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Triathlon Training For Beginner Triathletes

So you have decided you want to do a triathlon? Great!

The next thing is, what does triathlon training for a beginner look like?

You can just go swim, bike and run and if you are a complete novice you will probably get a bit fitter.

triathlon swim start

But to really maximise your experience it is a very good idea to have a triathlon training programme, so you KNOW you are going to get the most out of it.

You are also much more likely to enjoy the whole experience more.

Triathlon training for a beginner doesn’t need to be complicated or involve a lot of testing or equipment (it can if you want it to though). The most important tools are a piece of paper and a pencil - or digital equivalent in this day and age.

The process of putting together a good plan means you have had to think about what you want to achieve.

This alone means you are more likely to be successful. However the good plan also means you have thought about what you can and can’t do before you start and what you need to be able to do; therefore focussing your training productively.

It means you have considered the distractions and other commitments you have, and therefore not over or under-committing to your triathlon training plan.

Most importantly it clarifies your goal and makes it real. Having a goal that is clear, realistic and well considered has been shown to be extremely important for satisfaction and self fulfilment.

You need to consider what distance triathlon you would like to do. There are several different standard distances you can choose from. Most commonly beginner triathletes will start out with a sprint triathlon and build from there.

The main thing to achieve as a beginner triathlete is consistent training. You should be aiming to gradually build up your endurance in all three disciplines, rather than focussing on anything too high intensity or speed-orientated.

If you are new to swimming then working on getting your swimming technique right early on is hugely important. Finding a swimming coach should be your first step if you do not come from a swimming background.

If you're new to triathlon you might like the motivation of recording your training on-line and chatting with fellow triathletes. If so, then have a look at the triblogs website, where you can plan, record, analyse, discuss and share your triathlon journey.

Components of a Triathlon Training Programme

There are some fairly obvious key components in a triathlon training programme, whether it is triathlon training for beginners or more experienced athletes:

  1. Swimming – the first discipline, usually the shortest (in terms of time) and the most technically difficult to master. Swim training needs to reflect the need to swim in (usually) an open water situation.
  2. Cycling – the second discipline, usually the longest (in terms of time). Requires the most specialist equipment and with poor setup and lack of practice can be very uncomfortable.

  3. Running – The final discipline. Many novices who have run prior to taking up triathlon tend to find that running after the swim and bike is NOT the same! Running programmes should reflect the need to run after the swim and bike.

Other less obvious elements that are in a well thought out plan are:-

  1. Bricks – no not the ones in your house. This is a term often used to mean two disciplines trained in sequence. i.e. a swim sessions swiftly followed by a bike session.
  2. Strength & Conditioning - Not necessarily to build lots of power, but essential in a long term plan, to reduce your risk of injury.
  3. Recovery - Make time for recovery in your plan, this is when the adaptations occur!
  4. Nutrition – yes this should be part of your plan. If you are new to training and sport then you will be amazed at how much more you can do with good nutrition. If you are a regular trainer already, then really thinking about what you eat and when will help you to maximise how much training you are able to do. This in turn will lead to increased speed of training adaptation.
  5. Psychology – no you don’t need counselling! But practicing your mental approach to a race is very important. Many novices have commented on how intimidating the start can be, lots of people all looking like they know what they are doing. Getting a plan on how to deal with some of the more challenging elements of a race will help you to enjoy and maximise your experience.

How To Structure A Beginner Triathlon Training Programme

If you want to really maximise your performance in your triathlon race then we would suggest further reading about planning triathlon training, how to assess yourself and determine what you need to do to really get the most from yourself.

Once you know the main areas you are going to concentrate on are then you get down to the nitty gritty of planning the actual sessions and where and when you are going to do them. Remember there are some key things you need to consider when putting this together.

  1. Specificity – training needs to reflect the requirements of your event.
  2. Overload - there needs to be elements of exceeding your comfort zone.
  3. Progression – You need to keep developing sessions to challenge you.
  4. Adaptation/Recovery – In order to improve you need to allow time in your programme to recovery and adapt to your training.
  5. Reversibility – if you stop training for too long you start to de-train.
  6. Variation – in the interests of keeping you motivated and able to cope with a variety of different situations, keep your training varied.

Periodisation is the term used to describe how you fit all your sessions together over a period of weeks, and months. In more advanced triathlon training programmes this is broken down into smaller chunks.

Have your triathlon training plan visible, train consistently and you are more likely to be able to achieve your goals and improve your performance.

Summary of Triathlon Training For Beginners

  1. Choose your goal
  2. Outline strengths and weaknesses
  3. Plan the structure of your training
  4. Plan your training schedule
  5. Get on with it, and enjoy!


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