Coach Phil Mosley tells you everything you need to know to increase your speed and PB for a sprint triathlon…

Sprint triathlon


The best mental preparation for triathlon is to do low key single discipline events first. For example, the best cure for open water swim fear is to do one or two charity swims. Check out For the bike section, you could do a cycle sportive ( and for the run section you should try a 5km run event. Another great stepping stone is to do a sprint duathlon. This gives you vital triathlon experience without having to panic about the swim. Check out for events near you.


At the start of a triathlon, when the gun goes and you start swimming with the masses it can be easy to panic-breathe. This is caused by a build up of carbon dioxide rather than a lack of oxygen. In other words, we breathe in too much air without breathing out properly first. There are two ways to avoid this. The first is to have a 10-minute swim warm up, so you’re fully accustomed to the cold water. The second is to practise your breathing by saying “bubble, bubble” each time you exhale underwater. This helps to make sure you breathe out fully.


An hour or so before your race, you should take some time to walk around the transition area. Make a note of the swim-in area, the bike-in/-out and the run-out. Stroll around, rehearsing coming in from the swim, getting to your bike, then heading out. Do the same again, but as if you’re coming back off the bike, racking your bike and heading out for the run. You don’t need to expend any energy, it’s just a mental rehearsal. Things will feel different in race conditions, so it worth visualising everything beforehand.


Unlike most triathlons, nutrition does not play a big part during a sprint event. Providing you have a small pre-race meal three to four hours beforehand, you should have enough energy to get you round. This should consist of 60-90g of simple, easily digestible carbohydrate. You should also be careful what you eat the day before. Carbohydrate, fat and proteins are fine, but avoid fibrous vegetables and sweetcorn so that you don’t get tummy trouble mid-race.


Anything you can do to learn the race route is an advantage. If you can drive the bike course, cycle the run or swim at the race venue, you’ll go better as a result. You won’t be nervous about unknowns, you’ll feel in control and you’ll pace your race better. If you can’t recce the route, you should at least check it out using online maps, street views or Google Earth. You don’t want to be riding around on race day, scanning for marshals, clueless about what’s coming up next.


Three ways to upgrade to an Olympic triathlon:


You can’t do an Olympic distance race on fumes. Aim to consume 50-80g of carbohydrate per hour with water. Without this, you’re likely to hit the wall after 90 minutes or so.


In an Olympic distance race don’t think about going for broke. Aim for a steady state heart rate or perceived intensity that you can realistically maintain for two or three hours. Practice it in training.


Build up your distances gradually, so you can cover the 1.5k, 40k and 10k separately. Break your workouts into shorter sections with short recoveries and do efforts at target race pace.

WORDS: Phil Mosley IMAGE: Castle Triathlon Series/Colin Baldwin

Take a look at our extensive selection of sprint triathlon training plans or browse our training section for useful tips…