Keep life interesting with new experiences and challenges. If you’re the kind of person always on the lookout for something to add to or cross off your bucket list, a triathlon might be just the ticket. Sprint triathlons are perfect for beginners. Here’s how to get started.
What is a sprint triathlon?
Think 5k with swimming and biking added. During a sprint triathlon you will run 3.1 miles, swim a half-mile and bike 12.4 miles.
How to find a sprint triathlon
Check out sites like active.com; trifind.com or teamusa.org. Generally, you can prepare for a sprint triathlon in 6 to 16 weeks. You’ll need more time if you are a complete beginner and less time if you already have a strong fitness foundation; so choose your race date accordingly. As you train, let your body be your guide. Challenge yourself, yes. But don’t skip rest days or go so hard that you sustain an injury and have to miss the race altogether.
Grab a buddy
When it comes to training, two really is better than one. Grab a buddy for more accountability, friendly competition, encouragement and just plain fun. The picture you’ll take together at the finish line will be one you cherish. Don’t forget your gear. You’ll need basics like sneakers that provide adequate support for your foot strike and arch type, googles, and helmet. No need to break the bank, if you decide that triathlon racing is right for you can make a bigger investment later.
Triathlon training need not be all consuming. Start with weekday training sessions of 30 to 45 minutes each. Increase to 60 minute sessions. Use this time for combo or brick training; for example run and bike or swim and bike during one workout. Go longer on weekends to build stamina. Choose training opportunities that mimic the race environment. Run or bike on similar terrain; swim in a similar body of water.
Choose a training plan
You can skip this step if you decide to train with a group or club. When you sign up for your triathlon check if organizers will offer a training plan or group in your area. If not there are many good, free plans available for every fitness level available via sites like halhigdon.com (I used this site to train for a marathon) and active.com. You can also spring for Joe Friel’s book, The Triathlete’s Training Bible.
Here’s what two sample weeks look like with Hal Higdon’s plan for someone with a fitness foundation:
WEEK MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
1 Strength Run 30 min Bike 45 Strength Swim 20 Run 25 Rest Run 30 min Swim 30 Run 30
2 Strength Bike 30 Run 15 Swim 15 Run 30 Run 30 Strength Rest Run 35 min Swim 30 Bike 30
Don’t forget cross training
Add some weight training to help you build muscle strength. You may even want to include some yoga to improve flexibility and range of motion. Food matters, too. Choose nutritious meals that help you generate energy and build muscle. Don’t skimp on protein and whole grains.
Taper your exercise in the week before your big event so you arrive rested and ready to do your best. During training you should have reached the point where you could cover 10% more distance than required for the race (i.e. able to bike about 13.5 miles, etc.).
The goal isn’t to win your first race. The goal is simply to do your best and finish injury free. Then…on to the next challenge! Maybe next time you’ll go for the half-ironman.