Tackling Your First Triathlon


Anybody can complete a triathlon, even if they haven’t worked out in years.  It will take patience and will power, and it must become a priority in your lifestyle.  If you do this, the training will become second nature.

Training for the triathlon must become an appointment on your calendar like any other meeting.  It will become part of your everyday regimen. Here are some additional tips on what you should do to train properly for your first triathlon.

Going the Distance
Before you even begin training, you need to decide what type of race (distance) and where your first race will be (find one at trifind.com). There are four primary triathlon distances:

  • Sprint triathlon: 800meter swim, 12.4 mi bike, 3.1mi run
  • Olympic triathlon:9mi swim, 24.8mi bike, 6.2mi run
  • Half-Ironman triathlon:2mi swim, 56mi bike, 13.1mi run
  • Ironman triathlon: 4mi swim, 112mi bike, 26.2mi run

It may be tempting to dive right into an Olympic-distance triathlon if you’re already in great shape, but for most competitors, swimming is the limiting factor. Even if you are physically fit, it is recommended you start with a sprint triathlon and gradually work your way up.

Building A Base
This is a very important step. Most people can’t just go out and run five miles or swim a half mile when they are just getting started.  You would be very sore and put yourself at great risk for injury.  You have to get your body used to the new stresses by building a base.  A walk/run routine to start is a good idea. Perhaps you might want to start with a high repetition strength training program to help strengthen your joints, muscles and tendons.

10 Percent
Following the 10 percent rule is important. Never go up in training distance or duration by more than 10 percent each week. If you do, you’ll be uncomfortably sore and increase your risk for injury.

Rest Week
Training schedules should always include rest. It’s actually one of the most important aspects. You can’t just keep going up every week by 10 percent – eventually you will burn out.  You need a rest week to give yourself a 30-50 percent decrease in duration or distance AND intensity for a whole week at least once a month (most programs take a “rest week” every 3 weeks, particularly for running mileage).  Many people think you will lose your base by doing this, but quite the opposite – you’ll actually come back stronger.

Build up Aerobic Base
Focus on one sport for two to six months to build up your aerobic base.  If swimming is your weakness, it is recommended to start there.  Then you can add either bike or run – starting all three sports at once is usually too much.  Once you have focused on one for several months, then you can gradually add each sport into your training while still following the above two rules while building your base.

Swim, Bike and Run
Once you have rolled all three sports into your training you only need to train twice a week in each of the three sports – that is six days with one day of rest.  Or you can choose to do two sports during one day (or stack them on top of one another, which is called a “brick”) and have two days off. Work with your coach to build a calendar and training schedule that fits your exact needs.

Triathlons may sound intimidating, but if you set time set aside for the correct training, anyone can conquer the fear of the mighty triathlon.  If you follow a well-structured plan, you’ll be adequately prepared by race day.

Do you need help training for your first triathlon?  Contact me today so I can help get you started on the path to your first finish!




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