A Beginner’s Guide to Training for Your First Triathlon

Photo by @juliette_bader for Twenty20

Training for a triathlon sounds daunting. Honestly, the word triathlon sounds daunting on it’s own. The truth is: it’s not. All you need is 12 weeks and motivation, even if you are starting from nothing. The event is typically comprised of a 0.25-mile swim, a 15-mile bike ride, a 3-mile run, and 12 weeks will get you to the finish line safely. Without giving up your social life and emptying your wallet you will be fit and prepped for the race of your life.

Let’s start at week 13 and work our way down. The training program itself is 12 weeks long so use week 13 to get yourself prepped with the correct equipment and gear to get the most out of your workouts and training sessions. Here is a checklist of what you will need:

This list may sound expensive but it doesn’t have to be. If you aren’t looking to splurge on a new bike I would recommend asking around and odds are you will find a friend willing to lend their bike. A road bike, mountain bike, or hybrid will all work. If you are purchasing a bike go to a well-reviewed bike shop that will help suit you with a bike correctly fit for you. If you are looking to splurge, a Time Trial Bike will help with training, but is not a necessity. The swim and cycling gear can all be ordered from Amazon for under $40 each. If you don’t have a good running store locally utilize JackRabbit.com for amazing deals and great brands. I personally recommend Asics for comfortable, injury-free training.

Now that you have all the gear you need let’s get you on the bike, in the pool, and on the road. Even if your exercise routine has been non-existent recently, 12 weeks will be the perfect amount of time to get your joints, ligaments, and endurance in shape for a great race. You should plan to train five days a week for about 30 to 45 minutes and one long bike ride of 1.5 to 2 hours. I typically plan the long workouts over the weekend so you can take your time and not feel rushed or tired after a long day at work. Be aware of your fitness level and build up to harder, longer workouts incrementally.

Matt Fitzgerald of triathlete.com says you should think of your training program as a mirror to the breakdown of the race; “In a typical triathlon, the average participant spends about a fifth of the total race duration swimming, half of the total race duration cycling, and about 30 percent of the total race duration running. Your training should approximately match these distributions.”

The most important thing to remember while training is to rest! While you may go into the journey full-speed ahead, do not forget to let you body recover and refuel. No matter what plan you decide to use make sure to add recovery days. I found that active.com offers an amazing 12-week training schedule which you can easily print out or follow on your phone. This plan offers a great balance of training, necessary rest days and reduced volume rest weeks to allow your body to rebuild and gain strength.

If you need a little motivation from your peers look for training groups in your city or town using trifind.com. Inspired but not signed up? The TriRock Triathlon series offers a calendar of triathlon events in cities across the country.

Have you done a triathlon? What tips and tricks do you have to share?