How To Maximize Triathlon Success With Minimal Training Time

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Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

In today's audio episode, you're going to learn the best way to implement a “triathlon training minimal time” approach, in a insider interview with Ironman champion Sami Inkinen, who trains just 8-12 hours per week.

Sami is just coming off an amateur Ironman winning time of 8:24 at Ironman Sweden, and last year, his finishes included:

  • Overall amateur champion at Wildflower Triathlon Long Course
  • Overall amateur champion at Hawaii 70.3. Ironman
  • Age group world champion at Ironman 70.3. distance in Las Vegas
  • Age group world champion runner up at Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, with an 8:58:59 Kona performance

Sami has a busy work life that only allows him a maximum of about 12 hours per week to train, and in our interview, he reveals his secrets, including:

-What 99% of Ironman triathletes do wrong…

-How a typical week of Sami's triathlon training goes…

-Sami's top swim sessions and strategies (including the use of a swimming snorkel)…

-How the combination of indoor cycling and a Computrainer can save you tons of time…

-Sami's top run workout on the track…

-How Sami uses something called Restwise to track recovery, and what he really thinks about other training recovery tools…

-What Sami eats and what he avoids eating…

-And much more!

You may also be interested in:

Top 10 Reasons Exercise Is Bad For You…

Everything You Need To Know About High Intensity Interval Training…

10 Triathlon Training Schedule Time Savers…

If you have questions, comments or feedback about triathlon training with minimal time, then leave your thoughts below!

Ask Ben a Podcast Question

47 thoughts on “How To Maximize Triathlon Success With Minimal Training Time

  1. GJ says:

    Hey Ben. Love this podcast. Listened to it multiple times.
    What i was wondering. hard are these intervals in cycling and running he mentioned?
    Is that both on or just over lactic acid threshold or All out? He mentions “best average pace ” for running but is that best pace in a 5k or a marathon?
    Hope you want to clear this up. Thanks!

  2. Henric says:

    I believe in Sami’s training principles and as an COO of a production company I can’t spend more than 10 hours per week for training. But regarding the great results of Sami, we must remember that the biggest factor for success in endurance sports is a high VO2max. And this is mostly a genetical component, not a training component. So if you want to win Hawaii, or the Tour de France, you should have an untrained value of at least 65ml/kg, which can be enhanced with years of training to 85-95ml/kg. In my case, with a fairly bad red blood picture and a trained value of about 50ml/kg (age 51), you wan’t make an IM sub 10 hours, even with best training an recovery.

  3. C_Harris says:

    This is really great stuff. I've spent 5 years doing IM "racing", and I've never gone as fast as Sami, despite training significantly more hours.

    That training really sucked, for all the reasons that Sami's is great; I never felt recovered or energized for my training. I was just logging the hours. My family and work suffered, and even when I WAS around, I was gassed. Not to mention that I was still carrying around a few extra pounds (I think 10-15 more than necessary), and the stress created from training more hours than my schedule could really support was causing poor sleep and other regular health habits.

    This coming year is going to be a little different. Health first, then training for fitness, not some arbitrary "gotta get the hours" plan. In other words – get fast, and go back to training like I used to when I ran track. We would never train 20 hours in a week, but I was much faster, healthier, and happier.

    Thanks for creating content like this to get all of us triathletes out of the "volume = the only way to obtain endurance" rut.


    1. You should read my book beyond training – it covers all this!

  4. PHILATEDDY says:

    Hi Ben
    Thanks so much for all of the great content!
    I can't seem to find this link on the podcast subscription – is it available in that format? (The link above is giving me 404 error..)

    1. Brock found the issue and fixed it – should be working now!

  5. Jo says:

    My concern, having not done am IM before but planning one in May, is how can my body become fit enough to lay 12-13 hours when I’m only training 《2 hours at a time?

    1. The best resource I have for this is <a href="” target=”_blank”> You can also take a look at this page… for an explanation of how HIIT works.

  6. simbadurio says:

    This is all good stuff. First let me think Ben for all his wealth of knowledge and sharing, it's truly over the top. I think the challenge that I'm struggling with is to keep this whole exercise lifestyle fun. I live in mostly sunny year round Florida and I absolutely abhor treadmills, pain caves and the like. If I'm dreading my workouts to save time, I'm sacrificing my enjoyment for time savings. I have access to lake swimming versus chlorinated pools, and scenic nature bike and run trails versus my den or some sweaty treadmill at my local YMCA. I guess in the end, I chose to be out with nature versus inside with machine. I know my situation is not typical (I'm from Ohio), but let's not forget you'll tend to stay with things that you look forward too and shun what you dread (eventually).

