How to train for a triathlon – our guide

How to train for a triathlon - our guide


So like hundreds of other men and women who have completed triathlons, despite only ever having a modest level of fitness (prior to training for this three sport race), you´ve decided to see what you´re made of and take part in one of the many beginner´s triathlons offered in most major cities. Here is our guide to training for a triathlon.

Before you compete, you´re going to want to train, and train hard, for at least six months before the date of the race. With that in mind, here are some of the key pointers that first time participants ought to keep in mind as they start to train for this challenging (but certainly doable) physical feat.


Get Into the Habit

If your exercise stress test confirms that you´re fitness level is good enough, you can start with your triathlon training regime. The first thing you need -before you get a good pair of sports shoes, the latest state-of-the-art compression socks, or the best fitness app- is good training habits.

This is easier said than done. A study conducted at the University College of London determined that -on average- it takes an individual 66 days to fully form a habit. What this means is that you´re going to really have to force yourself to stick to a routine.

There will be days when it´s cold and wet and you simply just don´t want to go jogging, but if you´re committed to playing the long game and you´re willing to fight against your impulses to take the easy way out during these difficult first two months, it will become easier to stick to a triathlon training regime after getting over this difficult first 2 month hump.


Beginning The Training Routine

Your training regime won´t be the same on day one as it is the day before you actually participate in your first triathlon. Still, right from the get go, you need to be prepared to train -and train hard- 6 days a week if you´re really serious about doing this challenging (but doable) athletic feat.

Triathlons are almost always formatted in the following way: 20 percent of the race is dedicated to swimming, another thirty percent is spent running, and the other half is dedicated to cycling.

You should break down your training regimen the same way: on a weekly basis you should do the same number of biking, jogging, and swimming sessions, but you should spend more time on the bike and less time in the pool.

So, let´s say that you´re serious about completing your first race and you´re training six days a week; that´s two days swimming, two cycling sessions, and two running days. However, if your bike ride lasts for an hour, then you should be running for 40 minutes solid and swimming for half an hour. Yes, this doesn´t exactly correspond to the 50-30-20 breakdown but it´s close.

Continuing with Your Training

When it comes to triathlon training, complacency is the enemy. So once you´ve become comfortable with the duration of your different sessions for the three different components, you should increase the time by ten minutes.

It´s also a good idea to start combining activities—you could bike or run to the pool for instance.

As for the swimming component, you should also start training in the ocean, lake, river, or whatever body of water that is most comparable to the actual spot where you´ll be doing the swimming leg of your triathlon.

Swimming in a chlorinated and temperature controlled pool is not the same as swimming in nature -it´s not even close- and a common mistake a lot of first timers make is that they limit their swim training to the pool only to then be completely stunned in a live, outdoor triathlon situation.

We aren´t trying to be alarmist, but studies have shown that most of the (very few…were talking dozens per thousands of racers per year, or a mere fraction of one percent) fatalities that occur happen in the water. So be honest with yourself and make sure that you have the swimming skills and you´ve put in the hours not just in the pool, but out in the ocean.

Andy Barr
the authorAndy Barr
Editorial Lead
Andy was late arriving into the world of fitness, running and training. He did not really take up regular gym going until he was in his late 30's. He lost over 7 stone in weight since starting and completed an olympic length triathlon in June 2018. He enjoys playing football, boxing and outdoor running.

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