“Triathlons have taken over the reins from marathons as the new personal challenge,” says Barrie Shepley, Canada’s former Olympic and National Triathlon Team coach. Millions of people each year are enrolling into local triathlon competitions. Why wouldn’t they?
Triathlons have become the new standard of muscle endurance, focus and grit. Apart from the benefits of regular cardiovascular exercise and a chiselled physique, triathletes enjoy their routines and healthy lifestyle.
A standard Olympic distance triathlon is a 0.93mi swim, 24.8mi bike ride and a 6.2mi run. If you’ve been on the fence about whether it’s something you can tackle, the Sprint distance triathlon is an excellent place to begin. A Sprint Triathlon is half of a standard triathlon which makes it the best way to test your endurance before moving to the next level. With the help of this “8 Weeks to Race Day” list on how to train for a sprint triathlon, you’ll be ready for a strong finish.
8 Weeks to Race Day
Week 1 is all about easing the muscles into a schedule and stretching them out. It is not necessary to do strength training. However, training one day in a week for 15-20 minutes can add enough muscle to increase the endurance of joints primarily used in a triathlon race. Days marked “Rest” are essential for recovery.
- Monday: 30 minute run (easy pace with short strides, focus on building breathing rhythm)
- *Short strides ensure your feet come off the ground faster thus putting less stress on your knees and avoiding injury
- Tuesday: 30 minutes bike ride (easy pace)
- Wednesday: Rest
- Thursday: 30 minutes swim (in pool or open water at an easy pace, focus on building breathing rhythm)
- *During swims focus more on using the upper body to pull through, as it is important to conserve leg muscle energy and prevent lactic acid build up for the other segments of the race.
- Friday: Rest
- Saturday: 30 minute bike ride
- Sunday: Rest
Week 2 follows a similar schedule as Week 1 but with more intensity and work out time.
- Monday: 30 minute run (faster pace) + 20 minutes of strength training
- Tuesday: Rest
- Wednesday: 50 minute swim
- Thursday: 50 minute bike ride
- *Make sure you focus on maintaining the right posture during both activities
- Friday: Rest
- Saturday: 30 minute run + 20 minutes strength training
- Sunday: Rest
- By the end of Week 2 your muscles are prepared to take it to the next level of endurance
Week 3 will see you are ready to begin brick workouts (bike-run). Bricks are essential to help your muscles adapt to the switch from biking to running. You’ll need to train your muscles like this; otherwise your legs may feel like bricks.
- Monday: 30 minute bike ride + 30 minute run
- Tuesday: Rest
- Wednesday: 30 minute swim + 20 minutes of strength training
- Thursday: Rest
- Friday: 30 minute bike ride + 30 minute run
- Saturday: 30 minute swim
- Sunday: Rest
*When doing brick workouts, it also helps to switch back and forth between biking and running to build endurance and train the leg muscles.
Weeks 4 to 7 should follow the same schedule as Week 3 but you should gradually increase the intensity and work out time.
Week 8 is the last week. You should finish with a low intensity routine (similar to Week 1). This will allow your muscles to gain strength before Race Day.
Triathlon Tips: Posture and Conserving Energy
You can get an edge over the competition by using the right posture and technique for each leg of the race. Here’s how to do it.
Breathe well when you’re swimming. This is the single most important technique to retain energy, stay buoyant and reduce muscle fatigue. If you aren’t a prolific swimmer then eHowSports has some great YouTube videos that show breathing techniques for swimming. Use your upper body more than your legs because you’ll need your legs for the other segments of the race. “If you rotate your body from side to side—rather than swimming flat—you’ll move like a torpedo,” says Shepley.
Most people learned to ride a bike when they were kids, so they usually have a set technique and pattern. On Race Day, you may not have much upper body strength right after the swim. But if you’ve been training right, you won’t need to use your upper body strength for cycling. The paramount function of the upper body during cycling is to cut through the wind, so work on developing an aerodynamic upper body posture during training. Apart from using your leg muscles, biking requires core strength. ‘Brick’ training would have added to your core strength giving you a definite edge.
The goal of any triathlon training plan is to increase muscle endurance. With the 8-week plan, you would have built enough endurance to finish strong in the Sprint Triathlon. Since running is the last segment of the race, you’re bound to be exhausted by the time you finish swimming and biking. For the first mile or so, your legs might feel like barrels full of cement. Therefore, every triathlon training plan must include ‘brick’ training to crack this stage.
Remember to keep an upright posture with short strides and breathe fluidly. Another training tip is to add short, fast-paced runs called “intervals” to your training plan. This builds more muscle endurance and can help you make the last few miles to the Finish Line.
Triathlon Gear Up
Triathletes must be dressed in appropriate triathlon clothing. For the swim, triathletes should have a professional triathlon wetsuit. It is designed to provide better buoyancy and keep the body warm to avoid muscle injury in colder waters. These triathlete wetsuits are made out of neoprene. Neoprene prevents water from seeping in, keeping the body light and pushing the torso out of the water for faster pace.
Cycling shoes and running shoes are designed for their specific tasks and should be used accordingly for optimum results.
That rounds up your sprint triathlon training plan. Being consistent in your training, knowing your limits and establishing a rhythm of action and rest should see you do really well and exceed your own expectations on D-Day!