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sprint triathlon

How to train for a sprint triathlon

Whether you’re a complete triathlon newbie or a seasoned competitor, training is a fundamental part of the life of any triathlete. You may believe you have zero fitness or, at the other end of the spectrum, consider yourself an exercise devotee. Either way, training helps athletes of all levels to improve key elements of their performance.

A good training schedule will provide a triathlete with all the necessary skills, nutrition and fitness they need to start achieving goals and conquering challenges. For beginners, not knowing how to train for a triathlon can lead to disappointment and shortcomings before you’ve even really hit the ground running...or cycling…or swimming.

Training for a triathlon is all about training for the race type you’ll be competing in. Out of the four dominant structures of a triathlon, the sprint triathlon is the shortest and is highly favoured by newcomers. Sprint triathlons are a great milestone to complete before progressing to longer races and competing in them is beneficial even to experienced triathletes looking to refine their skills.

In this guide, we will cover the essential things to consider and cover when training for a sprint triathlon. If you’re not walking briskly away from this blog already, then you might be prepared to face the tri training challenge ahead of you.

What is a sprint triathlon?

As mentioned above, the sprint triathlon is the shortest of the four main race types. Sure, the super sprint is technically even shorter but for the sake of being pedantic, we’ll consider them an adaptation of the sprint triathlon rather than a stand-alone category.

Like any other triathlon, a sprint triathlon consists of the three core disciplines: swimming, cycling and running. The distance of each is typically a 400mm (pool swim), 20km (cycle) and 5km (run). For a super sprint race, these distances are cut in half because they’re extra super like that. If the sprint triathlon is an open water swim one then it’s quite common to find the swim extended to a 750m distance, half that of the Olympic distance which is the next step up.

When most people think of triathlons, they think of the immense distances covered by the insane athletes that put themselves through the IRONMAN. A 2.4 miles swim, 112 mile bike and then a really?! But completing any form of triathlon is an achievable feat for any age or fitness level with a good amount of training.

triathlon training

How to start training for a sprint triathlon

The best way to start training for a triathlon is to just get up and do it. Conquering your reluctant mindset is the very first step and probably the most important. Once you’ve actually decided you’re willing to commit time, money and effort to a training schedule and a few life adjustments then you’re ready. But you’re not here for some stirring pep talk about personal motivation…there’s no crying in triathlon!

Triathlon is unique in the sense that you don’t just have to build up your fitness to complete a physical event but there’s also a technical aspect. Three of them. To complete a triathlon you must be able to swim, cycle and run respectively for the allotted distances and even though many athletes will have a weaker discipline of the three, building strong foundations in them all will make your race so much easier and more enjoyable.

A lot of training schedules you can find online will dictate an allotted amount of weeks to fit a training programme into. Even before looking into a schedule, you will need to evaluate your lifestyle and sensibly analyse how much time you can devote to training. That’s not to say that if you have plenty of time you should devote every waking hour to the session but even an hour a day is enough time for those pressed for free moments.

A sprint triathlon will be a fairly steep but manageable learning curve for those just starting out. Training once a day, five days a week is a great start. Just make sure that on the other two days you are actually resting as your body needs downtime to adjust and repair!

Alternating your disciplines throughout the week will keep your body and mind active. We suggest devoting the most time to getting out on your triathlon bike as this is the longest discipline in any triathlon and typically dominates over 50% of course time. It is also the only part of the course where you have to rely on more than your own body and getting to grips with your bike will make your race unbelievably easier.

If you devote an hour a day to your chosen disciplines and make sure you’re focusing on all three (perhaps 2x cycle, 2x run and 1x swim in week one, 2x cycle, 1x run and 2x swim in week 2 for example) then you should be able to complete the full race length by week four. It might be a struggle but from there you can start to assess your weaknesses and increase the intensity.

Although we know everyone is different and some athletes may progress faster, we typically suggest an eight-week training plan to prepare for a sprint triathlon.

TRI UK offers a fantastic range of beginner triathlon bikes and an unrivalled bike fit service to make sure you have a partner on the course that you can rely on. Going to be competing in an open water swim? Look at investing in a triathlon wetsuit to add to your comfort and style in the water and make your experience even better.

tri wetsuit

What to eat while training for a sprint triathlon

What do you need to eat to compete? We hope you love pasta and that hipster quinoa stuff. What you put in your body is just as important as what you put your body through. When you are training you’ll be actively burning a lot of calories and weight loss will occur as your body adjusts.

Triathlon nutrition plans and general nutritional tips are easy to come by and once you find the one that’s right for you, you’ll understand why it’s an essential part of your training.

Carbs, protein and ‘healthy’ fats are the dominant food groups that you’ll require to keep your body on form throughout the training process. And always allow your body to digest and soak up the good stuff from the food before you head out to the track, road or pool. High carb, low fat, high protein is your friend.

Nutrition goes hand in hand with making sure you are constantly taking on water as dehydration can lead to fatigue and cramp during exercise.

triathlon diet

Training plan for a sprint triathlon

Once you adapt to your nutrition and training hours, you can start to focus on how to adapt it. Perhaps you function better in the mornings and want to put in some work before lunchtime. Start your day with a glass of water and remember that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Don’t feel hungry? Eat. Don’t have time to eat? Yes, you do. Don’t have time to cook? Plan ahead.

It’s called a training PLAN not a training disorganised for a reason...and not just because that’s a mouthful. Start your day right if you want to train right. Eight weeks is a long time if you’re not looking after yourself. Three meals and three snacks are nutritional standards to go by and whether you exercise in the morning, afternoon or evening just make sure you’re getting it done.

If you don’t think that you can find a good plan for you online or design one yourself, then you could consider going to a triathlon training day or training event.


triathlon packages

Finding sprint triathlon training clubs/events

Training days and clubs

Triathlons can sometimes feel like lonely sports and sometimes this can be one of the most off-putting feelings for beginner triathletes. If this is the case and you don’t want to completely lone wolf it, training with a group or attending triathlon training days to meet with other triathletes can be a rewarding experience.

There are triathlon training clubs all over the country and if you haven’t looked before then there’s a pretty high chance your local area has one. Even if it’s just a club for one of the disciplines, this could be a big boost to your morale during training.

Finding a triathlon to enter

Chances are you wouldn’t train for a triathlon if you didn’t want to compete in one. Triathlons occur all over the country and due to their ‘beginner status’, sprint triathlons are pretty common.

Websites such as Human Race, Immortal Sport and Find a Race are devoted to advertising and hosting fantastic events. Although not just triathlon events, looking into entering single discipline races can help to boost confidence and performance in a race-style environment.

triathlon wetsuits

Where to buy equipment for your next triathlon

Even if you’re mentally and physically training for your next triathlon, you’ll also want to evaluate the equipment you’ll be taking into the race. If you’re a complete beginner then you’ll probably be looking at an empty space that needs to be filled by triathlon equipment. If you’re more of an amateur, then you might be considering developing on your current kit.

TRI UK’s triathlon bike range has a selection from all the best triathlon bike manufacturers with high-quality promises and affordable beginner bike prices. Our running shoes provide uncompromised comfort and you can ensure you’re getting the correct fit with our Mizuno running solution that takes the guesswork out of sizing. All that and more is available on the TRI UK site and in our fantastic stores.

We’re prepared to help you succeed and want to make sure you’ve got everything you need to compliment your training and race goals. Want to help yourself succeed? Just call our experienced team on 01935 414412 or email