How To Train for your First Sprint Triathlon

Posted: Mar 16 2015

Upon hearing the word “triathlon,” you may conjure up images of strenuous ironman competitions held in Hawaii, and chiseled Olympians taking to nearly vertical terrains. However, not all triathlons entail 100-mile biking treks or 26-mile runs.

For example, a sprint marathon begins with a half-mile swim before commencing a 12-mile bike ride, and topping it off with a 3-mile run. Many beginners opt for the comparably shorter distance of sprint triathlons. Training for your first triathlon requires planning, preparation, and commitment. A great byproduct of this training is getting in peak physical shape.

Set a Training Schedule

Find an upcoming triathlon that you are interested in and create a training schedule and regiment. Plan on training for around 8 to 16 weeks, and gauge your goals for achieving a competitive edge, or simply finishing the race. Templates for triathlon training can be found online and tailored to accommodate your work or school schedule—for instance, if you have a full-time job, attend school, or have a tight family schedule.

During the first few weeks of your training schedule, focus on building a base of cardio and strength, reserving the middle weeks for the most intense training. Then begin tapering off and gradually decreasing the intensity as race day grows closer. 

Train in Each Sport

Train in each sport two times a week. For example, run on Wednesday and Saturday, swim on Monday and Friday, bike on Tuesday and Sunday, and reserve Thursday as your rest day. To avoid hitting plateaus, integrate different training methods into every workout, such as track workouts or hiking hills. Additional alternative workouts could be treadmill running or attending an indoor cycling class at your gym. During each workout, focus on mechanics and intensity.

For the fifth and final workout in the first week, ride your bike for 45 minutes at an easy pace—to the point where you can have a conversation with someone next to you. 

Strength Training

The sprint triathlon is an explosive race that lasts between one and two hours. Therefore, it is important to strength-train two to three days a week. Building strength during your training will tremendously boost your performance come race day.

Focus on compound exercises for lower-body strength, such as lunges, squats, and deadlifts, in addition to upper-body strength exercises, such as pushups, pull-ups, lat pull-downs, and bench presses. Developing core strength with sit-ups will enhance your performance during the swim. Perform 2 sets with 15 repetitions on each exercise.

Practice Transitions

Practicing transitions can save you valuable seconds between each segment. Integrate transitions into your weekly training regimen at least twice a week. The transition from the bike to the sprint is one of the most difficult parts of the triathlon. That is why it may benefit you to complete a shorter run after bike workouts. To facilitate your transitions, lay out your gear so that you have easy access to them. Do not wear socks, and wear speed laces on your sprinting shoes.

Clean Diets

To increase the effectiveness of your program, eating a clean diet is paramount. As race day gets closer, focus on race day nutrition by eating a pre-race meal two hours before the workout. Eating or drinking something different on race day can upset your stomach and add much discomfort and strain to your race. It also may be a good idea to eat protein bars or energy gels during the transition or on the bike 

In Conclusion

When first learning how to train for a triathlon, it can be tempting to add on more volume. However, the body better improves in fitness by balancing out stress and rest. If you are creating your own training schedule, it is important to allow yourself recovery days and weeks of reduced volume to allow your body to recover, rebuild, and get stronger.

If you injure yourself or experience extreme soreness; rest or visit a doctor immediately. Always wear a helmet while bike riding (and some Alii Sport running gear) and have someone spot you during your swimming training. Train in open-water swimming and bike ride with others if you are on the open road. (It’s easier to spot a group of bike riders compared to if you are solo.)

With basic equipment at your disposal and a path on which to move forward, there is nothing else to do except get started. Moreover, envision your race day and a fun, triumphant triathlon.