  7. kevin says:

    Great podcast. I absolutely agree quality over quantity will always get you the best result, in just about anything. However, in doing a lot of quality workouts, the risk of injury is significantly higher and one needs to be a lot more careful and in tune with your body. Sami is clearly very gifted and a driven person, and this type of training, works for him. Has Sami been injury free?
    Over my 30+ years of running races, tris, etc, I have done quality training for specific races but never sustained this as a way of life. I work hard during the day, and do not want my “training” or “exercise” to be “work’ and no longer fun. Carrying out a large number of workouts on a treadmill, indoor trainer, and indoor pool, and track can get really tedious. In addition I believe there is greater risk to hamstring injury, etc doing interval training on a treadmill. Has Sami had any muscle imbalances?
    Although not resulting in the best performance, it is a lot more fun to “exercise” and get outdoors and enjoy some great trail runs, open water swims and magic bike rides. If however you can sustain the total boredom of this type of training, then I agree, this will get you results, assuming you don’t get injured along the way.

    1. These are great questions for Sami, Kevin…and hopefully he can come back to answer them. To my knowledge, he doesn't get much in terms of injuries and muscular imbalances – and I personally see these more in a Quantity program vs. a Quality program…

  8. One of my favorite shows to date; inspiring and encouraging! I've already switched my training style around, testing what Sami talked about, and I love it! I'm not as exhausted, yet my body feels like it got a great workout. This is an approach to training that will work well with my life as an entrepreneur.

  9. jeff Hoening says:

    Hi Ben and thanks for the great interview. It's fascinating that such a high-performing triathlete relies on the treadmill – very cool. Did Sami happen to give you any specific treadmill HIIT workouts that he performs? Maybe he did in the show and I missed it. Or appreciate a work 30-45 minute workout you'd recommend on the 'mill. Great interview.

    1. Yes, he talked about 60 second hard repeats with 60 second recoveries. I think he said around 10-15 of them…

  10. Craig Huggart says:

    Sami mentioned that he almost always workouts out when he is very well rested. I'm trying RestWise. Is there a RestWise score he shoots for before working out again?

  11. Chris Hughes says:

    Wow. Why attack Ben for posting about triathlon and wellness advice? Its a free podcast about different things you can do to enhance your wellness. He takes time to try out all the random tools and then reports on it.

    Should every episode be "Ben here..I'm still training. Nothing new here..sooo….."

    Good work Ben. Keep up the awesome podcasts.

    Out of curiosity – I know you're a believer in HIIT But still do long workouts from time to time. Why do you decide to do them when you do?

    1. Ha. Thanks Chris. Anyways, long workouts are all relative. I actually don't do *any* anymore compared to other Ironman athletes (i.e. 4-8 hour days).

      My long-ish workouts of 2-3 hours bikes or 60+ minute runs are simply to bank enough time to pound the pavement for getting my joints adapted or to practice nutrition or a bike fit, etc. Physiologically not necessary, but logistically helpful…

  12. Amy says:

    56 min IM swim (even if its in a wetsuit) is not a "crappy" swimmer. He obviusly has a lot of natural talent. I don't think your average Joe AG is going to pull out a 9hr IM. But if it work for him great, everyone adapts differently to training techniques. Love the pod casts, keep em coming.

  13. Gregor Rasp says:

    Clearly the trend in traditional endurance training is going to "quality" and "time saving" training sessions which usually means relatively short yet high intensity workouts. This is great. There is one thing I do not yet fully comprehend. How does one prepare his body for being out for 4, 6, 12 or more hours on ~10 hours weekly training where most of the workouts are short high intensity bursts? – This is a serious question in all respects.

    1. Gregor Rasp says:

      I meant "being out racing for 4, 6, 12 or more hours".

      1. Great question, Gregor. I personally never work out longer than 3 hours even more my LONG workouts (i.e. a big bike ride). And the body just goes. Tim Noakes discusses this a bit in Lore of Running and Waterlogged, but basically, the human body has no problem with endurance. We can out run any creature on the planet as long as we're given adequate food and water. Our issue is that we lack speed, relative to other land animals.

        So that's one thing. The other is that the body experiences identical physiological adaptations with HIIT training as it does with aerobic training. It just takes less HIIT to do it.

        1. Chris Hughes says:

          How do you complete the 90-100 miles rides you talk about? Are you pulling 30+ miles an hour?

          1. Chris Hughes says:

            Or maybe I can answer my own questions. That's probably exercise vs training yeah?

          2. I pretty rarely ride that far, but if I do it's either A) totally social, like a Gran Fondo or B) an "always be pushing" ride to practice fuel and stay in relative race zone…

  14. Kate says:

    I absolutely love your podcasts that are full of free information and advice! Please keep sharing your supplement recommendations and thoughts on products. This interview was an eye opener! Love his take on just going out to exercise, instead go out to train with a goal in mind. I think this interview may finally convince me to stop the long runs! Thanks Ben for all of the free info!

