Triathlons are serious business. If you're aiming to complete one, you’ll need to prepare a gruelling training plan to help you get ready. To get you started, we've come up with a list of some of our top training tips and advice for triathlon newbies.
Sprint (16 miles)
The best triathlon for beginners. Distances vary, but typically the swim portion is about 0.5 miles (750m), the bike is 12.4 miles (20km) and the run is 3.1 miles (5km).
This race features a 0.93 mile (1.5km) swim, a 24.8 mile (40km) bike, and a 6.2 mile (10km) run.
Half Ironman (70.3 miles)
The best triathlon for veterans wanting to challenge their endurance, but not able or ready to commit to a full Ironman. The distance for Half Ironman triathlons is a 1.2 mile (1.9km) swim, a 56 mile (90km) bike, and a 13.1 mile (21.09km) run.
Ironman (140.6 miles)
This consists of a 2.4 mile (3.8km) swim, 112 mile (180km) bike, and a 26.2 mile (42.2km) run.
The Ironman World Championship may be the most famous triathlon in the world, but it takes extensive training and should not be attempted by triathlon first-timers. Start off by training for a shorter sprint-distance or Olympic-distance event, and then work your way up to Ironman level.
Build a training schedule that fits your life, not one that your life must fit into. Be realistic with how much time you can commit to training each week. If you set a plan that’s too hard to stick too, you’re only setting yourself up for failure. Maintaining a moderate but consistent plan will prove much more successful in helping you train for your first triathlon.
For any eager beaver, it’s easy to plan to swim, bike and run. But it’s equally important to plan to rest as well. Four-time Ironman world champion Chrissie Wellington would always say she trains 24 hours a day, because she viewed rest and recovery as integral to her performance as swim, bike and run.
It’s easy to forget that the whole time from the start of your swim until the end of your run counts in your race time. Lay a clean towel with your kit in the order that you’ll put it on, and practice making smooth and swift transitions.
This may seem obvious, but the majority of beginners start their triathlon too fast, and then really struggle to maintain a good pace throughout. A good idea is to roughly calculate how long it will take you to do the entire event. Plan to do the first half of that total time at a slower rate than you think you are capable of doing. When you reach the halfway point, you can pick up the pace and secure a strong finish. This method of completing a triathlon is called a negative-split effort.
The best way to train your body to cope with the demands of changing from swimming to cycling or cycling to running, is to ensure you get as much practice in before the real thing. Completing two disciplines directly after each other is known as a brick session, and will make you a much more competent triathlete when it comes to race day.
It’s important to have the right triathlon gear, regardless of whether you’re an Ironman veteran or a complete novice. Clothing should be breathable, lightweight, moisture-managing, and comfortable. Triathlon wetsuits should be easy to get on and off, so that you don’t waste time during transitions. Triathlon wetsuits are built differently to general water sport wetsuits, as they require maximum buoyancy to elevate the body’s position in the water. While it’s not necessary to spend excessive amounts of money, investing in high-quality gear will have a serious impact on your performance.
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