How to Train for a Triathlon





Introduction: How to Train for a Triathlon

i have recently started to compete in triathlons and have found that it is very important to train for them properly. the first triathlon i did was a spur of the moment idea that my friends and i had. it was just a sprint but without training of any sort, it was one of the most difficult things i have ever done. even so, i still enjoyed the experience and decided that for my next one, i would train for it properly and actually compete for one of the better times. you will find alot of instructions around for how to transition from one discipline to the other in the most efficient way but it was difficult for me to find an actual training regime for my skill level. i am not a pro athlete by any means. i have no interest in doing full ironmans and dont have the time to devote to that sort of training. i just do them for fun and to stay in shape. after doing several of these things, i have gotten myself into the best shape of my life and have even managed to repair some of my recurring injuries.

this instructable is for the average person who just wants to have fun and try a new sport. with the right training and motivation, everybody can do triathlons.

Step 1: A Little Background

a triathlon is a very difficult thing to do. there are several different types of triathlons held in all different places.

triathlons are composed of three different disciplines done one after the other without a break. most triathlons follow the same basic setup. a swim, followed by a bike, and then a run. some triathlons have paddling and mountain biking and orienteering. it all depends on what the race organizers want to do and where it is taking place.

the easiest and the one that this instructable will focus on are sprint triathlons. these are the shortest distance triathlons and can be done anywhere between 40 minutes and 2 hours depending on how much you train and what your goals are. the distences for a sprint triathlon are

swim: .5 (.47) miles
bike: 12.4 miles
run: 3.1 miles

they might not look like much but when done at the same time, it becomes very difficult.

other distances include olympic

swim: .93 miles 1.5 km
bike: 24.8 miles 40 km
run: 6.2 miles 10km

and the grand daddy ironman

swim: 2.4 miles 3.86 km
bike: 112 miles 180 km
run: 26.2 miles 42.2 km

the later two require alot of work and dedication to do and are very hard. i do triathlons because they are fun and just to stay in regular shape. i am not a machine and dont want to become one.


Step 2: Lets Get Started.

the first thing to know is that you are going to have to ease into training. the chances are very low that you will be able to just jump into full pace and length workouts. i good starting point is between 6 and 8 weeks before your race. this will give you ample time to start easy but build your stamina so that you can be competitive when the race roles around.

my workouts try to go day by day doing different disciplines for the race so that you can build up to full length and full intensity training.

some things to remember are:

ALWAYS stretch before doing any workout. it will do you no good if you try and go full blast and hurt yourself. you will just miss the race and get discouraged. also, you should go at your own comfortable pace. it is fine to push but if it hurts, your body is telling you that something is wrong. if you push to hard you will still get hurt and not be able to compete.

just remember that you are doing this for fun, and to get in better shape. if you find out that you really enjoy racing, you can add distance or intensity to the workouts so that you are able to do the longer races.

Step 3: Week 1

ok. the first week will be relatively easy. it is just to get you used to the training format and prepare your body for the more intense workout to come.

monday: swim for 30 mins
tuesday: run 30 mins
wednesday: bike 45 mins
thursday: rest
friday: swim 30 mins 
saturday: run 30 mins
sunday: rest

this first week is to take it easy. you should be getting yourself used the different things. if you are swimming in a pool, the full length swim is about 500 yards. by the end of training, you should be able to do this in well under ten minutes. this is something to work up to. all of these workouts are done at a slow to moderate pace this week.

Step 4: Week 2

the second week is the same as the first. it is still to get you used to doing the workouts.

monday: swim for 30 mins
tuesday: run 30 mins
wednesday: bike 45 mins
thursday: rest
friday: swim 30 mins
saturday: run 30 mins
sunday: rest 

you will notice that all the weeks focus mostly on the swim and the run. that was the areas that i had the most trouble with and most of the people i talk to have the same problems.

