16 Weeks before the 16 Weeks - By Jason Hayden

Training for a major event is a tough assignment. These are events that you cannot simply have another go at next weekend. If you drop the ball, miss a tackle or eat something that wrecks your day you can’t simply practice during the week and do better the following Saturday. Major events like the marathon and the long-course triathlon require a huge commitment in time and effort over a long period of time. Then, come race day you have just the one shot. The one shot to bring all your training and experimenting down and into your effort in that one race.

Because of this one-shot phenomenon many friends and fellow club members I know will buy a program or pay for a coach for the build up to such an event. Both options are perfectly understandable and indeed can be very helpful.

Most of these programs are usually 16 weeks, some are 12 weeks and a few are 20 weeks leading up to the race day. During this time you will get fitter and you will benefit from the structured program.

However (and this is a big however) I would argue that the best time to pay for your coach or buy your program is when you can make the biggest impact or improvement to your race day performance. And that is…

…16 weeks before your 16 weeks build phase begins.

Let’s face it, in the final 16 (or 12, or 20) weeks you are that flat out trying to fit in your training with your family, work and social world …or you are asleep on the couch. During this final period most of us just don’t have the time or energy to make those big breakthrough changes.

So, in the 16 weeks before the 16 weeks you have the time to re-read your last post-race self-assessment (what do you mean you didn’t write one?) or maybe just think back to your performance and look closely at your results, maybe even, dare-I-say-it compare to your peers. Use this time to critique your race and come up with a shortlist of weaknesses, flaws or errors.

Inevitably, there will be technical efficiency gains to be made as well as changes to your training schedule. Below is a list of possible


  • Injuries: if you suffered any injuries last season, especially imbalance or overuse injuries (yes – just about all injuries) now is the time to strengthen, balance, stabilise and mobilise. Get into the gym get some quality coaching and get your body robust and resilient. The stronger the platform the more you will be able to load it up in the final 16 weeks.

  • Swim stroke: just about everyone can get more efficient in the water. Notice I said efficient and not faster. Now is the time to get video analysis and really focus on the little things that will improve your swim. For example learning how to tumble-turn. Sure there are no tumble turns in a triathlon swim, but if you want to get an extra 10% out of every swim session you do then spend a few weeks learning or perfecting your tumble turn. Of course working on a better catch, pull and recovery will also be helpful. These will of course require you to slow down (less volume) something you are not wanting to do in that final 16 weeks.

  • Tinker with your bike: means changing your pedalling motion. It’s important to give your body time to adapt to these changes. Meaning you can’t make these changes in the final 16 weeks.

  • Build a more efficient pedal stroke: by increasing your cadence on the long rides and spending time each week working on your single leg drill. Again these are training drills rarely used by athletes trying to log meg-miles on the bike.

  • Strengthen run form: if you look at the back end of a marathon or Ironman you will notice that those holding their goal pace are those that have maintained their form and posture. The primary driver behind this is logging long slow volume combines with postural strength and conditioning. You can make big improvements in the 16 weeks before the 16 weeks.

  • Run speed: is very difficult to cultivate when you are building towards an endurance event (any event over an hour). So the time to build speed and speed endurance is in the 16 weeks before the 16 weeks.

Of course you will have a different and longer list of jobs to do in your 16 weeks before your 16 weeks, but the point is the same. A major race event such as your goal half-marathon, marathon or long-course triathlon should be built around a 32 week plan. While many of us have difficulty committing to the Brats Annual Party this Saturday night, if you truly want to improve or PB your next goal race you should take an honest look at your last results, make a shortlist of things to improve and plan ahead 32 weeks.

Whilst on the topic of planning there is a solid Brat group building interest in Ironman or 70.3 in Busselton come December 2017. Touch base with Karl or Jason if you are interested.


Jason Hayden

Mortgage Broker to the stars and owner of Seac Studio

Image Source: baranq / Shutterstock.com