For many casual or amateur athletes, the thought of entering a triathlon can be pretty daunting. The prospect of competing, performing, or simply surviving through events that can last 12 hours or more is intimidating for us mere mortals!
Thankfully, there are many different versions of a triathlon. The shortest and most accessible of these is a super sprint triathlon. With distances and average finish times that even the most casual athletes can aspire to, this might be your chance to finally get into the wonderful world of triathlons.
This article will explain the details of this ‘mini-triathlon’, the important considerations for training for this sport, and provide an example program to get you in super-sprint shape fast!
What is a Super Sprint Triathlon?
The super sprint tri is a multi-sport event consisting of a 400m swim, a 10km cycling leg, and finishing with a 2.5km run. It is the youngest sibling in the triathlon world, with the next events up being the sprint triathlon, Olympic triathlon, and half to full Ironman events.
As mentioned, super sprints are a great starting point into the sport. Not only are the distances achievable for even the most beginner athletes, it is a great first foray into the spectacle of a triathlon event.
Super Sprint is a more friendly version of the triathlon to introduce you to the race day experience, including the preparation, registration process, race-day organization, and practicing the transitions that are a key part of this sport.
Super sprint triathlons are often run as part of bigger triathlon events, so you’ll also get exposure to the full experience and be able to feel competitive while enjoying the friendly, energetic atmosphere.
Not only for beginners, but super sprints are also a great way for regular triathletes to stay sharp between their main events or in the offseason, as the swim leg of these events are often held indoors.
Now let’s explore the major considerations when training for this unique sport.
How is Training for a Super Sprint Different?
The shorter distances in a super sprint triathlon mean that short or medium-term training plans are sufficient to prepare for an event. The overuse injuries prevalent in many of the ultra-endurance triathlon events are less so in a sport like the super sprint.
That being said, it’s still important to make sure your training is periodized, and includes a sufficient work/rest balance to minimize the risk of injury or maladaptation.
The main mistake people make when training for a triathlon is viewing the sport as three separate categories, rather than a single unique modality in which the musculoskeletal system has to adapt to different stresses while the cardiopulmonary system works to keep things performing optimally.
While training for the single race legs is important, as a weakness in any of the three can let you down on race day, the key to triathlon training is in the combination of the different modes - especially in the shorter distance super sprint where endurance is replaced with higher intensities.
This has been shown in research which demonstrated biomechanical changes in running technique after cycling due to muscle fatigue.
In practical terms, this means if you isolate your training, you’ll get to race day and get a shock when you try to run the same way with gassed legs from the bike leg. So train smart and don’t expose yourself to a diminished performance, or worse, an injury.
With that in mind, let’s get into the fun part - training for your first super sprint triathlon!
Super Sprint Triathlon Training Plan
This example super sprint triathlon training program is designed for beginner athletes to get from the couch to super sprint triathlon ready in five weeks.
The two main steps involve working up to the individual distances of each leg, then getting used to combining the modalities by performing one mode straight after the others.
It is critical to include these combination sessions in your training, not only to get used to the physical effort of cycling after swimming and running after cycling, but to practice your transitions and changing your equipment smoothly and quickly.
Feel free to mix and match the days around to suit your schedule, just try to leave the same amount of recovery between whatever days you train.
Now you’re ready to complete your first super sprint triathlon, or to build on this program to improve your pace for each split and your overall race time!
If you have more time before your event, or want to step things up after your first race, this five-week program can be repeated a second time, replacing any days of ‘light intensity’ with ‘moderate intensity’, and any ‘moderate intensity’ sessions with ‘vigorous or race intensity’.
We hope this article inspired you to get into the awesome sport of triathlon through this easily accessible super sprint triathlon training.
Let us know which super sprint tri you’re signing up for in the comments!