The Right Way to Train for a Triathlon - Orange Mud, LLC

The Right Way to Train for a Triathlon

It was in 1920s in France when the idea of “Les Trois Sports” was first introduced that featured a 3-kilometer run, 12-kilometer bike and a swim across the Marne Channel. It wasn’t, however, until September 25, 1974 when the first official triathlon event, the one that we know now, was held in California. Originally intended as an alternative exercise to training track stars, it has grown and developed into a contested sport that is enjoyed by many people of different age groups.

 The Triathalon’s rise to fame is considered one of the fastest to reach  Olympic status in such a short time. This is because in 1989, just about 15 years after it started, it was already awarded that honor and was featured at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney Australia.

It was also in 1989 when the International Triathlon Union was founded in Avignon, France and where the first championship was also held. The standard distances that were adapted in the Olympics are 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike ride, 10 km run.

Training for a Triathlon

The first step to training for a Triathlon is to pick a distance and a format that you’d like to compete in. Below are the various Triathlon distances and formats that one can compete in.

Choosing Triathlon Distance

Every Triathlon consists of 3 elements - the run, the swim and the cycling.

Here is a breakdown of the three elements involved in this sport according to the various formats that exist today.

  • Olympic

With the standard distance commonly used following Olympics guidelines, it involves 1.5 km (0.93 mi) of swimming, 40 km (24.8 mi) of biking and 10 km (6.2 mi) running.

  • ITU Long- distance Triathlon

Held over double the distance of the standard race, athletes and participants of this race needs high strength, stamina and endurance levels to complete the entire course, which has the following recorded distances:

  • Swim- 3 km (1.86 mi)
  • Bike- 80 km (49.6 mi)
  • Run- 20 km (12.4 mi)
  • Half Ironman Triathlon

Also referred to as Ironman 70.3 because of the total extent of the race, it consists of the following distances.

  • Swim- 2 km (1.2 mi)
  • Bike- 90 km  (56 mi)
  • Run-  21 km (13.1 mi)
  • Ironman Triathlon

A sport for the extreme fitness junkie, it covers the following distances:

  • Swim- 3.9 km (2.4 mi)
  • Bike- 180 km (112 mi)
  • Run 42 km (26.2 mi)

Starting Training

With these rigorous exercises, the training is expected to be high intensity, rough, and demanding as well. But according to experts and specialists, it may not be as daunting as one would normally presume and anticipate. With the help of a well-structured training plan, you can be prepared and ready to race in three months, even if you’re a beginner.

The initial part that you need to sort is deciding on the distance. Then, decide on your schedule as that will command the length and amount of time you will devote to training. As the eighth-time Ironman competitor, Sam Cardona recommends, one should commit to at least three days per week or an ideal six days a week training and concentrate on specific elements of the race per day. He lists the following training plan:


Start the week and your training with a 30-mimute swim. Focus on both your breathing and technique. The main focus should be on developing an efficient swimming stroke that maximizes energy use so that one has enough left in the gas tank to pursue the other aspect of the triathlon.


Increase your strength and endurance by challenging yourself to sprints. Knowing your race pace will greatly help for your speed, so you will know how to base your training exercises. The hill repeats on the other hand is for covering the same distance with consistent speed.


Spend 45 minutes in the pool to develop your endurance, hence try to limit breaks between laps as much as possible.


You can do a combination of an exercise bike session for 45 minutes and run immediately for 20 minutes after. The goal is to teach yourself to transition smoothly between cycling and running.


Fridays are your rest day. This is realizing that your muscles also need the time off to rebuild. Cardona suggests that it is best to rest after the highest intensity training as that enables your body to eliminate toxins and strengthens bone tissues. With this, you will be coming back stronger and well-prepared.


Weekends are reserved for the longest part of the race, which is the cycling. You can devote 60 to 90 minutes to a long outdoor ride.


To end the week, you can have a 5k tempo run. Start with a 15-minute warm up, then a 20 minute race pace. It aims to train you to do running at a fast but consistent pace. Increase the time you spent for the race each week until you will be able to run on the full distance of the race.

Supplemental Trainings

To help increase strength and stamina, you can do additional hill sprints training. This includes 10 x 30 seconds uphill sprints, then jog back all the way down and perform an easy 15-minute run. Make another 10 x 30 hill sprints before cooling down.

For the muscles, you can do strength exercises such as pullups, pushups, shoulder press, leg extensions and hamstring curls. This will also help the muscles to build endurance.

Tips for Hydration and Eating During the Race

Races such as this are expected to last for hours. Hence, you have also to practice and train yourself on how to hydrate and eat during the race. Regardless of whether it is a sports drink, energy bar or other snack, you need to be able to know how to consume them in motion. The following tips will help you out.

  • While it is a great idea to drink at every station, even if you don’t feel thirsty, you have to be mindful not to overhydrate to reduce the risk of hypothermia
  • Consider drinking Gatorade or another electrolyte drink along with water to avoid “water intoxication”.
  • Some fueling stations may offer some energy gels and bars that contain carbohydrates and caffeine. If you have tolerated the consumption of it before, then it can be a good energy replacement and maintaining blood-sugar levels.



The ironman competitions held everywhere only proves that this sport is growing in popularity and has gained more participants and audience through the years. One factor could be the fact that it is open to different age groups as it has several categories where one could fit in based on skill capacity. Tough as it is, training if planned and done properly and systematically can be less intimidating and could in fact be completed in just a reasonable amount of time. Following the growth rate, it seems that people will be seeing more of it in the future.

Author Bio: Billy Smith is a writer, fitness junkie, trekker, hiker, tech geek and adventurer extraordinaire. Having worked in the IT field for over 10 years, Billy now spends a lot of his time writing to inspire people to adopt a healthy lifestyle and to use technology responsibly. As the founder of, it is Billy’s endeavor to provide people with the best information and tools to transform their lives.