According to USA Triathlon, sprint triathlons are the fastest growing race in triathlon. This is mostly due to the shorter distances per discipline (a half-mile swim, 12.4-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run) “Anyone can train for a triathlon regardless of their age, as long as they swim, bike and run to build fitness,” says Joe Friel, author of Your First Triathlon: Race Ready in Hours a Week (Velo Press,). “It’s definitely doable.”
You’ll need about three months to get ready for a sprint triathlon, so keep this in mind when you decide on a particular race. There are many sites that you can search for races in North America such as TriFind.com.
- Take Baby Steps. “Most people have a tendency to jump in, and then after a week they get tired and sore and they take time off to recover and don’t continue,” says Debi Bernardes, a triathlete and tri coach trainer based in Virginia. “Instead, start with 10-minute segments in one of the three disciplines…” The goal is to work up to minutes or so each day, aiming for four to five hours of training per week for at least three months before the competition. “In this way, exercising becomes a habit, and this consistency makes working out easier,” says Bernardes. “It becomes part of your life.”
- Lean on your strengths. Think about your skill set before you begin to train. Can you cycle, swim or run? Then you can focus on the areas you need to improve most.
- Balance your training. If you don’t have a background in any of the three sports, you’re better off spending half of your training time on a bicycle, since that’s the biggest section of each race, says Friel. After that, split running and swimming. “Get out the door to get in two swims, two bikes and two runs every week if you possibly can. “Hiring an instructor or coach can help you with proper form and help you meet your goals. Or use the website BeginnerTriathlete.com, where you can create a custom training program at no cost.
- Avoid injury. Most injuries occur during the run because of the pounding of the feet on the ground. So start small, like with a minute or two for the first month or so—and slowly build up over time. This allows the body to adjust to the demands without the risk of getting injured. Other safety steps include always wearing a helmet when cycling and not wearing headphones when walking, running or riding.
- Get support. Working out is easier if you do it with friends or an exercise partner. Joining a triathlon group or club can also help keep you motivated.
For more about the basics of triathlons, download the USA Triathlon’s Beginner’s Guide.
Download our 13-week Sprint Triathlon Training Plan for Beginners.