You will enjoy progressing through each phase as you gain fitness and speed throughout each four-week cycle.

This plan is ideal for beginner to intermediate triathletes who are currently able to complete a 15-minute swim (with breaks as needed), a 30-minute bike, and a 30-minute run/walk. You will find this plan quite easy to comprehend, and the rhythm of workouts each week, as well as from week to week, to be fun and achievable for even those with busy work or family commitments. You will enjoy progressing through assorted training ‘phases’, such as ‘test,’ ‘build,’ and ‘recover,’ and as such will be able to note improved fitness and speed throughout each four-week cycle.

Week 1

Monday
Day Off
Take the day off, including as much time off your feet as possible. Spend some time preparing meals for the week, as well as arranging work and family schedules to best allow for succesful completion of assigned workouts.

Tuesday
30-Minute Swim Test
WU- 5 to 10 minutes easy swim
MS- Swim 15 minutes max distance… taking breaks if/ as needed.
CD- 5 minutes easy swim

Wednesday
45-Minute Easy Bike
Ride easy/ conversational, and use an easy gear with a high cadence.

Thursday
45-Minute Run Test
WU- 10 minutes easy walk/ jog
MS- Run/ walk 30 minutes maximum distance.
CD- 5 minutes easy walk

Friday
20-Minute Easy Swim
Swim easy, taking breaks as needed.

Saturday
45-Minute Bike Test
WU- Ride 10 minutes easy
MS- Ride 30 minutes maximum distance
CD- Ride 5 minutes easy

Sunday
30-Minute Easy Run
Run/ walk easy (conversational), taking breaks as needed.

Week 2

Monday
Day Off

Tuesday
25-Minute Build Swim
WU- 5 minutes easy swim
MS- 4 x 3 minutes TP (test pace), with 1 minute RI (recovery interval)
CD- 5 minutes easy swim

Wednesday
45-Minute Easy Bike
Ride easy/ conversational, and use an easy gear with a high cadence.

Friday
20-Minute Easy Swim
Swim easy, taking breaks as needed.

Saturday
60-Minute Build Bike
WU- 12 minutes easy
MS- 4 x 8 minutes TP (test pace), with 2 minutes RI (recovery interval).
CD- 10 minutes easy

Sunday
30-Minute Easy Run
Run/ walk easy (conversational), taking breaks as needed.

Week 4

Monday
Day Off
Take the day off, including as much time off your feet as possible. Spend some time preparing meals for the week, as well as arranging work and family schedules to best allow for succesful completion of assigned workouts.
Tuesday
20-Minute Easy Swim
Swim easy, taking breaks as needed.

Wednesday
Day Off

Thursday
45-Minute Easy Bike
Ride easy/ conversational, and use an easy gear with a high cadence.

Friday
Day Off

Saturday
30-Minute Easy Run
Run/walk easy (conversational), taking breaks as needed.

Sunday
Day Off

Week 5

Monday
Day Off

Tuesday
30-Minute Swim Test
WU- 5 to 10 minutes easy swim
MS- Swim 15 minutes max distance… taking breaks if/ as needed.
CD- 5 minutes easy swim

Wednesday
45-Minute Easy Bike
WU- 5 to 10 minutes easy swim
MS- Swim 15 minutes max distance… taking breaks if/ as needed.
CD- 5 minutes easy swim

Thursday
45-Minute Run Test
WU- 10 minutes easy walk/ jog
MS- Run/ walk 30 minutes maximum distance.
CD- 5 minutes easy walk

Friday
20-Minute Easy Swim
Swim easy, taking breaks as needed.

Saturday
45-Minute Bike Test
WU- Ride 10 minutes easy
MS- Ride 30 minutes maximum distance
CD- Ride 5 minutes easy

Sunday
30-Minute Easy Run
Run/ walk easy (conversational), taking breaks as needed.

Week 8

Monday
Day Off

Tuesday
20-Minute Easy Swim
Swim easy, taking breaks as needed.

