This is the first blog in a series on ‘Training For Your First Triathlon’. The blogs will be released on Mondays. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them. If you are looking for more information or a triathlon training program feel free to email: firstname.lastname@example.org
So you’ve decided that you are thinking about maybe doing a triathlon…. Your heart is pounding a bit and now you are wondering where do I even begin? Suddenly there are all these new factors that you have to consider, swimming, biking AND running and all of the necessary training and equipment that goes along with them. SO now what?
Well, first of all I would say take a deep breath and congratulate yourself on setting a goal. Although now comes the hard part following through!
This series will take you through some of the necessary and sometimes daunting steps of training for your first triathlon. Its time to get excited and start planning to take on something that will leave you with an immense feeling of accomplishment! Lets get started shall we?!
Pick your race! You will need to decide on distance and time of year.
Distances: You have 4 main distances with triathlon and the distance you choose also dictates the amount of time you will need to train.
- Sprint Distance: 750-meter (0.47-mile) swim, 20-kilometer (12-mile) bike, 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) run
- Standard Distance most commonly referred to as ‘Olympic Distance’: 1.5-kilometer (0.93-mile) swim, 40-kilometer (25-mile) bike, 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) run
- Long Course, also referred to as 70.3 or Half-Ironman: 1.9-kilometer (1.2-mile) swim, 90-kilometer (56-mile) bike, and a 21.1-kilometer (13.1-mile) run (half marathon)
- Ultra Distance; commonly referred to as 140.6 or the ‘Ironman’: 3.8-kilometer (2.4-mile) swim, 180.2-kilometer (112.0-mile) bike, and a 42.2-kilometer (26.2-mile) run (full marathon)
The typical amount of time needed to train for each distance varies based on your current fitness level and the amount of time each week you can commit to training. Assuming relatively beginner status below are the estimated amounts of time you should budget to train for each distance. These are the ideal amounts of time to train and feel prepared, there are options for shorter programs out there, but in my experience it makes the day much more enjoyable when you feel as ready as possible.
- Sprint Distance: Give yourself roughly 12 weeks prior to the race start to train 1-2 hrs/day about 5 days/week. Maxing out at 6 hours a week.
- Standard/Olympic Distance: This is a solid jump from a sprint distance and sometimes involves an open water swim, you will want to extra time to train and practice this portion for sure. Ideally 14-16 weeks is a solid amount of time to prepare your body for this distance. 6-10hrs/ week.
- Long Course/70.3: In this distance you are basically doubling your Olympic distances and as a result your training time will need to increase. You can keep your weekly workouts around the same amount of time as your Olympic Distance, 1-2 hours/day. But your weekend workouts start to get quite a bit longer. You will want at least 16-18weeks to prepare for this distance and be able to set aside 2-3 hours each weekend day. Weekly workout hours are usually around 8-12hrs.
- Ironman Distance or 140.6: This is not something that you will want to just jump into. A good idea is to make this race a bit of a journey, allow yourself time to experience a couple triathlons before taking this on. 6-12months would be an ideal amount of time to plan for training, depending on your relative triathlon experience and ability. Your weekly training hours are usually starting around 10hrs/week maxing out at 16-19hrs/week. It is a big time commitment, but well worth the finish!
Find a training program that will work with your life and your goals. Take some time to really think about how much time you can commit to weekly training. This means considering all of your current commitments, work, home, family etc… It also means considering your goals for race day. Are you racing to finish, are you racing for time. These factors will also determine the amount of time you will be putting in.
Once you have decided on the amount of time you can commit and are clear on your goals you will need to find a training program that caters to these. Some of your options include:
- Online training programs: The internet has become an amazing resource for training, and there are many sites that provide free training programs for all distances of triathlon. The downside to these is that they may not cater specifically to your goals. If you are looking for a more personalized program, you can also find these online as well these programs are usually categorized by your level as an athlete and the time frame you hope to finish your race. Some good websites for training programs both free and paid are: beginnertriathlete.com, active.com, trainingpeaks.com
- Join a Club: There are a lot more clubs out there than there used to be, in my home town there are at least 8 different triathlon clubs. This is a great option as you have access to coaching as well as a community of athletes. It is usually a bit more expensive but if you find it hard to motivate yourself this might be the best option.
- Hire a coach: This is usually the best recipe for success, having someone that you are truly accountable to and can create a program based on your goals and abilities is a sure fire way to make sure you cross that finish line. I would definitely suggest this especially for the longer distances. Most coaches will work with you to design a program that fits your budget and your training needs. Even if you just hire a coach for one discipline where you need the extra help having someone that you are accountable to and that knows where you are at can really help.
Allow yourself the time to really get clear on what you want to accomplish when it comes to triathlon and pick the type of race and training program that will help you get there. These first two steps are crucial in helping you get exactly what you want out of this experience. So take your time and talk to others with experience and listen to your heart. You CAN do whatever you put your mind to, so don’t worry about that part.
Next week we will talk about sticking to your training program, and starting to think more about your nutrition.