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A Guide to Triathlon Training

Triathlons are not events made for the faint of heart or feeble of will. A discipline of three forms, the Triathlon format tests your mental and physical strength to endure all three components in succession without so much as an allotted break.

Triathlon history dates back to the 1970s as an alternative to hard-track running. The first official triathlon was held in 1974 and at that point in time was composed of a 10km run, 8km swim and 500m swim—a far reach from some of the distances covered by triathletes today.

From there, the event began to spread. In 1978, fifteen men reconsidered their life choices on a start line in Hawaii as they paved the way for the now world renowned Ironman event—the hardest single day race that exists due to its 140 mile long coverage!

Fifteen years after the first triathlon occured it was granted Olympic status and was featured for the first time at Olympic level in Sydney in 2000. From Down Under, the triathlon event flourished. No other discipline has ever been granted Olympic status in such a short amount of time and since the popularity has grown rapidly.

So whether you’re an amateur or a novice, it’s important to know just how to prepare for these mammoth events. With the right advice, training schedule and equipment you can be on your way in no time.

Triathlon Distances

Although the components of a triathlon are pretty consistent, the unique specifications per event can differ. By deciding which of these precise forms a hardy beginner wishes to undertake, the ability to decide on a suitable training guide becomes easier.

In the triathlon world there are four common distances that are most recognised by triathletes and sporting bodies all across the globe:

Sprint

A sprint triathlon is usually the best way for a new triathlete to have a positive experience in their first event. It is certainly not the gruelling and painful behemoth of the Ironman but it isn’t a walk in the park either (even if some are held in some pretty nice Gardens).

The individual distances of each discipline are considerably smaller than their more imposing counterparts but can vary dependent on the course. A typical sprint triathlon would be have distances roughly around the following:

  • 750 meter swim
  • 12.5 mile bike
  • 5 km (3.1 mi) run

These lower distances make the Sprint Triathlon more suitable for those just getting started in the triathlon world and make triathlon for accessible for the ‘average’ athlete. They’re also a great foundation to build from.

You can sign up to Sprint Triathlons coming up this year and next now to kick start your triathlon journey. Find out more the specific Sprint distances for upcoming Triathlon events below:

Henley: 400m swim / 25k cycle / 5k run

Dawlish: 750m sea swim / 16k bike / 5K run

Bridport: 400m swim / 25k bike / 5k run

Cardiff: 750m swim / 20k bike / 5k run

If Sprint triathlons still seem too imposing for a beginner or you just want to give a triathlon a tri...then many triathlon events host super sprints which are even shorter versions of Sprint races.

Olympic

In the year 2000, Sydney became home to the first Olympic site for a triathlon. Simon Whitfield, a Canadian, crossed the line in 1:48:24.02 and became the first man to win a gold in this event despite being involved in a fifteen person pile-up during the cycling portion of the race. His OR prospered until it was beaten by Alistair Brownlee in London in 2012. Brigitte McMahon, a Swiss national, became the first female triathlete to win gold in the event with a time of 2:00:40.52 and her OR remained until Beijing in 2008.

Going into the the Tokyo olympics next year, the distance for the Olympic event remains unchanged and is, for men and women, a 1500-metre swim, 40-kilometre bike ride and 10km run. Outside of the hallowed yet fresh-faced Olympic based event, the distances from the Olympic triathlon have been adapted into events all across the country. Of the four major race types, Olympic triathlon length is the third longest—with two gruelling disciplines still to conquer.

Half-Ironman

Otherwise known as the 70.3 or middle Ironman, the half-ironman is still a gruelling event. The races are split through discipline into the following major distances: 

  • 1.9 kilometer (1.2 mile) swim
  • 90 km (56 mi) bike
  • 21.1 km (13.1 mi) run

In the same way that a half-marathon can be a training bridge for a full marathon, the 70.3 can be a pathway for the impressive 140.6—or full Ironman. The real deal.

You can find fantastic Half Ironman Triathlon all over the country, each with their own impressive unique settings and styles.

The well-known Ironman 70.3 Weymouth, set on the beautiful Jurassic Coast with a sea swim, isn’t too far from one of our Tri UK stores. You could even grab a coffee, a pep talk or any last minute triathlon gear on the way down!