Wednesday
Day Off

Thursday
45-Minute Easy Bike
Ride easy/conversational, and use an easy gear with a high cadence.

Friday
Day Off

Saturday
30-Minute Easy Run

Sunday
Day Off

Week 11

Monday
Day Off

Tuesday
25-Minute Peak Swim
WU: 5 minutes easy
MS: Swim 75% of goal race distance at goal race pace. Take breaks as needed.

Wednesday
45-Minute Easy Bike
Ride easy/ conversational, and use an easy gear with a high cadence.

Thursday
30-Minute Peak Run
WU- walk/ jog 5 minutes easy
MS- Run/ walk 50% of goal race distance at goal race pace.
CD- walk/ jog 5 minutes easy

Friday
20-Minute Easy Swim
Swim easy, taking breaks as needed.

Saturday
45-Minute Peak Bike
WU- 5 minutes easy spin
MS- Bike 75% of goal race distance at goal race pace alternating 10 minutes ‘on’, 5 minutes ‘easy’.
CD- 5 minutes easy spin.

Sunday
30-Minute Easy Run
Run/ walk easy (conversational), taking breaks as needed.

Week 12

Monday
Day Off

Tuesday
20-Minute Taper Run
Run 33% of goal race distance at goal race pace alternating run 4 minutes/ brisk walk 1 minute.

Wednesday
30-Minute Taper Bike
Ride 50% of goal race distance at goal race pace alternating 10 minutes ‘on’, 5 minutes ‘easy.’

Thursday
15-Minute Taper Swim
Swim 50% of goal race distance at goal race pace, taking breaks as needed. Practice in wetsuit if you plan to wear one in the race. Use the swim venue if possible, otherwise it is OK to wear the wetsuit in the pool.

Friday
Day Off

Saturday
20-Minute Pre-Race Workout
Bike 15 minutes progressing to race pace, then run 5 minutes progressing to race pace.

Sunday
RACE DAY
Arrive early, trust your training, have fun!

How to Race Your First Sprint Triathlon In 12 Weeks

If you’re thinking of doing your first triathlon but your training hasn’t quite taken off yet, this feature is written with you in mind. It shows you how get fit for a sprint triathlon and how to make triathlon training a regular habit.

At this stage the biggest hurdle you face is getting started. The secret is to start with small steps, rather than trying to achieve everything on day one. So don’t aim to win the IRONMAN World Championship tomorrow, instead just train for 15 minutes today.

Research by Duke University suggests that 45 percent of all human behavior is habitual. The good news is that habits are nothing more than neural pathways in the brain. The more regularly you do something, the stronger those neural pathways become. And the more workouts you skip, the weaker those pathways get. In other words, you can create your own achievement habits simply by repeating activities until they feel easier.

For example, if you decided to start swimming before work each morning, the first few weeks would probably be a struggle because those neural pathways would still be weak. But after a while your brain will strengthen the connection between waking up and getting straight out of bed. So the chances of rolling over and going back to sleep become reduced.

Habits are great because they stop you from relying too heavily on your sense of motivation. The problem with motivation is that it ebbs and flows, depending on how you feel at a given time. Imagine you get back from work one sunny evening and you can’t wait to go running. But what happens when you have a stressful day in the office and it’s pouring outside? Are you still so motivated to run? Luckily we have another tool that’s far better in these situations. It’s called willpower.

Every time you create a new positive habit, such as stretching after a workout, you increase your reserves of willpower. You can use these reserves for activities such as regular training and eating healthily. Willpower, unlike motivation, is dependable. You can build it up and rely on it.

If you’re just starting out in triathlon, the best way to strengthen your willpower is to form mini-habits. These are easy goals that only take a little effort to achieve. Picking easy goals helps reduce the perceptions of difficulty that might scare you off.

For example, you could set yourself the relatively easy goal of riding your indoor bike- trainer for 10 minutes. But once you’re there you might find you want to keep going for another 10 minutes. Mini habits get you moving, and once you are in motion you need less willpower to continue.

