How to Train For a Triathlon

Learn how to train for a triathlon and do the right triathlon workouts so you can finish your triathlon.

Ben Greenfield
5-minute read
Episode #50

How to Start Training for a Triathlon: Biking

For cycling, you don’t need a fancy expensive triathlon bike. A simple road bike will suffice. For the four years that I did triathlons, I rode on a used $300 road bike I bought on the Internet. Once you get a bike, call your local bike shops to see whether they have any beginner weekday or weekend rides in which you could become involved.

How to Start Training for a Triathlon: Running

When it comes to equipment, running is the easiest of the three sports. All you really need is a pair of running shoes. But be warned: compared to running with fresh legs, running after riding a bicycle can feel like plodding along with bricks strapped to your shoes--so practice some runs directly after riding a bike!

Once you’re ready to swim, bike and run, you should set an initial goal of doing each sport twice a week. In addition, you should try to weight train one to two times per week, and if you struggle with inflexibility or tight muscles, consider regularly stretching as well. 

A Sample Triathlon Training Week

If thinking about squeezing all this exercising in makes your ears smoke, then here is a sample triathlon training week that will make it a bit easier for you to get in your workouts. You can do these workouts in the morning, afternoon, or evening, depending on what works for you!

Monday: Ride bike to pool, swim, and ride home. Or drive to pool, swim, ride the indoor bicycle, and then drive home. For both the bike ride and swim, include several short and hard efforts. The swim should be about 30 minutes and the bike ride about 30-45 minutes.

Tuesday: Run and do a full body weight training routine. For the run, move at an even tempo pace the whole time, for about 20-30 minutes, depending on your fitness. You may also want to check out the article “How to Run Faster.”

Wednesday: Same as Monday, but this time, keep your cycling and swimming easy, and instead focus on form and drills. For ideas on swim drills, check out http://goswim.tv, and for cycling, try focusing on just one pedal, pedaling faster and pedaling slower, and relaxing your upper body.

Thursday: Same as Tuesday, but this time run a bit easier and focus on form, forward lean, relaxation, and quick turnover with your feet.

Friday: This is your workout make-up day. Inevitably, training for a triathlon involves missed workouts due to scheduling conflicts. If you’re able to finish all the workouts Monday-Thursday, then choose a fun cross-training activity to do on Friday, like playing soccer or tennis, going on a hike, or taking a spin class at your gym.

Saturday: Choose any two activities, or all three, and combine them into a longer workout. For example, you could swim 30 minutes and then ride 60 minutes. Or ride 60 minutes and run 30 minutes. Or if you’re really up for a workout, swim 15 minutes, ride 45 minutes, and run 20 minutes. You get the idea! This is your “mini-triathlon” practice day.

Sunday: Rest and recovery! If you really want to treat yourself, get a massage (or use a foam roller for sore muscles).

One of my primary jobs is as a triathlon coach, so I realize that I’ve only scratched the surface of everything that you can do to prepare for a triathlon, but I hope this gives you a good idea of where to start.

If you have more questions about how to start training for triathlon, just head over to http://www.facebook.com/getfitguy and ask!

Triathlon image courtesy of Shutterstock


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.