It’s been about 3 weeks since my first sprint tri and today I wanted to share the first of a series of posts with information I found helpful for competing in a triathlon! Several people have asked about the logistics that go into preparing for this type of race and I’m here to tell you that it’s really not that bad! I am also hoping these posts will be helpful to those of you who said you would love to try out a sprint triathlon but it seemed like it was too complicated.
I have always wanted to do a tri but the idea of transitions and dealing with 3 separate sports seemed really intimidating. I was also coming out of a period of several orthopedic injuries and was scared to throw myself into a huge training plan. Despite these hesitations, I ended up having a pretty good experience training and felt prepared for the race.
Here is all of the information I used to help me make my training plan and get going with my workouts!
Where the Heck to Start
I downloaded a free e-book on Amazon called “Triathlon: The Beginner’s Guide: Finish Your First Triathlon; training tips and racing secrets to make you a faster triathlete” that gave a pretty basic overview of what goes into training for a spring triathlon as well as the actual race day. The book was free on my Kindle app (I think because the author wants you to buy his training plan at the end) but it was a great resource nonetheless!
I also follow a few triathlete bloggers and really enjoyed their race recaps and tips to keep me motivated!
I love reading race recaps. Reading from an athlete’s perspective really adds another layer to understanding what goes into race day
Something that I found true for me is that it is important to listen to your body. So while these tips for creating a training plan worked for me, you may need to tweak them to work for you.
Time to Train
My spring triathlon included:
- 500 yd swim (most sprints seem to be 750 so mine was a bit shorter)
- 13 mile bike ride
- 5k run
I love to cycle and I have done quite a bit of swimming over the past year, but I started out from ground zero in terms of athletic ability when I decided to train for this tri. I gave myself about 3 months for training for a sprint triathlon. I think 3 months was the perfect amount of time to transform from ‘couch to triathlon’ without pushing myself too hard and causing injury. You could probably get by with a little less if you’re already starting with a strong athletic/cardio foundation.
1. The sweet spot for training for me was to plan for 2 workouts of each sport per week– swim, bike, run. Some days I did these individually and other days I did brick workouts (doing two sports back-to-back to prepare your muscles for what it will feel like on race day).
2. I started out training 6 days per week and taking 1 rest day, but I found about halfway through that I really needed 2 rest days. Rest days are so important to allow your muscles to recover! My advice is to listen to your body and rest as you need to. I didn’t feel any less prepared when I dropped down to training 5 days per week and I actually noticed I ran faster when I rested more in between runs.
3. If your triathlon swim is in open water then try to incorporate an open water swim into your training plan. Check your local YMCA, triathlon clubs or outdoor activity facilities near lakes or rivers to see if they offer anything.
The Whitewater Center in Charlotte had free open water swims in the Catawba river every week over the summer and that was a great experience for me to see what it would be like to swim in something other than a pool. I realized during my river swim that I did NOT want to wear my dark/shaded goggles during the swim because it was so hard to see in the cloudy water, so the experience was a great learning tool for me.
4. Incorporate brick workouts into your training plan from the very beginning. I did a long cycle + short run back to back every Wednesday from the first week of training and it definitely helped me on race day. I wish I had done a few swim + cycle workouts as well to prepare myself for how exhausting it was to go from swimming to cycling.
Structuring a Plan
I scoured the internet and looked at 10+ training plans before I ended up creating my own. You can find sample sprint triathlon training plans on the website Beginner Triathlete, Self Magazine, and Shape Magazine. Truthfully, I just googled “12 week sprint triathlon training plans” and a lot of different sample plans came up.
Some things I considered for my own triathlon training plan
- Schedule your longer brick workouts on a day when you have the most free time
- Schedule your rest days for when you will feel the most tired (for me, Mondays)
- Focus on your weakest sport and emphasize training in this area
- Avoid doing the same sport two days in a row (I actually spread running out as much as I could to avoid injury)
- STRENGTH TRAINING is so important. I focused on leg exercises that built glut + quad strength twice per week
My training plan evolved over time but I ended with this structure:
- Monday- Rest
- Tuesday- Swim
- Wednesday- Cycle/Run
- Thursday- Rest
- Friday- Swim
- Saturday- Cycle
- Sunday- Run
Sometimes I would switch up Friday, Saturday and Sunday depending on the weather. If you follow along here then you know I got in a bike accident and had a cast on my arm for over half of my training. I swapped out my swims for strength training during that time. The swim also seemed like it was always up in the air after that because we had a string of thunderstorms the last few weeks of training. I felt like the pool was always closed when I planned on going! You will also see in my original plan that I scheduled open water swims once per week. This ended up being incredibly unrealistic for me (I had a 1-hour commute home from work and then turned around and drove 30 minutes to the lake).
I hope this post was helpful!
Here are the other posts that are scheduled for this series:
– Triathlon gear you’ll need
– Race day tips
– Nutrition tips
Have a great day!
Do you plan out training plans for races or just kind of go with it?
Anyone else have any other tri training plan tips?