Training Tips for Your First Triathlon

Studio SWEAT onDemand Founder Cat Kom Running in a Triathlon.

Of all the athletic competitions out there, nothing quite holds the prestige like the famed triathlon. The pure ferocity, the brutal simplicity, the sheer not-over-yet of it all keeps amateur athletes and fitness enthusiasts signing up and sweating it out year after year. And we have to admit, it is a pretty esteemed honor to have completed this herculean task. Heck, it’s even more impressive than finishing a marathon (about three times as impressive, to be precise).

So if you’re one of the precious few who’ve set their sights on climbing up the fitness mount olympus, keep reading, because we’ve come up with some triathlon training tips that’ll help you get that body iron-ready. 

Set a (Realistic) Workout Plan

As you’ve probably guessed, the best way to begin any great undertaking is to formulate a plan. And you’d better believe a triathlon is a great undertaking. When building your plan, you’ll want to take into account a schedule that is realistic — meaning you need to make room for tangibles like sleeping, working hours, and recovery, but also intangibles like spending time with your family and friends. As we always say in fitness, nothing’s more important than consistency, so set a plan that will see you through long-term.

Increase Intensity Slowly

Now, assuming that you are a beginner at all of this, you probably aren’t race-ready at the moment. That means that from now until your scheduled race (and we urge you to leave enough time in your plan), you need to get in proper shape before the big day. And that means to increase your workouts’ intensity. One important triathlon training tip is to do this slowwwwwwwlllyy. You won’t get anywhere if you hurt yourself a month in, so make sure your workouts are pretty challenging (but doable) and increase by 10% each week. 

Build Endurance Efficiently

The triathlon is an endurance workout at its core. That means you need to focus on fitness training that supports your stamina, speed, and cardiovascular output. To do this, you’ll want to avoid the ‘grey zone’, where you’re working too hard for too little results (think of it like a 6 out of 10 in terms of your overall effort). To build your endurance effectively, train at low intensities at first, and then gradually add in a few high-intensity intervals to boost your speed. 

Choose Your Diet Carefully

cat kom running

One mistake that tons of beginning triathletes make is switching up their diets on the day of the race (just imagine some innocent stomach gurgling around mile 23 on the bike, yeah…). To keep you right and ready for the race, make sure to practice your nutrition intake during your training sessions leading up to the big race. Avoid trying any fancy new gels or energy drinks. If you want to incorporate a new fuel source, do so a month earlier in your training. 

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Look at Your Weaknesses, But Honestly

Now, if you’re a regular distance runner, swimmer, or cyclist, you’ve probably got one skill set that you’re particularly good at, one you’re medium at, and one you’re positively abysmal. This is to be expected! So when it comes to your training, be sure to focus on elevating your weak points, and maintaining the skills you already do well.  

Practice Triathlon Fundamentals

As you get closer to race-day, you’ll want to increase the frequency of triathlon-specific training. These include ‘brick workouts’, which are days where you combine a swim and biking workout, a running and biking workout, or a swim and running workout. You’ll also want to get better at your ‘transitions’, meaning changing from your wetsuit to your cycling gear, and cycling to running gear. You’ll also want to bump up your open-water swims. Basically once you’re 1-2 months out, try to have your training sessions imitate the race as closely as you can. 

Rest, Rest, Rest! 

No triathlon training routine is complete without proper rest and recovery time. This is when you rebuild those muscle fibers and thereby increase your speed. The other side to that is if you rest too much, you won’t be getting those gains. So to find a balance, start with one day a week where you literally do nothing — be as restful as you can, both mentally and physically. After a full week of this, assess how you’re feeling — if you need to bump it up to two or even three days, go right ahead, it’s what your body needs after all!

Spin to Win!

cat kom teaching spin

Of all the amazing types of workouts you can do to boost your endurance and overall fitness, one rises above the rest — Spinning. Part of the reason we at Studio SWEAT onDemand put so much focus on indoor cycling is that it’s perhaps one of the most effective ways to boost lung capacity, leg strength, and overall speed and endurance — all super helpful aspects of your triathlon training routine! In fact, one of our amazing members told us the story of how, in her first attempt at a triathlon, she beat her entire group despite having little training beforehand! She attributed this awesome feat to her countless hours training on the bike. She said her legs and lungs were working so fluidly that she could pick off riders (with better equipment) one by one. The moral of this story — get spinning, and get winning.

Get Proper Coaching

Most of us can’t afford a full-time triathlon trainer (but if you can, good for you señor moneybags!), but the next best thing is to hire an expert coach for one session, just to give you an audit of your overall technique and to make sure you’re training in the most effective way possible. And in one 1-2 hour session, an experienced trainer should be able to give you a rundown on areas of improvement and things you’re doing well, and help you reduce wasted energy.

A Little Help from Your (Online) Friends

No matter what kind of training session you’re looking at, you’ll have a better chance of success with the right encouragement. And that’s exactly what we do here at Studio SWEAT onDemand! Our huge library of virtual fitness classes, including tons of Indoor Cycling Classes and HIIT Training Workouts, are designed to give you that extra oomph from the comfort of anywhere. If that’s not enough, our worldwide membership community, plus our passionate trainers, will totally motivate you to smash any workout goal. If you’d like to dip your toes in the water before diving right in, get started with our 7-Day Free Trial

Well future iron-men & iron-women, we hope these tips were helpful. Now get to it!

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