Basic Guide to Triathlon Training

A triathlon is divided into three components: swimming, cycling and running.  This can be daunting for novices and those trying a triathlon for the first time.  Novice triathlon training should focus on learning how mixing these three separate sports have an effect on your body – very different from merely doing one of the disciplines.

basic triathlon training

Preparing for the Triathlon Swim

The swimming leg of triathlons is frequently very intimidating for novices.  Many beginners do not have a background of swimming and added to that is the open-water element and the nature of the frantic triathlon beginning.

As much as possible, do your swimming training in open water to simulate race conditions.  There is no substitute for open water swimming to get over any initial fear of the swim.

triathlon training wetsuit

Also, practice swimming in a wetsuit.  Not only is this good practice for the small modifications you will need to make to your stroke, but it is also a fundamental mental boost to feel how much more buoyant you are in the water when you have the wetsuit on.

As for technique, incorporate more arm work and less leg kick into your swim strokes.  In addition to being more efficient from an energy expenditure perspective, you will save your legs for the cycle and the running stages of the event.

Training for the Triathlon Cycle

The cycle leg of a triathlon is the longest component in terms of distance (and typically time) of the race event.  To improve your speed on the bike, you may want to incorporate spinning classes into your training, as this anaerobic exercise will help maximize your ability and execution.

Another impressive training technique is to do what is known as bike hill repeats.  This involves climbing a reasonable incline many times with little or no rest in between.  Not only will this increase aerobic ability and leg strength, but it is also a important way of maximising the efficiency of your training schedule.

beginner triathlon

To condition yourself for race day – learn how to change a flat bike tire and learn the unique rules of triathlons (such as those prohibiting drafting, and all helmet rules).

Always wear a bike helmet during your training.

Training for the Triathlon Run

Once you complete the bike course and start out the run, you will feel a sensation unique to triathlons – the dreaded ‘dead legs’.  For the first mile or so, you will be running on what feels like wooden stilts instead of your normally strong and speedy legs.

triathlon training

The only way to prepare for this is by practicing moving on tired legs, so ensure you integrate ‘brick’ training into your plan – biking immediately followed by running.

This will teach your body how to quickly adapt to the shift from using bike muscles to run muscles.  An additional useful training secret is to ease into running with smaller strides to warm up your muscles before moving on to longer strides.

Lastly, Transitions

Transitions are the often ignored “fourth leg” of a triathlon.  There are two transitions: T1 is the transition from swim to bike, and T2 from bike to run.  You can save valuable time on race day by learning how to transition efficiently.

Prepare for transitions by practicing them.  Time how long it takes you to take off your swimming gear, change into your bike clothes and shoes, mount your cycle and go.

triathlon training

Learn ways to cut this time by wearing a number belt underneath your wetsuit, investing in a tri-suit, or mount your bike with your cleats already fixed into the pedals.  The more you practice your transitions to find which tricks work best, the more time you will save yourself on race day.

Good luck!


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