Guest post: How much training do you need?

Sure, you can spend 20 hours a week in duathlon training, but do you need to? For a standard distance (10K-40K-5K) duathlon or shorter, probably not. You do need to put in enough time to build a strong running and cycling base, and enough intensity on the bike and run to be able to push hard for the duration–especially on the critical second run.

Steven Jonas, author of Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals, takes the less is more approach. Here is his guest post on what it takes to finish a sprint or standard duathlon. (For the record, I have never heard the term “duathloid,” nor do I know any amateur duathlete that trains in the 20 hour-per-week range.) Have any training advice or comments? Please share below. Happy run-ride-running!

Cross Duathlon de Belfort, 3 Apr 2016
Wha? No time to train for a duathlon? Think again!

How Much Training Do You Need?

Steven Jonas, M.D., M.P.H.

Is multisport racing for everyone? Are the “real” duathletes only those who go fast and train for at least 10-15 hours per week? Some of the spokespeople for our sport seem to think so.

One once defined a “duathloid” as “a bozo who prefers to survive, rather than train for, duathlons.” For this “expert,” training began at 6 hours per week, going up to 22-25 for a standard-distance duathlon. Yet another presented a training program for the “Beginning Duathlete” which requires a minimum of 11-12 hours per week (for an unspecified number of weeks). That’s the range, for 13 weeks, I recommended for an Ironman-distance triathlon. With even a bit less training than that, when I was (much) younger (I’m now 80 and still racing) I started five Ironman-distance races, finished three of them, and simply ran out of time on the marathon in the other two.

If you have read this far, you might be saying to yourself: “Why is this guy going on about this stuff?” Because I think that “good” in duathlon doesn’t necessarily mean “fast.” Because I am concerned about elitism in our wonderful sport. Because I am concerned about the witting or unwitting intimidation of potential participants in multi-sport racing. Because I think and feel, both as a professional in preventive medicine and a du-tri-athlete now starting my 35th season of multi-sport racing, that we have a great, healthy, fun sport. And it should be made available to everybody. Telling people that they have to train a minimum of 12 hours per week just to do an Olympic distance-equivalent duathlon closes entry to the sport down. It doesn’t open it up.

The average recreational runner in this country does 12-15 miles per week, taking two-three hours per week. That’s three to four hours per week. Well folks, experience has told us over and over again that’s all you need to do a sprint-distance (5k-20k-5k) duathlon. For the standard-distance duathlon, add another 1-2 hours per week.

Having been a 15-20 mile per week runner for two years, in 1983, I did my first triathlon, at the age of 46. It was the Mighty Hamptons Triathlon at Sag Harbor, New York. My training program for that race was the prototype for what became the program that I first published in my 1986 book, Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals: five hours per week for 13 weeks, building on a base that averaged three hours of aerobic exercise per week for a minimum of three months. I have used it ever since and so have numerous readers of my book. There is a very similar program in my book Duathlon Training and Racing of Ordinary Mortals®. Unless you are unusually naturally fast, you aren’t going to win. But with the right approach to the sport you can have a heck of a good time, for a very long time, without ever having an age-group winning time in the race.

Having fun is always my first objective. If you are fast, and you can win, great. Then you will likely train more. But simply to enjoy the sport, safely, simply does not take that much time.

This column is based on one that originally appeared on the USAT blog, June 2013. Used with permission.

2017 marks Steve Jonas’ 35th season of multisport racing. As of the end of his 34th, he had done a total of 250 du’s and tri’s. He is a member of USA Triathlon’s Triathlon Century Club and is in the 90s for duathlon. The second edition of his first book, Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals® (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006) is still in print. Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides) came out in 2012. All of his books on multisport are available at and