Heather Jacksons “Ladder of Death” Workout

Words by: Joe Gambles

Joe Gambles, professional triathlete, is also Heather Jackson’s coach, guiding her to numerous Ironman and 70.3 victories and Kona podiums. He lifts the curtain, below, on a workout, he prescribes Heather a few times a year to put the finishing touches on her specific race preparations.

Firstly, I have to give credit to my former coach, Neal Henderson of Apex Coaching, for providing the structure for this workout. Neal would have specific numbers to hit on each of the efforts but sometimes I like to give Heather a session where she just goes off feel instead of hard numbers, an approach that allows her to finely calibrate her pacing clock. If you go too hard too early in this one, there is no coming back from it! I do not use this session very often—perhaps only four times a year—and approximately two weeks out from a key competition. It is a great session because it covers the spectrum of intensities that you may encounter during a 70.3. At the same time, it is a great way to boost your threshold (FTP) with the limited rest time between intervals.


Heather Jackson

Here’s how it goes: after a solid warmup, Heather performs a ladder down of intervals in the following pattern: 10′ (min.) on, 2′ off, 8′ on, 2′ off, 6′ on, 2′ off, 4′ on, 2′ off, 2′ on, 10′ off. Heather then repeats that pattern after the 10-minute recovery interval. Intensities? We can’t give away all the secrets, but that first 10 minutes “on” interval begins around Heathers 70.3 intensity and each subsequent work interval rises in intensity, meaning the finishing intervals are pretty hard!

Want to give this workout a go?

Twice through the following:

10’ (min) @ 90% of FTP, 2’ easy

8’ @ 100% of FTP, 2’ easy

6’ @ 103-106% of FTP, 2’ easy

4’ @ 110-115% of FTP, 2’ easy

2’ @ 120-130% of FTP, 10’ easy before repeating the ladder

Want more? Check out the “The Women of Ironman Kona and Their Workouts”

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