly where the long workouts are very important, given the distance of an Ironman (140.6 miles total). If you are self coached slowly work up to achieving the distance’s or duration’s above to better prepare you for race day.z

The Long Swim, Bike, and Run that you do will depend on dozens of differently variables however use this information has a guide to help you to determine your long workout, or a duration/distance to shoot for.

About Brad Haag

Brad is a certified USAT triathlon coach, a certified USAC cycling coach, and a certified NCSF personal trainer. Brad specializes in coaching endurance and warrior class athletes to peak performance. He can be found at HaagsAthletics.com.

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