Triathlon Training 101

Swimming, cycling, and running in one event called a triathlon. Taken on by many athletes to push themselves further and faster, while challenging their own perception of what they are capable of achieving.

If you’re new to triathlons, the thought of competing in one can be daunting. But fear not, dear Wahooligans! We have quite a few triathletes at Wahoo, and we even sponsor a former Olympic distance triathlete, Sarah True. Since we understand the process of competing in a triathlon, we have created a step-by-step triathlon training guide to help you begin the process and understand what to expect from the race. Let’s get down to it.


Sign Up


Go ahead. Ask around. Many triathletes will admit that one of the biggest challenges of triathlons is just signing up. But it’s the essential first step in more ways than the obvious. Once you sign up (and pay the necessary fees), it helps guarantee your training and participation in the race. For additional accountability and commitment to the goal start telling anyone that will listen that you signed up.

Here are a few things to remember:

  • Find a race at least three months away. This will give you ample time to train and prepare for your challenge.
  • If this is your first triathlon, go for a shorter race. Sprint triathlons are great for first-timers.
  • You can search for local triathlons on websites like TriFrind.com, BeginnerTriathlete.com or even SlowTwitch.com.

Grab Your Gear


Considering there are three different disciplines in this type of race, purchasing the necessary gear can get expensive. For your first triathlon, you don’t need a $5,000 bike or a specially made wetsuit (save those for your next challenge). Here’s the basic equipment you’ll need for the race as well as your training:

While you can definitely train and complete your race with the first five items, you need all of them to have a comprehensive training regimen.


Train, Train, Train


Training for the race is going to be hard at times. But you are a Wahooligan! You are strong and fearless! Even if you’re not a swimming, running or cycling pro, you can still crush your training and in turn, crush that triathlon.

First, you need to set up goals for your race. Your goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-specific. These SMART goals will heavily factor into your training. We recommend breaking your training up similar to how it will be in the race. For instance, swimming will be the shortest section of your triathlon, so you should spend a smaller block of time training for it and reaching your SMART goals. Here are a few tips for each section of the race.


The Swim


While the swim is the shortest part of the race, it’s also one of the scariest for many athletes, especially if you don’t have a background in competitive swimming. The most important part of your swim is staying calm and going at your own pace. It can be easy to push yourself too hard when you see frenzied splashing all around you. But remember that you have two more sections of your race left. You have to conserve your energy, not push beyond your limits. There will be time for that later.

  • Look straight ahead when swimming (sighting), not all around you. The other swimmers can be distracting.
  • Make each stroke efficient by lengthening your body and rotating on your sides.
  • Try to decrease your kicking during the swim. Many inexperienced swimmers kick more to make up for their slower pace or lack of balance in the water. Decreasing your kick will help conserve that much-needed energy.

The Ride


Usually, cycling is the second portion of the race. Here are a few training tips for your ride:

  • Train in the gear you plan on racing in a few times to ensure proper fit and comfort but not so much that you wear it out or are uncomfortable for long training rides.
  • Use smooth cadence, just like during the swim, when pedaling the bike. Try to pull the pedal upward in addition to pushing it downward.
  • Focus on proper form when cycling. This will help you be more comfortable and enable better performance throughout the race.
  • Ensure your bike is properly fitted for your body. You can visit a bike shop for a professional to help with this.
  • Mix up your training. Use your KICKR as a controlled way to train your body for the cycling portion. You can focus on your cycling heart rate, intervals, and form on an indoor bike.

The Run


The final leg of the race. Take a deep breath, and remember that you are almost there. Training for the run is pretty straightforward. Here are a few key tips:

  • Keep your head up and your shoulders back to help maintain a good form during your run. This allows the chest to open up which enables easier breathing.
  • Ensure your shoes are properly fitted for your body and running style. A specialist at a local running store can help with this.
  • Focus training in the right heart rate zones and sticking to them on race day! It can be easy to start out too fast due to adrenaline and excitement, but you’ll undoubtedly pay for it after a mile or two.

Race Day


Relax! Stressing out about the race will only lead to underperformance. You have prepared for this day. You’re going to kill it! Remember to focus on long smooth movements during your swim, pacing yourself for each new stage and staying calm and relaxed. It is also important to remember that even if you don’t reach your SMART goals, you can still enjoy the experience, and you will know how to change up your training for the next triathlon! Be sure to treat yourself after your race. You accomplished something amazing, after all!

Suzie is a Wahoo Sports Science Coaching Specialist, with a focus on expanding the resources and offerings for muti-sport and off-road athletes. Suzie earned a Master’s Degree from Springfield College in Exercise Science and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Cycling Level 3, USA Triathlon Level 1, and USA Track and Field Level 1 Certified Coach. Over the years, Suzie has coached an array of age group athletes as well as elite groups such as the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, Colorado Springs SWAT Team and K9 Unit, and the US Army 10th Special Forces Group. In addition to training others, Suzie is a professional triathlete with a full Xterra race schedule. As an amateur, she won multiple National and World Championship titles, and since turning professional in 2010, she has won 3 Xterra Elite National Championships, 14 International Xterra races, and finished in the Top 5 at five World Championship events, with her best finishes being 3rd at both the 2016 Xterra and ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships.

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