These easy goals might not seem like much, but you’ll be surprised at how positive they make you feel. Mini habits provide you with the unique opportunity to experience success, rather than failure, several times per day.

To help you build your own successful training habits I’ve designed a free 12-week sprint triathlon TrainingPeaks plan for novices. The workouts are all varied, so it never gets boring. And the training builds up slowly, so that no single day will ever seem too tough.

Rather than focusing on completing the entire 12-week plan, you should set yourself the target of completing the first week only. Once you’ve done that, pat yourself on the back and begin the second week as a completely separate goal. As the weeks go by, you’ll build momentum and your reserves of willpower will gradually increase. Which means that when life gets in the way, as it probably will at some point, you’ll have the mental strength to keep going.

Check out my 12-Week Novice Sprint Triathlon training plan and start your triathlon journey today. If you’re new to TrainingPeaks you’ll be invited to sign up for a free basic athlete account. After doing that you’ll get an automated email from TrainingPeaks showing you how to apply your training plan. I have also written my own set of training guidelines, attached to day one of the training plan. Make sure you read them properly before you start. Good luck!

12-Week Olympic Triathlon Training Plan for Beginners

Swimming and biking and running, oh my! A triathlon may seem overwhelming, but this plan will prepare you for an Olympic-distance race-usually a 1.5K swim, 40Kride, and 10Krun-in just 12 weeks. Besides the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel, training will get you into the best shape of your life (win-win!). So put a race on the calendar (locate one at trifind.com) and start now. You can print out the full program below and refer to this page anytime you need a refresher on the details.

On race day, take a deep breath, forget about the clock, and just focus on finishing-because you definitely will!

Rest Intervals for Swim Sets

50 meters: 10 to 15 seconds

100 meters: 15 to 20 seconds

200 meters: 20 to 30 seconds

300 meters: 30 to 35 seconds

400 meters: 35 to 40 seconds

800 meters: 40 to 45 seconds

Cycling Zones

Zone 1: easy, aerobic, 60 to 70% max heart rate, recovery

Zone 2: moderate, aerobic, 70 to 80% max heart rate

Zone 3: moderately hard, lactate threshold, 80 to 85% max heart rate

Strength Training

Do this total-body strength routine once a week, in addition to your prescribed aerobic training for that day. Do all four exercises in circuit 1 consecutively, with minimal rest between moves. After the last exercise, repeat the full circuit twice more. Continue with all the exercises in circuit 2, completing the full circuit 3 times total. If this is too challenging, perform each circuit twice instead.

Circuit 1

Squats (bodyweight or weighted, depending on your fitness level): 12 to 15 reps

Pushups: 15 to 20 reps

Seated rows: 15 to 20 reps

Plank: 30-second hold

Circuit 2

Walking lunges: 20 reps

Assisted pull-ups: 12 to 15 reps

Medicine-ball reverse woodchops: 12 to 15 reps in each direction

Side plank: 30-second hold on each side

(If you’re printing the plan, be sure to use landscape layout for best resolution.)

How do I train? How do I learn to swim? What kind of equipment do I need? What should I eat and drink? How do I stay injury-free?

Matt Fitzgerald provides answers to some of the most commonly asked questions he receives from beginners.

The sport of triathlon used to be considered a bizarre form of self-torture engaged in by endurance junkies who had gone over the bend. Today, triathlon is thoroughly mainstream. Each year, thousands of everyday men and women – and even boys and girls – participate in their first triathlon in search of fitness and a rewarding challenge.

Nevertheless, the sport remains rather intimidating for beginners. It is complex, and the learning curve is steep for first-timers. In this article, we hope to provide a boost along this curve for those of you who are considering a first triathlon by answering some of the questions that beginners most frequently ask.

How do I train?

In a typical triathlon, the average participant spends about a fifth of the total race duration swimming, half of the total race duration cycling, and about 30 percent of the total race duration running. Your training should approximately match these distributions. Each week, you should do roughly equal numbers of swim, bike and run workouts, but your bike workouts should be longer and your swims shorter. For example, if you work out six times, you will swim twice, bike twice, and run twice, but your longest bike ride might be one hour, whereas your swims last 30 minutes each and your runs, 40 minutes.

