Triathlon Training Plan for Beginners

December 2, 2022
5 min read

Why take part in a triathlon?

If you’ve come across this blog post, it’s extremely likely that you’ve just registered for your local triathlon, and are looking to get your training regime sorted ready for race day. 

For those new to triathlons, these are high-endurance racing events that consist of three elements: swimming, cycling and running - usually in that order. The distances can vary based on your choice of triathlon, and can also be referred to as “Ironman” races, all of which will require relatively intense training regimes should you wish to prepare properly.

 Though you might be feeling a bit intimidated if you’re at the start of your triathlon training journey, we’re hoping that this blog post can provide some reassurance and training tips that help you to feel more prepared ahead of race day. If you’re ever in doubt, something that’s particularly helpful as a motivator is remembering that taking part in a triathlon is the ultimate test of fitness - making it a fantastic goal to work towards. Setting yourself a challenge such as this is extremely beneficial to both your physical and mental health as when you feel your fitness levels start to improve, your self confidence will soar along with it. 

Triathlon training plan for beginners

If you’re looking to build endurance ahead of your triathlon, our biggest tip is to train regularly. Whilst this may seem obvious, we’d urge you to train for each aspect of the triathlon (swimming, cycling and running) at least twice a week. Then, once you’ve gained confidence and improved your fitness levels, we’d suggest introducing brick workouts to your exercise routine. Brick workouts refer to training for multiple aspects of the triathlon back-to-back, and this is extremely important as this is how race day will pan out. 

Worried about keeping your motivation levels high? Why not look for a triathlon training club near you, or even bring along a buddy when training? 

First up, swimming!

Ever wondered why swimming comes first in triathlon and Ironman races? Though you might be dreading donning your wetsuit and goggles right at the start of your race, swimming is always going to come first. This is to ensure triathletes’ safety in the water, as they’ll have the most energy at the start of the race. 

The importance of the great outdoors

We get it - we can’t all be Wim Hof (known for his intensive cold water therapy method). However, the fact is, if you’re taking part in a triathlon, it’s more than likely that you’re going to need to get used to the open water. Whilst some may involve pool swimming, many British triathlons require heading into open bodies of water such as a lake or even the ocean. It’s with this in mind that we’d strongly recommend training regularly in the open water to get used to the cooler temperatures and differing water conditions that are a far cry from your local indoor swimming pool. 

Techniques for open water swimming

New to open water swimming? Never fear - being a wild swimming lake in the heart of Surrey, we’d like to think we have a couple of tricks up our sleeve that we can pass on. First of all, we would strongly recommend that you confidently swim 650m and turn around at the end of your course without needing to put your foot down or touch the sides of the pool. Once you’re doing this comfortably (and on a regular basis), you’re ready to head into the open water! 

When in the open water, we’d urge you to practise both front crawl and breaststroke until you’re confident with both swimming styles. Whilst it’s likely that you’ll opt for the speedy front crawl in your triathlon, breaststroke is an ideal way to continue swimming if you start to feel tired. Need a bit more of a break? It’s important that you can also confidently tread water, as this can be a lifesaver if you get tired in the open water. 

How to avoid panicking in an open water swim triathlon?

Unfortunately, for the inexperienced open water swimmer, cold water can come as a shock. Amongst other safety concerns, this can lead to the swimmer panicking upon entering the water - which must be avoided on race day. It’s for this reason that we’d recommend training in the open water at least once a week. Another way to alleviate anxieties surrounding the open water is choosing a safe, supervised venue such as ourselves. Being an accredited Beyond Swim venue means that we are really passionate about encouraging people to practise wild swimming safely. 

Something else to keep in mind is the amount of fellow triathletes that will be in the water on race day, so practising swimming in a busier setting will also be a beneficial aspect of your training.

How do you build endurance for open water swimming?

Open water swimming, particularly when it is cold, is a test of your endurance. Regular aerobic training (such as swimming, cycling and running) is a great way to boost your cardiovascular and respiratory systems to improve your endurance. So, as you develop each of your triathlon skills, you’re also giving your endurance a much-needed boost ahead of race day!

Next up… Cycling!

As with every other aspect of the race, our main piece of advice is to train outside. Despite advancements in technology allowing you to change the resistance on exercise bikes to mimic different riding conditions, arguably this is not enough to prepare you for the ups and downs and differing weather conditions that you may encounter on the open road. 

Distance-wise, the cycling aspect of the triathlon is typically the longest - however, that’s not to say it’s the toughest. Though it may be tempting to use your bike to your advantage and up the speed, it’s key to remember to conserve some energy for your upcoming run. Practising brick workouts consisting of a cycling/running combination will ensure that you’re using your energy wisely - use your time on the bike to go quickly, but don’t burn out before the run.

The finish line

As it is the last leg of the race, the run can feel incredibly tough. If you’re a keen swimmer, or love cycling, it’s likely that you’re already very fit aerobically, so it might feel tempting to avoid the training. However, running can be very tough on your joints, so it’s important to have plenty of practice to feel prepared.

Struggling with running? We’ve all been there. The thing to remember whilst running is to avoid going too fast, too soon as this can make regulating your breathing difficult. If you’re new to running then try something like lamp post training (jog to a lamp post, walk to the next one) or Couch to 5K to help you get started. 

Ready to start training?

If you’ve already signed up for your triathlon, it’s time to start training! We hope that our tips have given you some ideas for your training plan. 

Remember, this is an ongoing process that will take time. So, if you’re struggling with a certain aspect of your training, try not to feel disheartened - take a short break, but don’t give up - you can do it!

Don’t forget that Divers Cove is a great triathlon training venue!

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