Wondering how to start triathlon training, then this is for you! You may be thinking about starting a triathlon, you may have even just booked a race and are now thinking you need to crack on and get prepared for it.
Everyone has to start somewhere, my own triathlon journey started later on in life, after an active social life and slowing metabolism had taken their toll on me. I still remember my first run after signing up for an event, stopping after 1km wondering “what have I done?”, but I did it and have never looked back.
Hopefully, you can learn from a few of my mistakes and begin your journey in a more structured and usable fashion.
Having found this article you will have already worked out that Triathlon consists of a Swim, Bike and a Run. With many different distances from Go Tri to Ironman, it’s actually a really inclusive sport and much easier to get into than you might think. You’ll also find that despite a lot of very competitive athletes, the majority of people within the sport are helpful and will have plenty of tips and advice for the novice triathlete. (Some may even say us triathletes don’t stop talking about triathlon)
So, where do I start and how do I get into triathlon?
Join a Club
The best way to get into triathlon is to join a club. I left it a year before doing this and I wish that I had done it sooner. You do not need to worry that everyone is better than you and that it will be out of your depth. Find a British Triathlon affiliated club and the coaches will be qualified and more than able to tailor any sessions to you. Training with other people will help you develop quicker and I honestly cannot begin to list the benefits of training with like-minded people who will support you, push you and celebrate with you. Head over to https://www.britishtriathlon.org/clubs/search and find a club near you today.
Swimming was my weakest sport. If you are not comfortable in the water joining the local masters swim group at your nearest pool, they will help you develop your swim (your tri club may offer a pool session as well).
It took a long time for me to develop my front crawl, I also used the Swim Smooth book and YouTube videos. My biggest mistake early on was focusing on speed and duration, rather than focusing on technique by doing the swimming drills they prescribe. If you bed in bad form and technique at the start, it’s hard to change later on. The speed will come with good form.
Again it’s hard to see what you are doing wrong without a second pair of eyes, masters swimming groups and Triathlon clubs really help here.
Open water swimming is different, worry about getting your form and technique right first, then when the water is warmer and the lakes open up you can start to experience open water swimming.
You can complete a triathlon on any bike, but most will use a road or triathlon bike. If you have purchased one, getting used to it is the starting point. When I got my first road bike it felt unstable and the clip in pedals was a steep learning curve.
Start off with safe, short rides, make sure you have a helmet and lights on the bike, and give yourself the best chance by using quiet roads.
I would invest in a turbo trainer if I was starting out again, these range from £50 up to £1000 or more. I would look at doing some structured workouts to develop:
- Pedalling efficiency
In any triathlon you will be on the bike for the longest part of the race, this is where you can make the most impact. If you’re too hard on the bike, it’s going to make that run hard, but if you’re too easy, you’ll wish you pushed that bit harder.
Starting out I would get a cheap HR monitor and use interval training to build up my cycling indoors, making sure I got out once a week (weather permitting) for a long ride. If you have the budget and become hooked then moving on to power-based training will be a natural progression.
To begin with, getting out on the bike is a great start.
Triathlon running during the race is off the bike, so make sure in preparing for your race you do some running off the bike. You’ll be surprised how many people who start don’t do this. You want to experience the “Jelly Legs”, the sensation you get going from bike to run. It does not last long if you practice. These are called BRICK sessions.
For run training, start with easy runs, that HR monitor is a good way to make sure you are running in the correct zone (Zone 2). Most of your runs should be easy, and how far you run will depend on the distance of your race and what time you have to train. Start easy and as your fitness increases, begin doing a speed session each week. If you join the Triathlon club it’s likely they will do these at a track or session during the week.
I got into structured training after my first year, this is basically following a plan, we have some here for you to follow. Once I started training properly I began to understand more about my own ability. Don’t feel the need to rush into structured training, allow yourself to just experience the sport. When you are ready though, you will see improvements and no doubt start to chase those personal bests.
Plans can be delivered in PDF’s with instructions and through digital products such as training peaks.
You may reach a point where you want your own coach, this takes structured training to a new level, a triathlon coach will personalise a plan just for you and help you work on strengths and weaknesses to get you to your race in the best shape possible.
Hopefully, this has given you an idea of how to get into triathlon, remember, you don’t need loads of kit, fancy bikes, you just need the right attitude and to get out and enjoy swimming, cycling and running.
Written By Stuart Hall
Age Group Triathlete & BTF L1 Coach
Follow me @trimadness