  15. Craig Huggart says:

    I see buying the things that you USE and recommend is the way to compensated you for all the great FREE info. you produce.

  16. Craig Huggart says:

    Ben, I for one, am grateful for your recommendations on supplements. By using some select supplements, I am recovering faster and sleeping better.

  17. Terry says:

    I also appreciate the fact he didn't spend tons of money on questionable supplements like MAP Amino acids starch based drinks.

    OMG this was so refreshing Ben ! Please ease up on the all the supplements and gadgets in the future !

    1. Terry, see my response to recovery junk above. I don't recommend that stuff because it makes you faster per se. You need to think about long term health.

      1. Marko says:

        Good on you Ben, I like the fact that you are always researching and trialling new products. I don't make time to do it myself but it interests me. Sure i don't buy everything but I'm interested to now what's out there and what research is being done. There is a big difference between fitness and health. A lot of people forget that when slogging away. You've helped me in many ways and I really appreciate your effort. Keep up the good work man.

    2. john says:

      I am there with you Terry. I used to like the podcast. Now it is getting unreal with all the supplements and unneeded stuff Ben recommends. I would like Mark Allen to come on. He was doing low 8 hours for a Ironman before all these 12k bikes and all the other thousands spent on unneeded junk.

      1. Mark takes the most expensive supplement you can get:

  18. Jeffrey says:

    Oh, one other thing to mention is I looked at Sami blog and he's been racing for a while with great results. He's been pretty fast since 2007. His training could have been longer in the beginning and then he tweeked it so he could recover and stay consistent. He did this by HIIT training and resting more. It's not that complex. And it's not magic. He figured out what works for him and didn't follow a plan blindly. Your an experiment of one.

  19. Craig Huggart says:

    Wow. This is SO encouraging and simple. Recently I started listening to IM Talk podcast. Good info. but the workouts are just too long. I was discouraged. I have done a Sprint and want to increase my distance each year and do an IM in 3 years. This sounds like the way to go for me. I am saving this podcast to listen to again.

  20. Jeffrey says:

    His program sounds alot like triathlon dominator program except he doesnt talk about strength training as much. I personally believe in intensity and have been getting faster.

  21. recovery junk says:

    The best thing he said he would not waste his money on training recovery crap! Not good for you Ben who tries to sell every kind of supplement and gizmo that is on the net today. Wow train hard and eat half way healthy and you can to well without spending thousands of dollars on junk. Now that is some great advice.

    1. Actually, he quite clearly spoke about how he uses Restwise, one of the more advanced recovery tools out there and one that I have always encouraged folks to use.

      In addition, two other things:

      1) I've never said that doing things like low carb, foam roller, taking care of your body with cold exposure, using muscle sticks, enhancing sleep, etc. is what makes you FAST. It's what makes you HEALTHY long term so you don't end up getting hip replacements and having to take hormone replacements when you're older.

      2) Total cost of any "gizmos" I personally use comes out to about $600 a year, max.

  22. Christian Jensen says:

    Wow! What an inspiration to us age groupers. Great advice as far as doing 2 work outs together instead of spreading them throughout the day to allow for more recovery time. I will also use the philosophy of training vs working out. I think that making these two changes alone can bring me as well as other age groupers to the next level.

  23. Mike says:

    On swimming he mentioned early that he'll swim three days a week but then said five days of 30 minute sessions a week – Any clarification?

    1. He ups it to 4-5x/week when he gets about 2 weeks out from his race…

      1. Sami says:

        Hi Mike,
        Unfortunately I don't have time to get to a pool 5X a week, not even for 20 minutes at a time. But if I could (and I often do this for 10-15days before a big race) I swim 10-20minutes each day 5-6 times a week.
        I've found that with limited time, frequency is much more important than volume in getting swimming right – which is mostly technique dependent. In other words, if you have 120minutes to invest into swimming, swim 6x20minutes a week rather than twice two hours.


        1. This will vary quite a bit too from person to person. For example, I live a few minutes walk from a large river, so can swim every day very briefly. If you live on a body of water, you've got no excuse. ;)

        2. Mike says:

          Thanks for the reply – much appreciated and advice taken…!

  24. Brent says:

    I am commuting by car for 3 hours each day to a 40+ hour a week job and travel frequently. I also have two boys under 4 at home. I need to make this work. Not for Ironman anymore, or at least for a while, but to stay competative and shorter lengths. I assume that would require even less hours. Very cool!

    1. You can totally do it Brent. It just requires the right mindset – especially when all your training peers are smashing themselves with high volume!

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