How to Train for a Triathlon: A Step-By-Step Guide for New Trainees

Competing in a triathlon is a big step in your goal toward better physical fitness, so you want to make sure you prepare as much as possible for this event before jumping into it. First of all, you should review exactly what a triathlon is. As the name implies, a triathlon is a three-part competition that encompasses swimming, cycling and running segments at various distances, scheduled one right after the other. These competitions can also be placed into three different categories: Sprint, Olympic and Ironman, with Sprint as the shortest and least strenuous competition and Ironman as the most challenging.

Although your own race will depend on a number of different factors, a typical Sprint triathlon consists of a 750 meter swim, 12 mile cycle and five kilometer (3.1 mile) run. If you’ve never participated in one of these events before, all of your work is ahead of you, so stock up on the energy bars and protein powder and take a look at these helpful tips for crossing the finish line with pride.


1. Run

If you’re looking at triathlon competitions, there’s a good chance you’ve already competed in a few long distance foot races. Even if you haven’t, this part of the competition is often the most accessible for even the moderately fit. Naturally, you’ll want to adjust your running schedule to make sure you have an even balance of running, biking and swimming in your routine.

You’ll need to run a minimum of twice per week, since you’ll need to swim and bike a minimum of twice a week each to develop the skills and endurance you need to perform successfully in this demanding competition. Make sure to have a good pair of running shoes for training sessions and always mix up your weekly routine with easy and more challenging runs to keep building your strength and endurance.

2. Bike

Biking helps to strengthen the quads and calf muscles, which both improve your running performance, thus killing two birds with one stone. Practicing often isn’t nearly as important as practicing right when it comes to biking. Although you might think riding a bike is easy, many rookies make the mistake of “pedal stomping” and “pedal mashing.” You can correct pedal stomping by practicing pedaling with one leg on a stationary bike, leading the pedal in a complete circle. Pedal mashing can also be corrected by maintaining a pedal cadence of at least 80 revolutions per minute on a flat surface.


3. Swim

Unlike biking and running, swimming works out the upper half of your body, which makes it a perfect complement to your routine. Improving your swimming performance begins with improving your stroke technique. Perfect your own freestyle stroke technique by having a professional trainer or experienced friend monitor your performance. Drilling is a good way to compartmentalize your performance and make improvements little by little for a better final result. Since triathlons always require you to swim in a crowd of other competitors, practice swimming with a group of other trainers to get used to this environment.

No one said training for a triathlon would be easy, but there are a few ways you could make it more manageable by researching and practicing for the competition. In addition to this training advice, make sure to eat nutritious meals and drink plenty of water to give your body an abundant supply of energy to perform well. Although you may be tempted to go into overdrive with your routine, remember to take a couple of days off per week to give your muscles a chance to rebuild, so they can become stronger in your follow-up routines.


Cassandra Lynne is an exercise nut, travel enthusiast and animal adorer. She is a true believer in the mind-body connection, meditation, yoga and making exercise fun! She competes in yearly bike-a-thons and charity mini-marathons. Her favorite exercise is taking long hikes with her pup, Joy.

One thought on “How to Train for a Triathlon: A Step-By-Step Guide for New Trainees

  • January 14, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Thanks so much for the tips. I’m doing my first ever triathlon in just under three weeks now. Ekkk.


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