Begin with an amount of training that is appropriate to your present level of fitness and increase the workload incrementally throughout the time you have available before your race, always allowing yourself enough time for recovery. If you’re a typical out-of-shape adult who’s neither overweight, elderly, nor suffering from any debilitating medical conditions, you’ll need about 12 weeks to prepare for a sprint triathlon (approximately a 0.25-mile swim, 15-mile bike, 3-mile run).

You may have heard triathletes or other endurance athletes talk about “intensity” and various workout types that target different intensity levels. Forget about this for now. While training for your first triathlon, keep the intensity level between four and six on a scale of one to 10 for all workouts.

RELATED – Triathlete’s Beginner’s Guide: Becoming A Better Cyclist
How do I learn to swim?

Swimming is the greatest source of anxiety for most beginning triathletes, who can stay afloat and splash around, but have never learned to swim long. Every new triathlete should get some kind of swim coaching. Proper swim technique is so subtle and precise that even professional triathletes continue to work on it throughout their careers. You’ll never discover this technique on your own. The best way to develop it (and the confidence that comes with it) is to find a master’s swim group in your area and talk to the coach. While you may need to increase your fitness before you’re ready to join the group workouts (which I highly recommend that you do eventually), the coach will in most cases be more than happy to work with you individually for a reasonable fee. Most new triathletes who take this route achieve very rapid progress.

RELATED: Conquer Your Swim Weakness
What kind of equipment do I need?

Don’t go out and buy a $2,000 triathlon bike for your first sprint triathlon. They’re terrific, but you should probably get a taste of the sport and determine whether you like it before you make that kind of investment.

Essential gear for swimming includes a swimsuit, goggles, and a swim cap (if you have longer hair). If you’re new to swimming, swallow your self-consciousness and wear an actual “Speedo” racing suit (male or female). The truth is, you’ll feel more self-conscious wearing anything else, as the vast majority of lap swimmers sport the Speedo look. Choose goggles that fit the shape of your face, or else they will leak. To avoid lens fogging, spread a tiny drop of baby shampoo on the lenses before each use.

For cycling, you need a bike, of course, plus cycling clothes, a helmet, cycling glasses, a tire pump, a spare tube, and a hex wrench set for tightening and loosening bolts. If you happen to have a road bike, use this. Otherwise, an off-road bike such as a freestyle or mountain bike will serve, although it won’t go as fast. You can improve the speed of a mountain bike by replacing the fat, knobby tires that come with it with smooth, thinner tires meant for street riding. A mechanic at your local bike shop can make the switch for you. Whatever kind of bike you choose to ride, get it tuned up before you begin training on it. Your mechanic will clean and lubricate the drivetrain, replace worn parts, and adjust the fit, and can also suggest simple upgrades. Get some basic maintenance tips (how to fix a flat, oil the chain, etc.) while you’re there.

For running, you need running clothes and running shoes. Choose running clothes that are made of moisture-managing fabrics such as CoolMax. Buy your shoes from a running specialty store whose sales personnel are highly knowledgeable. Getting shoes that don’t fit perfectly or are inappropriate for your stride is a recipe for an overuse injury. Try on a variety of models, run around the parking lot in each, and ask your salesperson questions about your foot, stride, and shoe needs.

There’s also lots of optional equipment you can get. I highly recommend the use of a good sports watch. Heart rate monitors are extremely useful but are less essential. Triathlon suits are swimsuit-cycling short hybrids that are meant for triathlon racing, and nothing beats them for this purpose. Let’s leave it at that.

RELATED – 15 Must-Haves: Essential Beginner Tri Gear
What should I eat and drink?

Your everyday diet should be the same as any other health-conscious person’s diet: high in slow-burning, low-glycemic carbohydrates (e.g. whole grains), fresh fruits and vegetables, and water, and low in processed foods, refined carbohydrates (e.g. cookies), and saturated fats. Your proteins should come from quality sources such as fish. Eat enough calories to maintain a consistent bodyweight once you’ve shed any excess fat through your training. You may find that you need to eat more to maintain your weight than you did when you were less active.

