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Triathlons are tests of endurance and entering one requires plenty of training to reach peak physical condition and ensure optimum performance. There are several different categories of triathlon that get more gruelling as you move up the ranks. These are outlined with typical distances in the infographic attachment to this post. 

Richard Mallett is an experienced athlete who has entered several triathlons and is currently training to complete an Ironman course. For most people, their first triathlon will be some form of sprint triathlon, which has shorter distances. However, that is not to say these types of triathlon are easy to complete. Getting through a swim, cycle ride and run all in one go is challenging even over shorter distances.

Not all sprint triathlons are the same length, so it is worth double-checking distances for the triathlon you want to enter before committing. Triathlon training requires commitment, but for those that start from a status of relative fitness it can be completed in six to nine weeks.

Starting from Zero

People who will need longer to train for a triathlon include those that are starting from a position of not being used to exercising much at all. Those starting from scratch will need to spend several months building up their overall level of fitness before embarking on a triathlon training programme.

People who need help with one or more of the disciplines – such as those that are not confident riding a bike or are not strong swimmers – will also need to spend some time honing those skills before diving into training.

Being a strong swimmer is more important that being a fast swimmer. Anyone who is not totally confident in their strength may want to ensure the swimming portion of the triathlon they eventually enter takes place in a swimming pool and not out in open water, as this can be dangerous.

Booking an Event

There are many triathlon events to choose from. Beginners will want to look at a less challenging course, which does not mean it will be easy! Avoiding open water swims, bike runs that are particularly mountainous, and runs that involve terrain such as sand will make things a little easier for first-timers, and allow racers to get the feel of running a proper triathlon while saving new challenges to overcome with more practice.

Most sprint triathlons will have a maximum time limit for completing the course, so check the cut-off time and distances before tailoring a training programme. Finally, look to sign up for a triathlon that allows you to complete your training plan (so at least six weeks away for those in peak fitness and closer to three months for people who need to build up further).

The short video attachment helps with where to book a triathlon. 

Training Zones

The intensity of your training can be divided into three different zones, which can be categorised as easy, steady and hard.

An easy training session will take effort, but you will still be able to breathe steadily through the nose. A steady training session pushes things a bit harder; you should be breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. A hard session will take things even further; you should be exerting yourself to the point where you are breathing in and out through the mouth and finding it difficult to make conversation, although still able to talk a little.

A nine-week training programme should ideally include three sessions in each discipline per week. Weeks one to six can feature one easy and two steady sessions of each discipline, but with longer sessions for weeks four to six. The last three weeks should include one easy, one steady and one hard session for each discipline.

The history of the modern triathlon is outlined in the embedded PDF.