Beginner sprint triathlon training: the essential guide

Training for your first sprint triathlon? Don’t be intimidated. We had Let’s Do This’s own Stephanie Ede (better known as  Triathlon Steph) break down the keys to each swim, bike and run round so you can be at peak performance for race day.

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Swim: 750m

Breathing: This might be the single most important factor in your swim. Though you may not even think about breathing on dry land, your technique in the water is essential for keeping your body fuelled with the oxygen you need.

A steady inhale/exhale rhythm will eliminate the need to breath every stroke and help you stay relaxed. Breathe out through your nose when your face is in the water, and then tilt your head to the side on every other stroke and take a deep breath in.

Once you get used to this method, you can start to take breaths in on every 3rd stroke, which will allow you to take air in on both sides. This is an important skill when it comes to open water swims, where you may be hit by waves on a certain side.

Stay loose: Keep your body as loose as possible so you can rotate your shoulders, torso and hips with each stroke as you glide through the water.

Save your legs: When it comes to your legs, you need to save as much energy as you can for the cycle and the run. To keep your legs fresh, rely as much as possible on your arms to pull yourself through the water. Try training with a float between your calves so that you only focus on your upper body.

Training: Try to swim 250-500m once or twice a week. If you’re not feeling quite up to that, break the distance into intervals by swimming 25m (a standard pool-length), resting, and repeating.

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Cycle: 20km

Now use your legs: Unsurprisingly, cycling is all in the legs. Your upper body should stay relaxed and motionless as your legs and core do all the work. Similarly to the swim, keep your upper body loose so you’re not holding unnecessary tension.

Pedal evenly: Maintaining a nice, even pedal stroke will generate maximum power and efficiency. This means applying the same amount of pressure through each leg and through each pedal. If you’re doing it correctly, your hips, shoulders and torso should stay stationary.

Training: If you’re fairly new to cycling, start by going to the gym a few times a week and cranking out 30 mins on a spin bike or gym bike. After a while, you’ll be ready to hit the road. Get out on your bike about twice a week, and remember to vary the kind of routes you’re doing. You might need to prepare yourself for some hills.

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Run: 5k

Stay relaxed: Notice a pattern here? As with the first two thirds of your triathlon, keep the muscles you’re not using relaxed. Your arms should be loose and bent at a 90-degree angle, and your fists should be unclenched. Keep your jaw and shoulders loose too to make the running as comfortable as possible.

Shorten your stride: Try to run at 180 strides per minute, or 3 steps every second. That may seem like overkill, but a shorter stride will lessen the impact on your body and massively cut your risk of injury. A 3-mile run may not seem that bad under ordinary circumstances, but your muscles will be very fatigued by the time you get this close to the finish line during a triathlon.

Training: As with all training, start slowly, with 20 minutes of running a few times per week. After a few weeks, start to increase the time and distance you’re running for every week. Always warm up and stretch before you head out running, and stretch again when you’re finished. Finding a 5k training program online is a good idea if you’re not already a regular runner.

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Bricks: Your Bonus Training Tip

Any good sprint triathlon training plan should include bricks. These are back to back swim-to-bike or bike-to-run sessions, and they are an essential part of triathlon training. A brick run prepares you for the triathlon’s transition zone and the changes between biking and running. Though the first mile of the post-cycle run may have your legs feeling like jelly, don’t worry; if you stay within your bounds, you’ll be able to crank out a speedy running time once you’re in a rhythm.

An Example One-Week Training Schedule

Finding (and following) a complete and detailed training calendar is by far the easiest way to make sure you’re ready for race day (here’s an 8-week plan we swear by). But if you want to make your own, here’s a beginner’s sample week that Steph made just for you!

Monday: Easy run with intervals

Tuesday: 60 minute bike ride or spin class

Wednesday: Easy swim with some hard 50m intervals

Thursday: 60 minute bike ride or spin class

Friday: Rest day

Saturday: Longer run with intervals

Sunday: Brick:1.5 hour cycle, straight into a 20-minute run.

Let’s Do This is your go-to source for finding, reviewing and booking the best sport events across the world. As a team, we channel our passion for sports into providing an incredible service with price guarantees, cancellation protection, and 24/7 support. From 5ks to Ironmans and everything in between, we handle the details so you can focus on handling the race.

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