Triathlon, an endurance sport, consists of three disciplines: swimming, cycling and running. Participants, or triathletes, compete by racing in all three sports. A sprint distance triathlon, a standard race distance, includes a 750-m swim, 20-km bike and 5-km run. Triathletes compete for the fastest overall time in all three disciplines. A six-week training program forms a solid foundation of fitness and prepares you for a successful finish.
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Training for a sprint triathlon in six weeks requires commitment and four or five training days per week. Training incorporates equal time focusing on technique and on your cardiovascular conditioning, or endurance. Regardless of focus, your weekly training routine involves a day riding your bike, a swim workout, a long run and one to two days combining two of the three sports such as a bike ride followed by a run.
Developing your skill in the individual sports ensures you enjoy each portion, or leg, of the triathlon. Training sessions centered on technique are shorter in duration and focus on skills. Incorporate sport-specific training drills into your workout. Drills reinforce skills and enable you to swim, bike and run faster and more effectively during a race.
As you gain confidence, coordination and efficiency in each discipline, add time and distance to your workouts. Distance workouts develop cardiovascular capacity. During distance workouts, concentrate on improving endurance while maintaining your technique. By the end of four weeks of training you should be able to swim, ride or run continuously for at least one hour.
Because triathlons include three sports, there are two transition periods during a triathlon: between the swim and bike and between the bike and running. In the first transition, triathletes change from swimming attire, or a wetsuit, to bike shorts, special road bike shoes and a helmet. In the second transition, competitors remove helmets and replace their bike shoes with running shoes. If not done well, a triathlete can loose valuable time during transitions. Incorporate transition practice into your weekly training routine during your workout day dedicated to two disciplines.
Competing in triathlons requires specific gear. Wet suits are standard for the swimming leg because they provide buoyancy, maintain warmth in cold water and allow you to swim faster. Swim goggles are necessary but swim caps are typically provided by race organizers. Also, you must supply your own bike and bike helmet. Road or triathlon-specific bikes are faster and lighter than mountain bikes, or bikes with fatter tires. Running requires a good pair of running shoes. Consider clothing that is comfortable for biking and running. Many sport manufacturers produce triathlon-specific clothing.