The Choice is Yours

First, you need to decide what it is you are training for. Triathlons come in several different formats and your training routine and nutritional intake will vary with each type. For your first triathlon, it’s a sensible idea to build up from the shortest to the longest race distance:

# Sprint Format

The shortest format is still not something to be sniffed at: a 0.75km swim, followed by a 20km bike and ending with a 5km run.

# Standard (Olympic) Format

The standard format raises the bar with a 1.5km swim, a 40km bike and a 10km run.

# Half-Ironman

As we wade into Ironman territory, we are faced with a 1.9km swim, a 90km bike and a 21.1km run.

# Ironman

To go full Tony Stark (Robert Downey Junior’s role in Marvel blockbuster, ‘Ironman), you’re going to have to pull of a 3.8km swim, a 180.2km bike and a 42.2km run.

Now it’s time to get the hardest part out the way, signing up. Make sure you give yourself enough time to get in top condition. We recommend at least eight weeks for the sprint format and all the way up to 24 for the Ironman. That said, if you’ve been living that couch potato life, at least 12 weeks is recommended for any competition length. You’re going to need to put a lot of hard work and commitment into this timeframe. Let’s make it count.

# Time Effective

Time your workouts and create activity combinations that allow you to train around work and social commitments.

  • You’ll need to be getting in at least four sessions a week, at around 30-45 minutes per session. 
  • Bike sessions, the longest leg of the race, will need to be around one and a half to two hours.
  • Include a longer session of each discipline (swimming, biking, running) during each week.

# Swimming

  • During 30-45 minute swims, warm up practicing technique, and then focus on achieving as many lengths as possible at a steady pace (or distance in open water).
  • During longer workouts, around 60 minutes, follow the same pattern but include some more speed work toward the end. You’ll be tired, but this is where you can really increase that race-to-the-finish cardiovascular output.
  • With all your water work, make sure you focus on technique, breathing and rhythm. Get a coach to assess your technique if you are having doubts.
  • In open water practice your sighting (your direction based on objects in the distance). You need to get at least one open water practice in per month of training, at least.

# Biking

  • ‘Easy’ biking sessions still need to be long, around 60-90 minutes, but take it steady.
  • Harder biking sessions will range from 90-120 minutes.
  • Practice at a steady pace but try and increase your speed week to week.
  • Practice drinking water whilst you cycle.
  • Include a run immediately following your cycle (around 20-30 minutes).
  • Spin classes are a great supplement to work those legs and get your cardiovascular output up.

# Running

  • 30-45 minutes of running may be a task if you are starting out, but these need to be a staple, just try to go slow and keep pace for the time limit and build speed through the weeks.
  • For longer runs of 50-60 minutes, again, focus on pace and continuous running through the time period.
  • Build some sprint training into the routine to build leg muscles and give you an edge if you end up neck and neck toward the end of the race.
  • Add runs to the end of your cycles at least once a week.

# Slow and Steady

The famous proverb from Aesop’s fable, of the tortoise and the hare, rings particularly true in the build up to a competition. Take things slowly and increase the difficulty and volume sensibly, but often. If you go too hard too fast you risk injury, or burning out before your race.

  • Build your routine steadily, this will allow your tendons, ligaments and muscles to gradually increase their strength and endurance, as well as increasing your cardiovascular output.
  • Make sure you are scheduling rest and taking extra days off if needed. Listen to your body.
  • Every fourth week reduce your training load to one or two more intense sessions, and replace normal training days with yoga, pilates, sports massage or very light workouts on the exercise bike.

You’ve now got a go-to guide on how to prep yourself for your first race. Simply entering an athletic competition already makes you a winner. Start looking for a race to sign up to today.