Make your life easier, with our essential triathlon race day checklist. We also include a printable PDF that you can use time and again, or
How To Train For Triathlon Events
The best way to train for a triathlon is to swim, cycle and run regularly. Amateur triathletes typically train between one and three times per week for each discipline. That’s a total of between three and nine workouts per week. For this reason, one of the challenges of triathlon training is fitting it around everything else in your life.
Your workouts should start off relatively short and build up gradually over a period of weeks and months, so that your body gradually adapts to the loads placed upon it. Include regular recovery days and easy weeks, so that your training never feels like a drag. The more you enjoy it, the longer you’ll stick with it. Triathlon is a long-term game. It might take you five years to reach your full potential.
What Triathlon Event Should I Do?
If it’s your first ever triathlon, we recommend easing yourself in by choosing a sprint triathlon. These typically involve a 750-meter swim, a 20km cycle and a 5km run.
Specific Training Tips For Triathlons
Around 85% of your training should be done at an easy pace, at which you can maintain a conversation. If that means you need to walk for a while during a run, that’s fine. Low intensity training boosts your fitness, and is kind on your body too, meaning you’re less likely to get injured. Forget the saying: “No pain, no gain”. It’s a myth.
The other 15% of your training can be done at higher intensities. This normally involves harder efforts with frequent rests, once you’ve done a good warm up. Our online training plans include speed sessions, easier aerobic workouts and regular recovery periods, designed so that you improve consistently throughout.
This is most people’s weakest area, and the aspect they are most concerned about. If you’re not a confident swimmer, it’s a good idea to sign up for a series of adult improver swim lessons. Within a matter of weeks, you will improve your technique and fitness. Otherwise it’s very hard to teach yourself to swim.
Once you can swim 400 meters or yards of freestyle in a pool without stopping, you can then train on your own more, or in a group. Break up your swim workouts, into smaller chunks with regular rest periods.
Once you can swim 1000 meters or yards non-stop, you could join in with a triathlon club or masters swim club. Whether you’re advanced or a beginner, you should always follow a pre-planned swim workout. This helps you improve much faster than plodding up and down aimlessly. If you follow our training plans, we do all the thinking for you. We also include video swim drills, to help improve different aspects of your stroke.
If you’re thinking of doing a triathlon with an open water swim, it’s a good idea to practice swimming in that environment too. It doesn’t have to be every swim you do but aim for at least two open water swims before you race in open water. We include these workouts in our training plans too, in the lead up to race day.
Aim to cycle two to three times per week. If you’re a beginner, gradually build your rides to 25 km (or 15 miles) if you’re training for a sprint triathlon.
You can either cycle outdoors in good weather, or indoors using a static trainer. It’s generally better to follow a prescribed workout, rather than just ride along aimlessly. Many indoor trainers enable you to link to interactive cycling software like Zwift, which makes it more fun. The workouts in our training plans can be exported to platforms such as Zwift, TrainerRoad and Garmin. However, it’s sensible to do at least some of your training outside on the bike you intend to use during your triathlon. This ensures you’re used to the feel and handling of your race-day bike.
Aim to run between one and three times per week, depending on your level and goals. No matter how experienced you are, be cautious about your speed and distances, to avoid injury. Soft surfaces are generally better than hard ones for reducing injury rates.
If you’re a fit beginner, you could kick off your training by running two miles each time, increasing by one mile per month until you’re getting close to your race distance. Do most of your running at chatting pace, even if it means you include some walking. It’s also good to include some harder efforts, interspersed with plenty of easy stuff.
As you get nearer your triathlon event, it’s a good idea to practice running straight after cycling. This helps you get used to the heavy-legs feeling and is also a time efficient way to train.
We include two 40-minute strength and conditioning sessions per week with our triathlon plans. These workouts can help balance your strength and flexibility, which leads to more efficient movement patterns and fewer injuries. We suggest you only do strength work in addition to at least two swims, two runs and two cycles per week. Rather than instead of them.
How Long Do I Need To Train For?
For a beginner who has some recent background in fitness or sport, give yourself 8 to 12 weeks to get fit and ready for a triathlon. Whatever your level, entering a triathlon is a great way to kickstart your training, because it adds a sense of urgency to your preparation. The earlier you start training for your target event, the more time you can build up your fitness gradually. Fitness adaptations take weeks and months to occur, rather than days.
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