How to Train for a Triathlon

Looking for a new challenge or an exciting way to stay fit? If you love competitions or find that you excel at different sports, then a triathlon sounds like a great activity for you.

Triathlons are one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Aside from being in competition with hundreds of other participants, triathletes also compete with themselves and are tested in ways that they’ve never experienced before. They go swimming, biking, and running (in that particular order), so a good training plan is a must-have in order to set a good first record.

If you think you’re up for the challenge, we would like to extend our help by providing the following tips, which includes finding the best training gear and maximizing your training schedule.

Triathlon Training Tips for Beginners

female triathlete being timed during training

While we are no experts in triathlon training, these tips from seasoned triathletes and coaches will help any beginner who wishes to become an official triathlete.

Study Up

It’s important that you know what you’re getting yourself into before you embark on your beginner triathlon training. Find out everything that you can about triathlons, the specific triathlon that you’re hoping to join, and what is expected of its participants.

For example, in major US-based triathlons, such as the Ironman World Championship, participants must be prepared to conquer around 140.6 miles—2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling, and 26.2 miles of running. Don’t worry, beginners are definitely not expected to join full Ironman events.

You’ll want to start with the easier types of triathlons:

  • Sprint Triathlon: Covering 16 miles—0.5 miles of swimming, 12.4 miles of biking, and 3.1 miles of running.
  • Olympic Triathlon: Covering 51.5 kilometers—0.93 miles of swimming, 24.8 miles of cycling, and 6.2 miles of running.
  • Half Ironman Triathlon: Covering 70.3 miles—1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of biking, and 13.1 miles of running.

The Sprint type should already give you an idea about the distances that you’ll need to prepare for during your training program. But for your first event, we also recommend that you choose one that’s close to home, so you can reduce stress and hassle on race day.

triathlete running

Carefully choose your equipment

There are only a couple of key pieces of equipment that you’ll need for a triathlon. To be sure, check with the event that you’re planning to join. Here are the usual requirements for each leg of the triathlon:

Triathlon Swimming Gear

If you’re inexperienced in open water swimming, choose an event that takes place in a pool. In this case, you can get away with your regular swimsuit. But if your event requires a wetsuit, you can rent it or, better yet, invest in your own. By being able to choose the best triathlon wetsuit for you, you can achieve a perfectly snug and streamlined silhouette that will help you swim better and faster. Don’t forget to use a good pair of swimming goggles.

Triathlon Cycling Gear

For beginners, any bike that you currently use will work just fine. Road bikes, mountain bikes, or hybrids are usually acceptable. You’ll be surprised how many first-time triathletes were able to complete their race using a borrowed bicycle. You could also go for triathlon bikes, which have a steeper seat tube that’s angled to force the hips forward and reduce tension on the rider’s quadriceps and hamstrings. Whatever you choose, it’s important that the bike fits you correctly and is in good working condition.

Triathlon Sprinting Gear

Needless to say, you can’t use just any other pair of rubber shoes. You’ll need a good pair of running shoes that can help you cover great sprint distances with ease. Fortunately, you can find triathlon shoes in almost any sports store, but you’ll need to seek help from in-house experts. They should ask you about your feet, your running history, and watch how you walk and run in order to figure out the best pair for you.

focused triathlete checking his stopwatch

Find a triathlon coach

Triathlons can be overwhelming for first-timers, so it helps to find an expert you can turn to, especially when it comes to your training. For your own safety, look for an actual triathlon coach or a physical therapist that can help evaluate your fitness level and suggest personal modifications as you train. You wouldn’t want to take the advice of a fellow beginner who does not know your medical history and risk doing more than what your body can handle.

Create a triathlon training plan

For your first triathlon, you may want to give yourself at least 12 weeks of training (16 weeks if you’re not generally active). But if you’re very healthy, physically fit, and are already familiar with swimming, biking, and running, you might be able to complete your training with an 8-week program.

Next, establish your weekly schedule. The key is to slowly become more proficient in each of the three activities by increasing your distances by up to 10 percent per week. Remember to include a brick session (i.e. back-to-back training sessions on two or more disciplines). Include swimming sessions in open water instead of just in a pool, as well as resistance training after your main endurance workout to help strengthen your muscles for the promotion of mobility and stability.

You’ll want to focus on the following for each activity:

  • Swimming: Strength in the back, shoulders, and arms for trunk mobility.
  • Biking: Strength in the quads, glutes, and hamstrings; stability in the trunk and chest.
  • Running: Strength in the legs; mobility through the hips; stability through the trunk and shoulders.

Here’s a sample schedule for eight weeks, each including two rest days and just one session per training day. Each week includes two swims and alternates the run and bike workouts. Eventually, you progress to having two of each activity per week (starting on the 4th week), with a run directly following the last bike ride.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Week 1 Rest Swim Run Bike Rest Swim Run
Week 2 Rest Swim Bike Run Rest Swim Bike
Week 3 Rest Swim Run Bike Rest Swim Run
Week 4 Rest Swim Bike Run Rest Swim Bike & Run

It’s important that your schedule maximizes the effectiveness of your plan while minimizing the risk of injury, which is why it helps to have your schedule approved by a health professional if you don’t have a triathlon coach to guide you.

cycling triathlon

Practice your transitions

Many beginner triathletes would be surprised to know that transition times are just as important as the time you spend on each activity. The fact is, those precious seconds that you take to change from swimming to cycling and from cycling to running (known as transitions or “T1” and “T2”) are counted in your overall race time. Since your time starts at the beginning of your swim and ends at the finish line of the run, it’s important to also practice smooth and swift transitions.

Take it easy

No triathlon coach will help you train for a podium position at an Ironman event on the first try. After all, triathlons are not for beginners aspiring to be champions but for athletes who want to improve themselves at a healthy pace. That said, don’t expect to be training 20 to 30 hours per week. Believe it or not, you can even be ready for sprint distance races with less than five hours of training time per week.

More importantly, don’t forget to plan to rest. Take a day or two each week and make it a part of your training plan—preferably before and/or right after long brick workouts.

Finish strong

It’s pretty common for first-time triathletes to start too fast and expend a little too much energy that could’ve been more useful during the last half of the race. When you train, do the first half of the race slower and speed up once you reach the last half. Also called the negative-split effort, this technique will help you finish strong and be more in control of your time and energy (as well as your heart rate). It also helps to gauge yourself by estimating how much time you think you’ll take before each try.

Triathlete crossing the finish line

Look for “tips and tricks”

There are tons of “tips and tricks” that you can pick up from seasoned triathletes and triathlon coaches, and it’s up to you to choose which ones you’d like to incorporate into your training and technique. One particular trick that we believe would be very useful is the use of elastic shoelaces, which allows you to simply slip your feet into your running shoes instead of having to tie them. We’re sure you’ll find many others as you go along!

Source: aquaviews

How to Train for a Triathlon