Tackle the Triathlon

Here's how to swim-bike-run your way through your first triathlon.


By Beth Shaw


If you are looking for a way to expand on your fitness journey, completing a sprint triathlon can be a challenging and rewarding experience. Summertime is the best time to find a local triathlon, and you can successfully train for one in a relatively short amount of time.

Let’s start with the gear. You’ll need a bicycle. For your first sprint triathlon, any bike will do. Don’t forget your helmet! You’ll also need a swim cap,goggles and running shoes. For your clothing, most triathletes wear a triathlon “kit,” which consists of triathlon shorts and a triathlon top.

This outfit can be worn from start to finish. When searching for your triathlon kit, save money by shopping online and ask around for local shops that may carry them.

Next, choose your race. Choose a race that is at least three months away. That will give you ample time to train for it. The sprint triathlon typically consists of a quarter mile to half mile swim, a ten to twelve mile bike ride, and a 5K (or 3.1 mile) run. Some athletes prefer to find a shorter swim to start. In that case, there are super sprints that take place in a pool. The swim is shorter, anywhere from 200 meters to 400 meters.

Now let’s get training!

You can find sprint triathlon training guides for free online, but the best rule of thumb is to swim at least two to three times per week, bike two times per week, and run two times per week. For the bike to run portion, it’s important to practice with what is called a brick workout. The brick workout is a bike ride and a run. The wobbly leg feeling after getting off of a bicycle and trying to run is something that definitely needs to be practiced.

As with anything, build up your distance in each leg of the triathlon slowly. Start with a few hundred meters of swimming, a five to ten mile bike ride, and a one to two mile run. If running is hard for you, implementing a run-walk method will work just fine!

In training for a sprint triathlon, it’s often helpful to find friends or training partners who are also working toward the swim-bike-run goal. Advice from friends who have competed in a triathlon before can also be hugely helpful.

After you have gotten more comfortable with swimming, biking, and running, you’ll also want to practice transitions. Transitions are the parts in between the swim to the bike and the bike to the run. These are also timed so it’s important to practice them as well.

Lastly, make sure you know the rules of the particular race you have chosen. Most triathlons are sanctioned by the USA Triathlon organization and have specific rules for their events.

With training and preparation you can finish a sprint triathlon and enjoy the rewarding experience of being a triathlete!

Beth is a running and triathlon coach from Florida who began her journey through health and fitness as a high school swimmer. After leading an unhealthy lifestyle while in college she made changes to get back in shape. Since then, she's completed numerous marathons and triathlons and finished her first full Ironman in 2014. She's also a freelance fitness writer and blogger. Her passion is fitness in all forms, though she enjoys running and swimming the most, and she believes in doing what makes you happy and healthy.

Main Photo Credit; Second Photo Credit & Third Photo Credit: Pavel1964/