Advice, Guides & Inspiration

How to train for a sprint triathlon

Triathlon start

How you can get yourself ready to take on a sprint triathlon.

More and more people are embarking on a triathlon these days. Triathlons have replaced marathons as the go-to endurance challenge so here’s how to tackle your next one.


1. Swimming

Breathing: Although out of the water you don’t even think about your breathing, when it comes to swimming, breathing technique is incredibly important as a way of keeping your body fuelled with the oxygen it needs to carry on.

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

Once you’re more used to this method, you can start to take breaths in on every 3rd stroke to practice taking air in on both sides (a very handy skill when it comes to open water swims where you may be hit by waves on a certain side).

Stay loose: You’ll want to 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: You’ll want to save as much energy in your legs as you can for the cycle and the run. You will need to rely on your arms to pull yourself through the water so that your legs are as fresh as possible for when it comes to the second two parts of the triathlon.

Training: Aim to swim 250m once or twice a week. If you’re not feeling quite up to that, then break it into intervals. So swim 25m (a standard pool) and then have a rest and repeat.


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2. Cycling

Now use your legs: Unsurprisingly, cycling is all in the legs. Your upper body should be relaxed and motionless as your lower half (legs and core) do all the work. Just like with the swim, keep your upper half nice and loose so you’re not holding any unnecessary tension.

Pedal evenly: By having a nice even pedal stroke, you’ll get a lot more power and efficiency. This means applying the same amount of pressure through each leg and through each pedal. Having a nice round and even pedal stroke will mean that your hips, shoulders and torso stay stationary (which is exactly what you want).

Training: If you’re fairly new to cycling, then start by going to the gym a couple of times a week and cranking out 30 mins on a spin bike or gym bike to get into it. Then you’re ready to hit the road. You’ll want to get out on your bike about twice a week to keep your training ticking over. Remember to vary the kind of routes you’re doing. You might need to prepare yourself for some hills.


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3. Running

Stay relaxed: You may be noticing a bit of a pattern here. Keep your arms nice and relaxed. You’ll want to bend your elbows to form a 90-degree angle and make sure you don’t clench your fists. Keep your jaw and shoulder loose too and you’ll find running a lot more comfortable.

Shorten your stride: The current recommendation is that you should run at 180 strides per minutes — that’s 3 every second. It may feel like you’re over doing it with the steps, but a shorter stride will lessen the impact on your body, massively cutting the risk of injury.

Training: As with all training, start nice and slow with a couple of 20min runs per week. Then as the weeks go by, start to increase the time/distance you’re running for, week by week. Don’t forget to warm up and stretch before you head out running. Get the blood pumping and get your muscles loose before you head out and you’ll be good to go.


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An Example Training Week:

Monday- OFF.

Tuesday- Easy run with intervals.

Wednesday- 60min bike ride or spin class.

Thursday- Easy swim.

Friday- Long run.

Saturday- Longer swim with intervals.

Sunday- Brick: 30min cycle then straight into a 30min run.

Back to back bike-run sessions (or ‘Bricks’) are an important part of triathlon training as they prepare you for the transition zone and the changes between biking and running. Although in the first mile of the post-cycle run your legs will feel like jelly, if you stay within your within your bounds, then you’ll be able to crank out a speedy running time once you’re in a rhythm.