Consisting of three, grueling rounds stretched over the course of several miles, a triathlon is considered by many to be the ultimate fitness triple-threat. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be conquered. This is how to do it.
A triathlon is made up of a swimming, running and cycling segment. Your training plan should reflect that, starting 8-12 weeks before the event.
Alternate between focus sessions (where you work on each exercise separately) and combination sessions (where you practice one after the other, as you would on the big day). Running blog Map My Run recommends that you split these between four to six hours every week over five days (allotting just over one hour per session).
In the early stages, assign the first three sessions to separate exercises – one for cycling, one for swimming and one for running. Make your fourth a combination session and your fifth an extra session on the sport you’re least comfortable with. The closer you get to the big event, the more combination workouts you should do, so that your body can adapt to the triathlon framework.
Training tips for each exercise
You don’t need to stick to a specific type of swim to excel in a triathlon – your strength is more important than your style.
With this in mind, focus on obtaining an even, powerful stroke in the water. Sports site Active recommends the ‘one-arm drill’. Swim for 25 yards with only your left arm followed by 25 yards with your right, then swim for 50 with both. This’ll help you achieve equal strength in both arms, ensuring that one doesn’t tire before the other and that you can swim for longer.
Even the most seasoned runners can struggle in a triathlon if they don’t factor it into their training regime, as this portion of the event usually comes towards the end (after you’ve swam and cycled). Wherever possible, add a quick 10-15 minute run after other exercises, to build on your multi-sport endurance and keep your cardio levels high. If you’re a weaker runner, pack in plenty of runs before the triathlon where you focus on alternating your speed – run for five minutes, walk for one, jog for four and repeat. This’ll help you to get stronger faster.
Cycling doesn’t require as much of your physical attention as the other sports in the triathlon, so your ‘training’ is more a matter of getting used to it. Take your bike to the park or your local nature trail, or enjoy a quick spin class at your local EVO club. Ensure that during these sessions, you practice braking quickly and can maintain a good balance in the saddle, so that no matter what appears on the road, you’re prepared.
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