Beginner Triathlon Training: Tips & Techniques for New Triathletes

Apr 18, 2023
beginner triathlete

Embarking on the journey to completing your first triathlon is a remarkable fitness goal that will challenge you both physically and mentally. While the sport can look intimidating from afar, we’re here to show you that it’s just a matter of consistency, practice, and getting your feet wet…sometimes literally!

Just because there’s a lot going in a triathlon event doesn’t mean it's a sport beginners can’t get into. You probably even have some sort of experience in one or more of the three sports! But even if you don’t, that’s okay. Nobody is expecting you to go out there and finish an Ironman or win your first event. It’s about having fun, being healthy, and learning new skills.

This article will teach you some of the basics about the sport of triathlon, and how you can start training intelligently to avoid injuries while getting stronger, leaner, faster, and healthier.

What Is a Triathlon?

A triathlon is a multi-sport endurance event that consists of swimming, cycling, and running. The three sports are performed in immediate succession, and the clock does not stop between each transition - no breaks. The goal is to complete the event as quickly as possible, and the first person to cross the finish line at the end is the winner.

Triathlons are often conducted in a time trial style, where racers will start at different intervals. This helps to account for the potentially large number of participants that enter into a given race. Narrow course parameters, for example in a lane pool or on a running track, can become overcrowded quite quickly depending on the size of the field (number of competitors).

The distance you have to swim, bike, and run will vary depending on the type of triathlon you’re going into. Here are some of the most common event types and distances in both kilometers and miles:

Kilometers

Miles

Newbies to the game will find a lot of comfort in and be challenged by the Sprint distances. The great thing about training for an actual event is that it gives you measurable performance markers that you know you’ll need to hit come race day, while also giving you future goals to strive towards down the line.

(Image credit: Adobe Stock)

How Do I Choose My First Triathlon Race?

While you may hear stories of people deciding to go straight into a half or even full Ironman, this doesn't make them better or worse than a person who starts off with a sprint or standard distance instead. It all depends on your personal approach towards triathlon and the comfort level you have with doing hard exercise for long periods of time. Here’s some things to consider:

Fitness Level & Sport Experience

When starting to train for a sport like triathlon, a good question to ask yourself is, “What is my current fitness level?”, and, “What is my experience in each of the three disciplines?” If the answer to those is low and zero, you should definitely be looking at a sprint as your first option. Anything else is having your eyes bigger than your plate. 

Time Constraints

Triathlon training, even beginner triathlon training, can be a big time commitment. You have three sports to train for, and that might not even be including supplemental strength and mobility sessions. We’re not trying to scare you, but just offering some advice. It’s good to be realistic with how much time you’re willing to commit, whether that’s one or six days a week.

Past Injuries

The thing about repetitive endurance activities (like swimming, biking and running) is that they tend to cause past injuries to crop up again out of nowhere, even if they haven’t bothered you in some time. Doing a quick mental run-through of your past injuries can help gauge how aggressive you are with your training starting off. Always better to start slow then fast.

(Image credit: Adobe Stock)

Beginner Triathlon Training

Being a beginner actually has its advantages over someone who has been in the sport for a while, but has perhaps learned improper technique or wound up injured due to faulty training and recovery methods. You have the opportunity to get off on the right foot and give yourself the best chance of building a triathlon practice you can do and love for the rest of your life.

Here are some tips to help you get started:

Learn Proper Technique

Poor exercise technique is one of the main causes of overuse injury, something endurance athletes are very susceptible to. It is worth booking an assessment with a qualified professional in each sport to learn what good form feels like so you can replicate it in your training. The cost of investment will be returned tenfold in saved physiotherapy, massage, and chiropractic treatments.

Slowly Build Volume

Just because a certain race requires certain distances, doesn’t mean you should start there. Those are often PR (personal record) numbers for several competitors come race day. Giving the body time to adapt to all of the training is key to preventing injury. When building distance, it’s generally recommended not to exceed a 5% increase from the previous week.

Listen to Your Body

As a beginner triathlete, it will take time to find out where your limits are and how hard you can push according to your current fitness levels. Be patient and approach your training with a sense of curiosity. If a single workout has you destroyed, sore, and on the couch for a week - it was too much. You have to find the sweet spot between intensity and recovery.

Start Eating Better

If you’re not already…which most of us aren’t! Performing endurance exercise places huge demands on the body, and it needs the right nutrients to fulfill those demands. Focus on eating whole, natural, from-the-earth foods. I.e. meat, fruits, seeds, nuts, and vegetables. Grains can be good too, particularly in the morning when your body can best utilize them.

Do Supplemental Strength Training

Strength training for triathletes is key to building up weak muscle groups and fixing the imbalances that come with repetitive movements, like the ones you see in triathlon. Dedicating sessions solely to strength, conditioning, and mobility will help you to train longer and be more comfortable pushing yourself. You’ll be confident knowing your body can take it.

Train With Dynamic Triathlete!

Starting out on your own can be difficult, that’s why we created Dynamic Triathlete - a completely online training platform you can take with you wherever you go. We have hundreds of online routines for strength training, mobility, flexibility, and injury prevention to help you swim, ride and run pain-free! All for a low monthly cost. Try us free for 7-days by clicking here!

Written by Eric Lister – Certified Personal Trainer & Corrective Exercise Specialist

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