Step 5: Week 3

ok, now that your body is starting to get used to working out on a regular basis. lets kick it into a higher gear. the workouts from now on will be much more intense and you will start to see alot of gains in your fitness levels. as well as doing the same workouts you did for the first two weeks, you will also be adding weight training and multiple discipline days. these workouts are also to be done at a slightly higher level of intensity than the first two weeks. i like to pair swimming with weight training and biking with running. the reason for this is that the swim is the first event and is very hard on the arms and legs. if you strengthen these through extra weight training, you will have an easier time in the water. i pair the bike and the run to build your cardio.

monday: swim for 30 mins, weight train 20 min
tuesday: run 30 mins, bike 45 mins
wednesday: bike 45 mins, run 30 mins
thursday: rest
friday: swim 30 mins, weight train 20 mins
saturday: run 30 mins, bike 45 mins
sunday: rest
i am not going to give a specific weight training workout because everybody does different things. find one that works for you. i have major joint problems so i had to find a lower impact workout. you could be different. i am also not going to give you specific techniques for running biking or swimming. i will just say that as the weeks go on, the intensity level should increase until you are training at full race pace. and dont forget the rest days. the are very important for you and your body.

Step 6: Week 4

this week will be the same intensity level as the last. what we are trying to do is build your body for the rigors of the race. you do a workout enough times that your body feels good about it and then you jump up the intensity level.

monday: swim for 30 mins, weight train 20 min
tuesday: run 30 mins, bike 45 mins
wednesday: bike 45 mins, run 30 mins
thursday: rest
friday: swim 30 mins, weight train 20 mins
saturday: run 30 mins, bike 45 mins
sunday: rest

remember this is a medium intensity week.

Step 7: Week 5

now we are getting close to the event. you are just two weeks away and starting to feel good about yourself. the training for this week is going to be hard. you are going to be doing the workouts at almost peek intensity. you are trying to get a feel for what the triathlon is going to be like and how you are going to perform.

monday: swim for 30 mins, weight train 20 min
tuesday: run 30 mins, bike 45 mins
wednesday: bike 45 mins, run 30 mins
thursday: rest
friday: swim 30 mins, weight train 20 mins
saturday: on this day, you are going to do a test triathlon. full distance full force. this will                         give you an idea of where you are at.
sunday: rest

this is the hard week. the time you are doing the workouts might be the same but you should be pushing it. this is the week to prove to yourself that you have what it takes to complete this thing.

Step 8: Week 6

it is race week. you are feeling good after going through hell week last week and are feeling ready to do this thing.this week you are going to take it pretty easy. it is a chance for your body to recover and heal so that it is in peek shape for the race. all workouts will be done at the intensity level that your started out weeks 1 and 2 with. this is not the week to push like you have never done before. that will come on sunday.

monday: swim for 30 mins
tuesday: run 30 mins
wednesday: bike 45 mins
thursday: rest
friday: swim 30 mins
saturday: rest
sunday: RACE

 all your hard work has come down to this. race day is here and you are feeling pumped and ready to go. make sure to get a good nights sleep the day before and have a good healthy breakfast before you go out. this is not an eggs and bacon sort of day. try to stick to cereal and fruit.

Step 9: Some Helpful Hints.

these are some tips and tricks for normal people to improve there times without having to go out and spend alot of money. there is not need to go and buy the latest and greatest gear. at the low levels, it does not make any difference.

tip 1: make sure that you sign yourself up for the proper group. there are lots of groups in a triathlon ranging from age class to weight (Clydesdale or athena), and bike types (fat tire for mountain bikes). it is important to sign up for the group that fits you best. it will make it more fun.

tip 2: set up your transition area so that it is well organized. i like to lay a towel on the ground under my bike to put my things on. it will keep it organized and keep other peoples things away.

tip 3: have something to wash your feet in. if you put your shoes on while your feet are sandy or dirty, you will get blisters.

tip 4: you are required to wear a number for the bike and run. if you pin it to your shirt it could get bunched up and make it hard to get the shirt on. go to the store and bet some elastic webbing and a buckle. you can make a race belt for just a couple of dollars and it will make it easy to put your numbers on.

tip 5: re-lace your running shoes with elastic banding. this will make them easy to put on fast.

tip 6: if  you have a road bike, place your helmet upside down on the handle bars ready to put on.

tip 7: the start of the race can be crazy. if you are not comfortable with swimming with 1000 of your closest friends in a tight group in open water, there are a couple places to go. you can either jump out to the front and stay there or you can go to either side. it is bad to be in the back or middle because you will get kicked.

tip 8: it is a good idea to do a couple of open water swims before your race. swimming in the pool and swimming in the ocean or a lake are very different. it takes some getting used to and you may have to modify your stroke a little so that you can orient yourself to where you need to go mid race.

all of these little things might not seam like much at the time but during the race, you will be glad you did them. 