Carbohydrate is the primary fuel source for cardiovascular exercise. Eating plenty of low-glycemic carbohydrates is the best way to keep your muscles stocked with glycogen, which your body relies on during long workouts. During workouts, drink a quality sports drink containing water, 6 to 8 percent carbohydrate, electrolytes, and possibly some protein. After your workout, immediately ingest a recovery sports drink with the same ingredients. Getting the proper amounts of carbohydrate and protein into your body within the first 30 minutes of completing exercise will dramatically increase your performance the following day.

RELATED: How To Fuel For Your First Race
How do I stay injury-free?

Most injuries that befall triathletes are overuse injuries, as opposed to acute ones (like when you fall of your bike and bruise something). While overuse injuries are fairly common among triathletes, they are relatively easy to prevent and treat, if you’re careful.

The most effective way to prevent overuse injuries is to prevent and reverse the muscle imbalances that contribute to most of them. Through the nature of the postures and repetitive motions involved, triathletes tend to develop particular imbalances that are associated with particular injuries. To correct imbalances, you need to stretch muscles that tend to become shortened through training and strengthen muscles that tend to become weakened. Triathletes should frequently stretch their calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, lower back, neck, and chest, and should regularly performing functional exercises that strengthen the hips, butt, abdomen, upper back, and shoulders.

Poor technique is also associated with a majority of overuse injuries. Swimmers who deviate from the recommended arm cycle technique tend to develop swimmer’s shoulder. Cyclists who position their seat too high or low tend to develop low back and knee problems. Runners whose feet over-pronate tend to develop plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and runner’s knee. Have knowledgeable persons inspect your technique in each of the three triathlon disciplines and point out flaws. Modifying technique takes time and discipline, but it does work.

A third factor that is associated with many overuse injuries is sudden and substantial increases in training volume. Always increase your training volume gradually from one week to the next, and don’t increase it every week. The tissues in your body require time to adapt to the training stimuli they experience. For that matter, your body also needs time to adapt to the stress of each individual workout, which is why you need to perform a thorough warm-up each time you swim, bike, and run. Hamstring injuries in particular are known to result from failure to warm up properly.

RELATED: The End Of Injury
Looking to compete in a beginner-friendly triathlon? Our partner, the TriRock Triathlon series, offers eight races across the country featuring a fun atmosphere for triathletes of all levels.

That’s not to underestimate how demanding the three-part race can be. But if you follow a well-structured plan like this one, you’ll be adequately prepared by race day.

Going the Distance

Before training, you need to choose your distance and locate a race (find one at trifind.com). There are five primary triathlon distances:

Sprint triathlon: Half-mile (750m) swim, 12.4 mi (20km) bike, 3.1mi (5km) run

Olympic triathlon: 0.93mi (1.5km) swim, 24.8mi (40km) bike, 6.2mi (10km) run

ITU Long-Distance triathlon (double Olympic): 1.86mi (3km) swim, 49.6mi (80km) bike, 12.4mi (20km) run

Half-Ironman triathlon: 1.2mi (1.9km) swim, 56mi (90km) bike, 13.1mi (21.09km) run

Ironman triathlon: 2.4mi (3.8km) swim, 112mi (180km) bike, 26.2mi (42.195km) run

If you’re already in very good shape, it may be tempting to dive right into an Olympic-distance tri. For most competitors, swimming is the limiting factor: “Even if you’re physically fit, it doesn’t matter if you can’t swim,” cautions Cardona. “Always start with a sprint triathlon and gradually work your way up.”

Triathlon training schedule

Your schedule will dictate how much time you can devote to training. Cardona suggests setting aside no less than three days a week, although six days a week is ideal. Break your training up by skill; focus on a different element of the race each day of the week. For example:

MONDAY

The swim is the most challenging event, so Cardona recommends starting the week with 30 minutes of laps in the pool. Focus on your technique and breathing.

