Training for a Triathlon: How to Get Started


Triathlons are a real test of your fitness. After all, it requires that you do not one but three sports, moving from swimming to biking to running over the course of the race. That challenge can make triathlons seem a bit intimidating for beginners, but, in spite of this, the race is accessible to athletes of all levels. Moreover, training for a triathlon can be a great strategy if you’re looking to lose weight, so long as you are well-prepared and follow some basic dos and don’ts.


According to wellness expert Danielle Restuccia, ‘There are a number of benefits to mixing three types of exercise. While running and biking target your lower body, swimming tones your shoulders and core, helping you to balance your workout. In addition, because you’re switching between three activities, you’re less likely to get repetitive motion injuries. Swimming, in particular, is an excellent low-impact, high-results activity. For runners, triathlons can be a good alternative to marathons, which are especially tough on your joints. While the race is the end goal of your training, you’ll find that as you mix the different workouts, your overall cardiovascular fitness improves. You might even decide that the training is worthwhile outside of triathlon season!’


So how do you prepare for a triathlon? ‘Preparing for a triathlon should start with some education,’ says Restuccia. ‘Look into nearby races and check out what distances are available… Once you’ve picked out your distance, you need to start training. Start with your weakest area: you may already swim, bike, or run, but there’s usually one that’s harder for you. That doesn’t mean ignore your strength, but be realistic about where you’re weakest, and make an effort to improve that ability.’ FYI, the distances for triathlons tend to fall into the following categories:


  • Olympic distance: One mile swim, 40k bike, and a 10k run
  • Sprint distance: Half mile swim, 20k bike, and a 5k run
  • Novice/beginner distance: Quarter mile swim, 20k bike, and a 5k run


Now you’ve chosen your distance and your weakest area to work on, it’s important to bear in mind a few dos and don’ts:


1. DO Get Help with the Planning: ‘Find a training schedule,’ Restuccia instructs. ‘ has a range of plans…Especially if your goal is a sprint or novice distance race, a training plan should help you build slowly and consistently but shouldn’t take up huge chunks of your time.’


2. DO Carve Out Time: Restuccia notes, ‘Since you’re training for three sports, you may need to think differently about how– or when– you train, especially in regard to the weather and pool hours.’


3. DO Seek Professional Help: ‘Get a coach,’ suggests Restuccia. ‘Especially if you’re not a strong swimmer, this can help you build skill and confidence.’


4. DO Keep Practise Conditions Close to the Real Thing: Restuccia recommends, ‘Practise open-water swimming, assuming your race is in a lake or river.’


5. DO Think About the In-Between: ‘Learn how to get on and off a bike quickly,’ says Restuccia. ‘[Don’t] ignore transitions. Think about what you’ll need to get from swim to bike, and bike to run, and make sure you’ve gotten the necessary clothes and equipment.’


6. DO Equip Yourself Right: ‘Get the right equipment: comfortable and functional,’ Restuccia advises.


7. DON’T Overdo it: Restuccia warns, ‘[Don’t] try to become a master of all three sports in a short period of time. Unless you’re doing an Ironman (way to go!), it’s unnecessary and will likely end in frustration.’


8. DON’T Forget to Stretch: Restuccia points out that stretching ‘can be a lifesaver…especially with new challenges.’ 


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