Step 10: A Better Life

training for these triathlons has changed my life. it has gotten me into shape and renewed my outlook on life. i really enjoy doing them and believe that i will be able to do them for a long time to come. they are fun to do with friends and family and will improve your health and fitness levels. i hope that all of you will be able to at least try to do one. they are a tone of fun and well worth the time and effort.

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    Nice intructable. Thanks for sharing.

    I did my first im only 10 an i finished 2nd its was 200 meter swim 9 mile bike 2 1/2 mile run

    "Band aids on your nipples. A good way to spot an amateur runner, is by the blood on his shirt" -Ryan Reynolds
    I wish I had this advice back in my 'running' days. I thought it would be nice to share.

    I like your training regimen! The slow build makes it seem much easier.
    I'd add a suggestion that people practice open-water swims, as they're VERY different than swimming in the pool. Practicing Tarzan-style head-up swimming is also useful, as you'll want to do this periodically to reorient yourself while swimming in open water.

    How early was that transition prep photo taken? Looks like it's still dark. And which one are you in the start pic?

    I've only done one sprint triathlon, and running was the hardest bit for me. I was a competitive swimmer for years, and my biking is pretty solid, but running (until recently) was something I only really did when chased or forced to cross-train. This meant I was in the top 60 of the ~1000 people in my sprint triathlon in the swim, then in the top 1/3 for the bike (serious bikers passed me), then at the end for the run (it seemed like EVERYONE was passing me.) A bit demoralizing, even though I knew how/why it worked like that. ;)

    Of course, now I've got a pair of 5-finger shoes, and enjoy running in them or barefoot and have even done a half-marathon. Maybe I'll do another (longer) triathlon sometime to see how it goes with my new-found enjoyment of running.

    Thanks for the inspiring Instructable!

    2 replies

    thanks for your input. i added the open water swims to the tips. i had the same problem when i did my first triathlon. my swim and bike were ok but my run was terrible. i had to train allot to get better but it paid off for my other races.

    You might like the POSE running method. It's meant for triathletes and it helped me solve the same problem.

    the theory behind it is that your quads are toast after you get off of the bike. POSE uses mainly calves and glutes to run. check it out, you might find it interesting.

    Also, running is definitely the toughest in the triathlon and on a hot day everybody is feeling it on the run

    Another tip from someone who has done a few of these:

    Usually you put on the swim cap and then the goggles. In a race it's worth it to put the goggles on and then the cap. The cap will keep it on tight so that, if you do get kicked, the goggles won't go anywhere.

    I have quite a few suggestions to make. first your program does not focus on speed at all, i would suggest replacing some of the long workouts with a few short really fast workouts. i would also combine some of the runs and bike together so that people can get used to the weird feeling in their legs after getting of on the bike and starting the run. you may want to also practice with a few buddies when doing open water training to get used to getting hit in the head and elbowed in the face. in transition put vaseline around the edge of your shoe to prevent blisters and help the shoe go on faster. also hydration is key while training and or power bar gels are also great to use during a race, you can put them on your bike with electrical tape, they will give you an extra energy boost during the race to help u finnish also some races are time trial starts not group starts. i am not a pro athlete but i am on the USAT southeastern region jr. high performance development team and have raced over 30 sprint distance races.

    I'm impressed with your exercise regimen,it's hard for me to stay motivated . I was doing good about running regularly and just stopped. Reading your instructable has gotten me fired up about getting back in shape...THANKS!!!!

    Awesome Instructable! I was with Team in Training and did a few marathons and half's and have always wanted to do a triathalon! You have got the right idea.... pace yourself and work up to the various distances slowly. You have added some great tips!

    but more importantly, CONGRATS! finishing a tri is quite an accomplishment!