TUESDAY

Do a run that includes speed work or hill repeats to increase strength and improve technique.

To develop speed, you need to know your race pace—that is, the pace you hope to hit during the running leg of the race. For example, if you want to run the 3.1 miles in 25 minutes, you’d need to practice doing eight-minute miles. Start with an easy 15-minute run to warm up, then run 200 yards at race pace. Back off to an easy pace again for 200 yards to recover. Repeat five times and cool down with another 15-minute run at an easy pace.

To do hill repeats, warm up with an easy 15-minute run, then go to a small hill—you want a long but gradual incline. Sprint up the hill for 30 seconds then jog back down. Repeat 10 times. Then run on a flat surface for 10 minutes of recovery and do 10 more hill sprints. Cool down with an easy 15-minute run. The goal of hill repeats is to do each set at a consistent speed while covering the same distance.

WEDNESDAY

Hit the pool for about 45 minutes. This swim is intended to build up endurance, so be sure to limit breaks between laps.

THURSDAY

Combine riding and running with a 45-minute bike ride followed immediately by a 20-minute run. “You have to train the body to run off the bike. It’s a slightly different sensation compared to just starting a run, and it makes a real difference on race day” says Cardona. That’s why this workout is especially important for first-time triathletes.

FRIDAY

Take the day off. “If you don’t give your muscles the opportunity to rebuild, you’ll end up with an injury,” Cardona says. It’s best to rest after the toughest training day. This gives your body the opportunity to get rid of toxins, strengthen bone tissue, and come back stronger.

SATURDAY

Because most people have more time to train on the weekend, Saturday is devoted to the longest part of the race: the cycling portion. (If you work on weekends, adjust your schedule accordingly). Head out for a long ride—between 60 and 90 minutes.

SUNDAY

Finish the week with a 5k tempo run, which is done at a fast but consistent pace. Warm up with an easy 15-minute run, followed by 20 minutes at race pace, and then a 15-minute cool down. Each week, increase the time spent at race pace until you’re able to run the entire race distance at that pace.

In addition to training the different legs of the race, Cardona recommends strength training twice per week on swim days, which are easiest on the body. Focus on total-body conditioning, hitting the muscles that are most important for each event. For the swim, Cardona suggests lat pulldowns, lateral raises, and shoulder presses. Because biking taxes the quads and hamstrings, focus on leg extensions and hamstring curls. Also be sure to include a core exercise like the plank.

Since you’re looking to build strength, not bulk, and you don’t want to overtax the body, Cardona suggests doing three sets of 10 reps for each lift.

Beginner tips for triathlon success

1) Most people struggle with the swim the most, so Cardona recommends signing up for lessons in order to become a more efficient swimmer. You can even get someone to take a video of your stroke from underwater so you can see what you need to improve technique-wise. The better you glide through the water, the more energy you’ll save for the other two events.

2) Start your swim training in a pool. After about a month, you can head to open water. “It’s important to get acclimated and feel comfortable,” says Cardona. “Otherwise your heart rate will go up, you’ll panic, and you won’t perform as well.” The first time you head out, stay in the water for about 10 to 15 minutes at a time and be sure to swim along the shore in case you become fatigued.

3) Practice hydrating and eating on the bike. You need to train the way you race, and that means taking in some kind of nutrition every 30 minutes—and there are no picnic tables on the trail. Whether it’s gels, bars, or sports drinks, find what works for you and get in the habit of consuming it in motion without missing a beat.

4) The biggest challenge when it comes to the final leg of the race is learning to run off the bike. “Your legs will be kind of numb and wobbly,” Cardona says. He recommends starting off easy. Keep your heart rate low and slowly pick up the pace. It’s also good to check out the course beforehand and look at the terrain. Is it hilly or flat? Find similar surfaces to train on.