Ironman

So why would fifteen competitors agree to this colossus of race in February 1978 on the words of a man who had seen an interesting three discipline race in Southern California? Why would fifteen people push themself to the very edge of exhaustion to conquer a swim, a cycle and then a run? The answer is simple—to become the Ironman.

Of all triathlon races, the Ironman is the biggest. A full distance Ironman is composed of a  3.8 kilometres (2.4 miles) swim, a 180.2km (112 mile) bike and a 42.2km (26.2 mile) run. As if running a marathon on its own wasn’t enough!

These triathlon races take place all over the world and a full list can be found here. These events separate from those who are willing to go the extra 140 miles and those who aren’t cut out for the ‘real’ deal.

Triathlon Training Plan

That’s enough about the history of the esteemed triathlon though. With the triathlon sport growing in popularity (and new amendments being made to previous aspects of the sport such as an inclusion of a triathlon relay at the 2020 Olympics), learning how to become a part of the movement is essential.

Due to the inclusive nature of the sport, anyone can enter a triathlon. But, be warned, a triathlon is not an event that you can just meander into. Sometimes you can get away with crawling off the couch to prepare for your glitter fun run but a triathlon is a hardcore event that requires previous preparation and clear progression choices.

No matter what level of triathlon you want to compete at, you need to go in with a gameplan. When you have three disciplines to conquer, you need to know how to transition between each section and not lose the power to carry on.

Creating a Training Plan

If you are intending to take part in a triathlon race then you should already be able to understand your own ability. If you are fit and already involved in cycling or running then your training plan can have less initial build up. For beginner triathletes that don’t have the strongest swimming capabilities then there is no shame in going back to a swim class to refresh old forgotten strokes and refine your style.

A general perception from looking at the way triathletes run their races is that a triathlon is split completely unequally. A triathlete will spend roughly 20% of the race swimming, 30% of the race running and the remaining half of the race cycling. The way you train should reflect this.

You can evenly split the amounts of sessions you specifically devoted to each discipline but the times you spend on each should resemble the amount of time spent in a race. For example, you can cycle for an hour, swim for thirty minutes and run for forty.

For your first Sprint triathlon, you will most likely need to work on a 12 week training plan to ensure that you build up enough endurance to do well the first time.

From there you can progress and maintain your training, knowing that you are building on your current strength. Don’t think however that doing one Sprint race will instantly prepare you for an Ironman. There’s a long way to go before athletes can physically endure a race like that.

Diet

Just be health-conscious. Make sure you’re consuming plenty of high in slow-burning, low-glycemic carbs, fresh fruits and greens. Don’t forget about constantly keeping water on board too! Stay away from processed food, refined carbs and saturated fats. They’re not bad for a very rare treat but don’t integrate them as part of your daily plan.

Consume quality sources of protein such as fish and be aware that you’ll probably be shedding excess fat as a result of your training. You need to make sure you’re eating the good stuff to keep your calorie intake suitable. A calorie deficit isn’t bad but if it’s too big then you’ll end up feeling weak and unable to provide yourself with the power to keep going.

You can learn more about eating for a triathlon and the importance of nutrition here.

Types of training

Strength and conditioning is a big part of preparing for a triathlon. Working out different parts of your body individually will strengthen specific muscles and keep them mobile. These exercises can support a triathlon programme to make sure your body is working to maintain a tip top form going forward.

On top of that, you should just be working out in the disciplines that a triathlon requires in the levels previously stated. Swim, cycle, run. The key foundations of triathlon. Get in a pool, cycle for a few hours, run until you’re happy you’ve done enough—just do.

However, triathlon isn’t a solo effort. One of the key parts of succeeding in your first, or any, triathlon will be down to choosing the right equipment.

Essential Triathlon Kit

There are certain pieces of kit that you will not be able to complete a triathlon without. A triathlon is continuous so you will need everything accessible to you throughout the race for smooth transition times.

The three pieces of kit you will definitely need are:

Triathlon clothing

Dependent on the athlete, some may choose to run the race in only one clothing option or others may choose to change throughout. For the swim section, a wetsuit is highly recommended for comfort and efficiency.

The Dare2Tri MACH3S.7 is TRI UK’s most popular wetsuit. It’s full of advanced features  such as 0.7mm Duraflex™ under arms construction and 44Cell stability panels. Glideskin™ Technology and AquaGrip™ further adds to the improved performance of this wetsuit.

