So you’ve signed up for your first triathlon! That’s so exciting. But, now what? You are probably asking yourself: “How do I train for a triathlon?”
Let’s start with the basics. First, you need to understand how far you’ll need to swim, bike, and run on race day. A standard sprint-distance triathlon includes 750m (a little less than ½ mile) of swimming, about 12.5 miles of biking, and a 5k (3.1 mile) run. A standard Olympic-distance triathlon includes 1500m (a little less than 1 mile) of swimming, about 25 miles of biking, and a 10k (6.2 mile) run.
You’ll need to build your swim, bike, and run fitness to where you can complete each of these distances individually in training. For swimming and biking, you’ll benefit from building your fitness such that you can cover more than the race distance in your training. How do you do that? You start where you are – on the couch, with some amount of fitness in one or two of the sports, or good fitness across all three – and build gradually to where you need to be. A typical sprint- or Olympic-distance triathlon training plan includes two swims, two bikes, and two runs each week. Often triathletes will complete one workout a day, and take one day off each week.
As you build your fitness, you’ll want to incorporate days where you both run immediately after your bike, just like you will in the triathlon. Often these are called “brick” workouts. Start with an easy ten-minute run after your bike, and build up to running half your race distance after the bike ride.
You can also include one or two swim-bike-run days prior to your race. A great confidence-builder is to complete a swim-bike-run day of approximately 2/3rds the distance of your event about two to three weeks before race day.
Your training also presents a great opportunity to practice all the different elements of race day. From what you’ll be wearing, to the bike you’ll be riding, to swimming in open water, try to incorporate each piece of equipment and as many details of your race course as possible into your training. You should also practice drinking from a water bottle while riding your bike and get used to consuming workout fueling such as a sports drink or gels while biking and running.
Training for your first triathlon can feel overwhelming, but by taking it one workout at a time you will make steady progress toward your goal. Always keep that finish line in mind when starts to feel hard – it will be worth it!
Interested in more detailed information on training for your first triathlon? Check out our “Ultimate Guide to Your First Triathlon.”