Train Right for Your First Triathlon


Yes, you can.

You can do it. 

Swimming, biking and running individually can test anyone’s fitness goals. But how about training to put them all together? Triathlon season is gearing up and if you have thought about training for your first race, now is the time to get your training plans in place and your gear selected. Think about a 12-week training schedule to allow your body to slowly condition for each distance.

What of the three sports is your strongest? It can be intimidating to train for sports that you have less experience or familiarly with. The good news is, you don’t have to become a super star in all three. If you are a fast runner, for example, you only need to train for biking and swimming enough to complete the race. You don’t have to finish at the top in all three, in fact, few first-timers do. Most who are new to the sport choose a sprint distance triathlon (half mile swim, 10 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) as their first race. You might say, “I can complete all those distances now” — which is great! But running after completing the distances in the two other sports is the challenge.


Start your training in a pool, completing 200 yards in week one. You only need to commit to swimming one day a week in the first few weeks, because the other days you will be either running, biking, strength training, or resting. By week four, increase your distance to 300 yards and finish your swim with a 30 minute walk. By week six, you will start brick training, which is combining two activities. This will help you get used to transitioning between sports and increase your endurance. At the halfway point, swim 300 yards followed by a 30 minute run. You should also increase your swimming days to two, adding either biking or running in before or after. By the time you are a few weeks out from the race, plan to swim in open water, perhaps even the lake where the race will take place. Watch some tips for beginners, as open water swimming is very different from swimming in a pool.


If you are new to cycling, getting used to race-day cycling can be intimidating. Spend some time at your local bike shop or take a class to learn how to successfully navigate in and out of clips and learn effective gearing techniques. Or check out some online advice for new cyclists. Then it’s time to hit the road. On your biking days, challenge yourself to the occasional steep climb. If you have never biked before, plan to bike two days a week and complete five miles. By week four, your biking distance should increase to eight miles. By the week prior to the race, bike once a week for 20 miles. Again, one or two other days of the week to this point you will also do brick training, which includes biking.


Starting in week one, run for 15 minutes twice a week. By now you should have constructed a calendar with alternating days for each sport. At first, don’t worry about speed or distance, run simply for time. By week six you should be running 40 minutes on one day and starting brick training on another, running 20 minutes after a swim. Check out some must-have gear for all three sports to help make sure you are properly equipped.

One day a week you should plan to rest. And early in your training schedule, look for opportunities to add in specific strength and flexibility training such as yoga, which will be regenerative after more grueling training days. Check to see if your local 24 Hour Fitness offers classes in yoga and a variety of other strength and endurance opportunities. At the gym, try some simple strength training circuits to help build muscle groups you’ll need to finish your first race in top condition. With dedication to the right training, you’ll complete your first race with amazing results.