Our Foor Synflex wetsuit is made for those that want to lead the way. It’s made from Nanomoto Cell 44 SCS neoprene throughout (the most technically advanced neoprene to hit the market) and has Aqua Shield Superlite 920 lining which provides maximum flexibility with less weight.

All wetsuits at TRI UK are created to the ultimate standard to benefit the athlete. Our indoor pool in our Yeovil and Shirebrook stores allow our customers to test wetsuits for fit, feel and buoyancy.

If you don’t fancy the transition from wetsuit to other clothing for the second and third leg of the race then consider an all-purpose Trisuit. Our fantastic range of tri singlets allow triathletes to be prepared for every stage of the race.

The 2XU active Trisuit features 70-denier SBR SKIN LITE fabrication on the legs for muscle support and durability, as well as SENSOR MESH X which provides optimal air flow and breathability. Quick drying and low profile, this impressive 2XU chamois is designed for essential moisture management and support in the saddle, while remaining incredibly lightweight and discreet for the run.

All of TRI UK’s wetsuits and trisuits are available for females and males which ensures the fit is appropriate to the body, thereby improving efficiency and comfort. Don’t forget to grab a pair of goggles too. Maybe some anti-chafe balm while you’re at it. You’ll thank us for that.

Bike

For roughly half of any triathlon, your bike is going to be the tool that keeps you going. That’s why it’s important to choose a bike that’s perfect for you. TRI UK’s fantastic Cannondale range of cycles are some of the most efficient bikes on the market.

The Cannondale Slice 105 is considered the perfect bike for an entry level triathlon but in reality it gives so much more. Whether you’re new to triathlon or experienced, then this bike will keep on providing success. Not to mention that if you purchase this bike, you get free coaching from Mark Allen for 30 days. After all, sometimes it’s better to learn from the best.  

The Cervelo P3 Ultegra 2019 has become a key component in the Ironman World Championships and we stock it here at TRI UK! This bike offers our widest range of fit options, easy packing for travel, accessible storage, and all our key aero features. 

However, if you’re new to the sport and apprehensive about indulging a lot of time and money in a bike you’re not sure will suit you TRI UK offers a premier GURU Bike Fit service. The GURU Fit System™ enables cyclists of all ages and experience levels to find the perfect bike and riding position to match their personal preferences. So when you purchase a bike you know it’s the bike for you.

Running shoes

We know our Mizuno running shoe range will have triathlete racing for the finish. With a variety of colours and fit choices, this range provides the ability to personalise and perform.

For the best outcome use our Mizuno Running Solution in-store. Take the guesswork out of your shoe fit with TRI UK. By wirelessly measuring and recording movement & impact of up to nine variables as you run, the ViMove system converts these readings into hard data, not hunches. In a matter of minutes you will be able to see and feel which shoe makes you a more efficient runner.

Don’t have time to fuss with choosing individual select items? Trust that TRI UK can provide top quality every time? Then select one of of our fantastic Triathlon packages. We also offer a fantastic range of Turbo Training accessories, perfect for any athlete developing their training schedule.

Tips for Beginners

Be prepared to work. Be prepared to devote time and effort to something you’ll eventually never be able to imagine your life without. Accept challenges and learn from downfalls. Keep going. The triathlon was not created to be easy. It was created so that athletes could prove they could conquer more than one already difficult discipline.

Adapt your lifestyle to the appropriate standard and learn from others. Research and be ready to change your personal style if necessary. Buy the correct equipment and consider your purchases a long-term investment to help you progress.

Most of all though, be prepared to never look back.

So whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned triathlon veteran, we can help you prepare for your next race. With our fantastic fitting services, we can help you prepare the equipment you need for all three disciplines. Not to mention if you’re not even sure you want to do triathlon properly and want to give it a tri before you buy, then TRI UK offers a season hire service.

We are the frontrunners in triathlon experience in the United Kingdom and we’ve got the experience and knowledge to set any aspiring athlete on their way. From humble beginnings to big future ideas, we know what it means to grow and develop.

So browse our fantastic product range or even come find us in one of our stores. Or you can contact us by giving us a call or emailing sales@triuk.com