emmacarney.com training philosophies explained


If you are reading this, you have probably signed onto one of my training plans, or are considering doing so. While I provide a number of resources on my site for my athletes to use to interpret their training programs, and I also provide some short interpretations for each session, understanding your training plan for a beginner, or for the first time with me as coach can often be a little confusing. All the sessions I have put together to create your plan follow a well-structured program which should provide you with the fitness to successfully tackle your race or fitness goal.
Below I have provided some detailed outlines of some of the specific training philosophies which provide the foundation for my coaching. Hopefully, in understanding these, you will have a better understanding of your journey to become an IRONMAN.


It is assumed you are healthy and injury free. Initial fitness requirements are not required, as my training plans are designed for 4 levels of athlete – development, intermediate, advanced and elite. I recommend all athletes have a medical prior to exercising – especially if they have had a number of years away from exercise.
I also only provide training plans for events 6 or more weeks away. Event preparation is necessary for all level of athlete, and a minimum of 6 weeks is a benchmark I firmly believe in for fitness adaptation purposes.

Training phases

As you approach your event date, you will notice that your training plan does not stay the same. As you progress through your plan you will move through various training phases. These are –

      • General base phase

    In this initial phase of training, your focus should be on routine and training consistency. This is the time to remain patient, and allow your muscles, tendons and ligaments adjust to your regular workouts. To maximise your development in this period, try not to skip sessions and keep to sessions listed and do on days allocated. At about week 6 I will set you some HR and power tests so you can work more specifically in your next training block. I always suggest my athletes should start to work on their nutrition plans. The first step is to use various energy gels, drinks and bars to start to make decisions on your own personal nutritional product preferences. A great way of starting this process is to contact your race organiser of your ‘A’ race, and find out what will be used at their aid stations. Try to adapt and use what is available to you on the day. Nutrition will become mosre specific as we approach race day, but this initial phase of training is perfect to start to design your own preferences..

      • Intensity or Specific Prep phase

    Lactic threshold training is introduced in this training phase, along with increased training volumes. Your ‘speed’ sessions will push you faster than race pace, and your longer endurance efforts will work on your projected race pace. Training your body to cope with stress under different training intensities will improve efficiency of your energy systems – something vital to triathlon competition.

      • Race prep phase

    In this training phase, training volumes will begin to reduce and race specific paces will be worked on. Fine tuning your general nutrition practices will be made during this phase along with your personal nutrition and racing strategies.

      • Taper phase

    Training volumes are further reduced in this training phase with short intense efforts added to continue race preparation.

    Set swim sessions

    For swim improvement and progress with the swim leg, I like my athletes to have a minimum of 3 swim sessions a week. Swim sessions are broken down into efforts, and I prefer to keep long intervals between 800m-400m. Regardless of your ability as a swimmer you need speed, so speed sets are incorporated throughout each training phase. Drills are paramount to good technique, and I like to work on teaching my athletes drills whenever we catch up on training camps, individual sessions or through online video analysis. Swim aids such as fins are useful for speed and also allowing an athlete to cover more distance in a session. Paddles can also be useful for strength – but larger is not always better if you are unable to handle the force and start to pull wide. Pool buoys are very common in triathlon and are useful in allowing weaker swimmers to relax more. The band only swim sets are very good – but are also very difficult. The trick is to keep your hips high by incorporating a slight dolphin kick. Try to complete the full session set, because I have designed all my sessions with proper warm ups, main sets and warm downs.

    Set bike sessions

    Key bike sessions each week include a recovery ride, an interval/trainer and a weekly long ride. Efficiency on the bike requires time on the bike and this is developed best during a long ride. As race day approaches, using your race bike for the ride and adding race specific pace efforts throughout will push your efficiency to even higher levels. Hills are my favourite training environment, because no one can hide in the hills. Your set indoor trainer session will focus on overgearing during the base period and more to race specific and faster than race efforts as you progress through your plan. Your weekly easy rides should be just that – enjoy them while they are set!

    Set run sessions

    Generally each week you will have 3 key running sessions – interval session, threshold session and the long run/over distance.
    The interval session, is designed to force your body to run faster than race pace. This type of training improved racing speed and improved recovery under pressure – something you always need in a race situation.
    Threshold runs focus on improving your run performance with increased speed as you progress through the session. This works on your threshold pace or your base sustainable speed.
    The weekly long run is there for efficiency, and general conditioning for your run leg.. All 3 sessions are vital.
    If time allows another semi long run is added mid week. This is usually only for advanced athletes.

    Strength and conditioning

    I normally set these sessions on a Monday and Friday. Body weight exercises are my preferred type of exercise, with sport specific exercises also incorporated. Some very good examples of simple exercises which help with run technique improvements are – skipping with a rope, box jumps and bounding drills. All very simple yet effective.


    First and foremost – take your rest days. All my programs have a weekly rest day. Your body needs it. If you have missed a session during the week do not try to catch up on this on your rest day. Along with your weekly day off, I recommend you also have a regular massage – deep tissue – not relaxation!. I also recommend my athletes to attend a yoga class once a week. This enhances flexibility, and also provides a routine for you to continue to remain diligent with your flexibility.

    Coach AND athlete Feedback

    Please remember that a truly successful training plan will engage both the athlete and the coach. As a coach, I can provide guidance and design your plan. However, to maximise your coaching, please stay in touch with me and ask questions when unsure of anything you may face on your training journey.

Above all…enjoy the journey. Triathlon training is tough, but so are you.