How to Train for Your First Triathlon

While the thought of a triathlon event can be very intimidating at first, getting started is simple. This guide will give you an overview of the basic gear that you need, how much time to allocate to training and what kind of workouts you’ll need to do to prepare for your first triathlon.

The Essential Gear

There’s a lot of gear involved in this sport. To get started, you need to get the basic gear for each discipline. It doesn’t need to be too expensive or top of the range and you can always borrow if need be.

Swim

  • Swimsuit
  • Goggles
  • Swimming Cap

Bike

  • The right size bike in good condition - This is important for comfortable and efficient riding
  • Cycling Shorts
  • Cycling shoes if you have cleats (Not crucial to have cleats but it can help)
  • Helmet
  • Water Bottle

Run

  • Good pair of running shoes
  • Run
  • Good pair of running shoes

Commitment

You will most likely need 10 – 12 weeks of consistent training before a sprint distance triathlon and up to 24 weeks for a Half Iron Man distance. A sprint distance is 750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run. The Half Iron Man distance is 1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run. So, for your first time, a short distance triathlon will give you a good challenge and allow you to practice all the elements of a triathlon without straight up killing yourself.

Each week you should build up your workouts in terms of time and distance. Train 1-2 times a week per discipline to maintain your current fitness level; 2-5 times a week per discipline to improve your fitness level. Don’t go in all guns blazing, it is very important to build up to avoid injury.

You are likely to have one discipline that is weaker than the others, it is important to focus on this discipline, otherwise you will be playing catch-up for the rest of the race.

Swim

Complete two sessions in the first week. Make a schedule.

Example of a swim training session:

  • Warm-up: 200m freestyle
  • Then complete:
  • 4 x 50m freestyle (Start slow and increase the pace with each set)
  • 4 x 25m arms
  • 4 x 25m kicking
  • 2 x 25m freestyle sprint
  • Cool down: 150m stroke of your choice

Bike

An important part to doing well on the bike is making sure you are consistent and putting in the necessary work. Aim to do 2-4 sessions per week. Do one longer session a week as this will build strength and endurance for the race. Try and make it apart of your routine, slot your longer ride on Saturday morrnings or whenever is consistently convenient for you.

Example for week 1 bike session:

Ride for 45-60 minutes, at a 2-3 heart-rate rate zone. This is usually between 130-155 beats per minutes.

Run

Mix your run training between distance and speed sessions. Speed sessions improve your speed and gets your body used to running quicker when it comes to the race. If you are only starting now, start off with a distance run which can be up to 3-5kms in the first week. As you build up, aim to keep your running volume at 20% of your weekly cycling volume.

Example of a speed session:

Run 800m at your 10km pace, then jog for 90 seconds. Run 400m at your 5km pace, then jog for 1 miunute. Run 200m at your 2km pace, then job for 30 seconds, run 1km at your 5km pace, then job for 3 minutes. Repeat twice.

Brick 

A brick session is two disciplines back to back. Start the brick in the order that you do a triathlon in. The order of a triathlon is swim, bike, run. A brick workout trains your body to effectively and efficiently prepare for the next discipline while recovering from the previous one. As you start out, do one brick session a week and from there you can advnace to two sessions a week.

Example of a brick session:

Bike for 45 minutes followed by a 15 minute run.

Tips

  1. Don’t train the same discipline two days in a row, alternate your training sessions between disciplines.
  2. Have at least two rest days per week.
  3. Vary the intensity of your practice sessions.
  4. Train hard, race easy.