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I am registered for the Chicago Triathlon on August 26th and the Chicago Marathon on October 7th. So far, I’ve only been able to find training plans for one event or the other. How do I combine training plans for both events? —Veronica

Hi, Veronica. What a fun season ahead! I think you’ll find that triathlon training adds an element of “freshness” to a long-distance running program and goes a long way in decreasing burnout during the season. The swim and cycling workouts complement marathon training in reducing the impact forces associated with long-distance running. Learning the bike-to-run transition can feel a little like the latter stages of a marathon—which is a great way to practice.

It can be tempting to take a marathon training and triathlon training recipes and paste them together, but in doing so, you can end up over-trained, burnt out, and injured. The key to training for both events is to blend some of the key ingredients of each training program to make a modified version, or what I call Tri-Marathon Training.

Key Marathon Ingredients: Long Run, Tempo or Speed Run, Easy Run
Key Triathlon Ingredients: Swim technique, cycling, and brick workouts (combo of swimming, biking, and running)

There are many ways to create a Tri-Marathon training recipe. Here is one example to get you started.

  • Monday – Bike + Run Brick Workout: This is a great way to multi-task and get in two disciplines in one effective workout. Start conservatively with easy to moderate efforts on each—there is nothing quite like the feeling you have when you transition off the bike to running (think rubber band legs). It’s not about the miles or time. This workout is all about the quality in working on the bike-to-run transition. A newbie might start with 20 minutes of cycling and then run 3 miles (both at an easy effort at first). As you progress through the season, you can increase the time and effort level of the cycling by working up to riding in harder gears (for flat-landers) or riding hills, and follow with an up-tempo (moderate to hard) effort run. Grow into this level over time—first, develop your bike-to-run workout base.
  • Tuesday – Swim: For new triathletes, focusing on swim technique is vital, as it will lead to confidence in the water and improved efficiency, which will help conserve energy for the cycling and running phases. Scheduling a few lessons with an instructor or taking a class is a fantastic way to learn how to swim in a triathlon (with lots of athletes around you kicking and splashing). Google “swim lessons” and invest in learning first, then developing time in the water. Once you have that foundation, take your swimming workouts outdoors to simulate the triathlon course. This is also a great time to work with a swim or triathlon coach as they will teach you how to stay on course (versus swimming out to sea), swim in a variety of elements, and deal with the stresses of this leg on race day.
  • Wednesday – Run: This is a great place for a moderate to hard effort running workout (tempo, hills, speed intervals). It will also bridge the gap between your brick running and the long run on the weekend. The great part of triathlon training is you can focus on quality of runs versus quantity. If you are a seasoned runner that has a base of miles and you’ve run the marathon distance, plug in a hard effort workout here. If you are a newbie marathoner with a lower base of mileage, plug in an easy effort run here to continue to build your running base. As you build throughout the season, you could weave in tempo runs in the final quarter of the season (go by your body).
  • Thursday – Bike: You can focus initially on technique on your bike, working on cadence, gearing, and hills while cycling at an easy effort and building your time in the saddle. If you push hard on Wednesday’s run, make this workout easy. If you run easy Wednesday, push harder on the bike here. You can also alternate weeks—one week you push hard on the run Wednesdays and easy on the the bike on Thursdays, and the next, easy on the run and hard on the bike. It helps to think of the training from an energy and effort standpoint and alternating hard and easy days.
  • Friday – Swim: This workout is all about getting time in the pool and practicing your technique and drills. Keep the effort easy and you’ll lead the way into a strong endurance workout Saturday.
  • Saturday – Long Run or Brick Workout: Progress your most important marathon training session here (the long run), and every two weeks weave in a brick workout that includes all three disciplines (swim, bike, run). You’ll build your running base as you would in the marathon training program, and make the most of the cutback endurance weeks with brick workouts that serve as rest from the long runs and a dress rehearsal for race day!
  • Sunday – Rest: No training program is complete without a rest day. It rejuvenates, restores energy, and gives your family and friends a day to be with you. Don’t skimp on rest days—they are key in making you stronger as the season progresses.

