If you’re looking for a fitness challenge or something to cross off of your bucket list, a sprint triathlon can give you an achievable goal to work toward and a strong sense of accomplishment. Although it requires commitment, the training is manageable and accessible to anyone in relatively good health. But before you begin training for your sprint triathlon, you should honestly assess your fitness level. Even if you are not concerned with your finishing time, competing in a sprint triathlon requires endurance and determination that will be best achieved if you already have a base level of fitness.
Go the Distance
In general, if you can swim for at least 15 minutes, bike for 45 minutes and run for 30 minutes nonstop, then you should be able to successfully prepare for a sprint triathlon in eight weeks. Ideally, you should aim to swim, bike and run twice each per week, allowing for one rest day. Most training programs schedule your long bike and run workouts on the weekend, ensuring that you improve your endurance and can complete more than the required distances for the triathlon. Standard sprint distances include a 750-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 5K run.
In addition to building your endurance, your triathlon training should include speed work. Because the separate distances for each discipline are relatively short, your intensity will be high for the entire race. After the first several weeks, start to add intervals into your training sessions. Try swimming 50- or 100-meter pieces, add one- or two-minute sprints into your biking workout, and head to the track for 400- and 800-meter repeats. In addition, if the race course is hilly, make sure you add hills into your running and biking routes. You can never be too prepared for your first triathlon.
An important and crucial part of any successful triathlon training program is the “brick.” This is the term used to describe back-to-back workouts in two different disciplines, typically biking and then running. Although you may excel at running a fast 5K, it’s entirely different to run that distance immediately after biking. In order to prepare yourself for the heavy legs you will inevitably have at the beginning of your triathlon run, the best thing you can do is practice the race-day scenario. After the first couple of weeks, try biking for a half hour, followed by running for 10 minutes once a week, gradually increasing those times as you advance in your training. It can also be beneficial to do several swim and bike bricks, as well. While you’re at it, use this time to practice your transitions so that you have a plan and don’t waste unnecessary time on race day.
If your schedule allows, incorporate weekly or biweekly strength-training sessions in addition to your swimming, biking and running workouts. During each session, work each muscle group at least once, if not twice. Although strength training is not required to successfully complete a sprint triathlon, it can build muscular endurance and supplement your training program.
Practice Makes Perfect
Although it’s hard to know what to expect, there are a few factors that can greatly help you going into your race. First, invest in a triathlon suit that you can wear for the entire race. Triathlon-specific clothing will be form-fitting, light and quick-drying to accommodate your swimming, biking and running needs. If the race allows wet suits, you may want to rent one. Wet suits not only keep you warm, but are more buoyant, making swimming easier. If you go this route, make sure you practice swimming with one before the race. In addition, get as much open-water swimming practice as possible, focusing on navigation techniques and swimming in close proximity to others. Finally, be prepared. Practice setting up your transition and have a checklist so you don’t forget anything. Know your nutrition plan and stick to it, making sure you don’t try anything new on race day.