Are you looking for a Personal Challenge? Is One Sport Not Enough for You? Try Training for a Triathlon!
Triathlons have gained popularity over the past few decades and are rapidly becoming one of the most popular sports worldwide.
It may seem intimidating to start training for this multisport, but the benefits reach far beyond physical fitness.
The long journey to the finish line will boost your confidence, sharpen your focus, and push your boundaries. Above all, your perseverance will serve as an inspiration to those around you. Do you think you have what it takes?
If yes, keep reading, because this article will cover the essential points and provide you with the foundational triathlete workouts so you can tackle your first triathlon.
What is a Triathlon?
Triathlons are a multisport that combines three of the most popular sports into one to create an ultimate endurance challenge.
Almost all triathlon races are done in the same order of swimming, biking, and running. You complete all three disciplines consecutively, and the clock does not stop between sports.
For this reason, the transitions are viewed by many as the fourth discipline.
The swim usually takes place in open water, such as lakes, seas, rivers, or bays. However, some triathlon swims take place in a swimming pool, especially when safety cannot be guaranteed due to severe weather conditions.
The swimming part of the race is proportionally the shortest part of any triathlon, yet this is no reason to discount its importance.
There is great wisdom in the common saying of triathlons:
“You cannot win a triathlon in the swim, but you can very easily lose it in the swim.”
This second part of a triathlon is typically the longest portion. This part provides strong cyclists the opportunity to make up a lot of time. It is crucial to ride efficiently, keeping a steady pace to save enough energy for the run.
Perhaps more than in any other leg of the triathlon, it is vital to have the proper equipment.
A properly fitted bike frame will allow you to assume a more comfortable and aerodynamic position, which will shave off precious minutes at the end of a race.
Running after swimming and biking is far different than running as a standalone activity.
Ask anyone who has ever completed a triathlon, and they will attest to the terrible feeling of heaviness in the quads as they step off the bike and start running.
The running portion of a triathlon is an actual test of character for many triathletes, as even the best triathletes may hit the dreaded wall during this exhausting part of the race.
Nevertheless, if you paced yourself and adequately refueled during your competition, you will hopefully avoid hitting that wall.
How Long is a Triathlon?
There are four main distances in a triathlon: Sprint, Olympic, Half Ironman, and the (full distance) Ironman. Although the distances can vary in small degrees, these are the most common distances for each race:
*Total race time is based upon the average male age group 30-35. Times vary much based upon terrain, age, and gender.
If you take a closer look, you will notice that the swimming distance percentage-wise becomes a little less important as the total distance goes up.
Consequently, in the half Ironman and full Ironman, you will spend roughly 10% of your time swimming, 50% biking, and about 40% running.
Whereas in the Sprint and Olympic distances you will spend closer to 20% of your time in the water with a little less time biking (45%) and running (35%).
How to Train for a Triathlon?
Training for a triathlon requires discipline, rigorous planning, and strenuous exercise. Thankfully, having a variety of three sports will help keep your mind stimulated and your motivation high.
If you are new to the sport, don’t worry, you do not need to start training 30 hours per week like the professionals; to do your first triathlon, you only need to do four workouts per week!
Session 1 = Easy Swim
Do not worry too much about building up a high volume yet. Rather, focus on being comfortable in the water.
Closer to your race day, try to incorporate at least four sessions in open water to get used to breathing in between the waves.
Session 2 = Long Bike Ride
This bike ride should be of moderate intensity, and you should aim to gradually build up to a distance that is about 1.5X the length of your target race.
For example, if your first race is an Olympic distance triathlon, which has a 40K bike ride, then you should aim to build up to one weekly bike ride that is at least 60K.
Once you reach this distance, you can start working on riding part of the range at (or above) race effort.
Session 3 = Slow Run
It is essential to first build a solid running base by running slow.
Not only will these slow miles develop your cardiovascular and respiratory system, but it will also get your bones, joints, and ligaments used to pounding the pavement.
For the run, do not get too fixated on the mileage. Instead, focus on the time spent on your feet. Gradually increase the length of this session to a little more than your anticipated run time.
If you have no idea how long the run will take you, you can use one of the many run calculators available, but keep into account that running after swimming and biking will be a lot tougher than running as a standalone activity.
Session 4 = “Brick” training
One of the most overlooked parts of training for a triathlon is the “brick” training session, which refers to stacking two disciplines during the same workout right after each other.
While you can practice biking after swimming, the most important brick session to practice is the bike-to-run.
Initially, you should start with a 1K walk/jog after biking to get used to that weird feeling, officially referred to as “jelly legs.” As your training plan advances, you should be increasing the distance of each discipline in this crucial workout.
These four sessions form the foundation for any triathlete and can be supplemented by stretching, mobility, and some specific strength training, like respiratory training for your lungs.
Respiratory training works just like training any other muscle group using resistance - your muscles become faster, stronger, and more efficient. Don't let your breathing break you! Learn more on breathing training at Airofit.
If you follow this basic triathlon training plan consistently for at least three months, you will show up to your first race well prepared and likely have a delightful experience!
Which Triathlon Should You Choose?
Triathlons are a summer endurance sport, with most races taking place between April and October. As a beginner, you should start with a shorter distance like a Sprint triathlon.
However, if you feel comfortable in the water and have an athletic background, you could skip the Sprint and aim for a longer distance triathlon right away.
Completing the iconic full distance Ironman triathlon is the dream of athletes around the world. As a result, the completion of a full Ironman has evolved into a real rite of passage.
Some finishers even get inked with variants of the ironman logo after their race. Do you have what it takes to become an Ironman?
If you still don’t know where to start, why not try and find a local triathlon near you!