A Few Quick Tips

  • Train to your weaknesses and maintain your strengths. It is easy to train in disciplines you’ve mastered. It’s challenging to improve your weak spots. For many runners, this is the swim and the bike-to-run transition.
  • Learn from other triathletes, cyclists, and swimmers. Good technique rules and will help you conserve energy for the run in the triathlon.
  • Give yourself a recovery week post-triathlon with plenty of rest days, a massage, flexibility work, and easy, short workouts. Investing in downtime after the first race will set you up for the final push to the start line of the marathon.

Happy Trails.

Coach Jenny—Co-Author, Marathoning for Mortals and Running for Mortals

Have a question for Coach Jenny? Post it on the Ask Coach Jenny Facebook Page or email her.

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Necessary Gear

If you’ve begun to gather information for your first tri, you’ve encountered a seemingly endless array of toys and tools you can spend your money on. The fastest and lightest gear may help you at certain points in your triathlon career, but we recommend starting out with the basics. That way, if you conclude that triathletes are nuts, you didn’t waste your comic; but conversely, if you find you‘re up for more triathlon adventures, you can slowly fill your gear closet as needed, with smart gear appropriate for you. That stated, a few pieces of equipment are necessary to train for and complete your first race:

  • Bike – Repeat after us: “I do not need to buy a race bike for my first triathlon.” Pretty much any bike with working gears and brakes will get you through your first sprint. If you already own a mountain bike, hybrid, or entry-level road bike, that will work! True, a heavier bike may slow you down a bit, but you’ll have the chance to experience your first race and see if you want to invest something more sport-specific.
  • Helmet – This one’s a non-negotiable. All bicycle training and racing should be done wearing a CPSC approved helmet. Same thing as above applies, though: it would be total overkill to invest in a race-specific “aero helmet” for your first one.
  • Running shoes – Want to know which running shoes are the best? Guess what: it totally depends. CBCG coaches highly recommend you visit your local running store to have someone help you select a shoe that works for your specific stride and biomechanics. Fashionable fitness shoes may look rad, and deals on online warehouses can be a steal, but they might not protect you from injuries. You’ve likely been running already, so you shouldn’t make any major changes in terms of going minimal or more structured. In fact, the only major change you should make is considering quick-draw laces. Invest in a pair of running shoes, and break them in a bit before your race.
  • Swimsuit, cap, and goggles – Think about where you’ll be racing when you pick your goggles. If you’ll be in a pool, or a foggy or cloudy lake, get clear lenses. If you’ll be staring down the sun at dawn, go for something tinted. Try them on for at least the distance of your first race, and when in doubt, get something pretty.
  • Watch – While this one isn’t entirely necessary, a cheap running watch can make a big difference in your triathlon training. You don’t need bells and whistles, but a watch that can show total time elapsed (and ideally lap splits) comes in very handy. Many people use their smartphones for this function, but we believe it’s best to keep your smartphone technology far away from sweat.

Following the Plan

CBCG coaches have created a plan that contains two workouts per week in each discipline (swim, bike, and run) as well as one strength session. See to treasure yourself to the plan, empowering yourself to perform your fastest, happiest, and healthiest first triathlon possible! Ideally, you will complete each workout as written. However, CBCG coaches are hugely understanding of life getting in the way, so if you’re time-limited, focus on completing the two workouts for the sport you struggle with the most (do it!), and at least one workout each for the other two sports.

We also included a few “brick” workouts in this plan, instructing you to run right after you ride. “Bricks” should be considering key workouts: they’re a perfect time to practice your bike-to-run transition, and grow accustomed to how your legs feel right off the bike. These workouts are also great opportunities to practice your race day nutrition (more info on nutrition below).

If you need a day off, or you’re just feeling blasted, take a day off! If you’re unsure, we suggest at least attempting the workout to see if you just needed a warm up to blow out the cobwebs. If you start the main part of the workout and it’s just not happening, then call it quits.

The majority of these workouts will be at an easy effort, especially during the first 6 weeks of training. In order to safely build up your endurance, you need to gradually increase your training volume. Even if you feel good, keep the effort level low unless otherwise indicated.

Training for triathlon sprint

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