Trek rider racing at a triathlon

Thinking of doing a triathlon? Here are some tips on how to start

Editors Note: A version of this article was originally published at the MEC blog


Probably the most important step you can take to light a motivational fire under your butt is to actually register for a triathlon event. Signing up gives you a very clear timeline and a sense of urgency.

Once you are registered find yourself some training partners. Most of the time we are less willing to let someone else down than we are to let ourselves down. Training with a group or friend is a great way to stay motivated.

On days that you are struggling to find motivation, always remind yourself of the “why” you are doing this. Everyone has their own “why” and there are no wrong answers. It can be anything from a bucket list item to a change in lifestyle to setting a good example for your kids. Reminding yourself of the “why” will keep you going on even the toughest days.


Training for a triathlon can seem overwhelming because there are three sports to contend with. A simple approach that addresses the basic energy systems and some of the key components of a triathlon are all you need in place to have success.

There are several key workouts you will need to fit in to have success in a triathlon.

  1. Bike to Run workout (running off the bike)
  2. Open water swim
  3. Long Aerobic Run
  4. Shorter, faster bike workout
  5. Shorter, faster run workout

Most people have time on the weekends to do longer training sessions. As such you can cross number 1 and number 3 off the list. Combining a long aerobic (65-70% effort) bike ride with a short run off the bike on a Saturday is all you need to get used to running off the bike.  Your long run can take place on Sunday’s.

Number 2 can be a bit more complicated. Open water swimming is best done in groups primarily for safety reasons. Finding a group can be challenging but many communities do have open water swim groups. If you can’t find a group then recruit a friend or family member to join you.

Once you have those workouts in place you can fill in a couple more holes. It’s a great idea to hit some more intense energy systems throughout the week and ideally spread apart by at least 48 hours to maximize recovery. A bike and a run workout with some faster, shorter intervals will go a long way to helping you be race ready.

A very basic week could look like this:

Monday- Off/Recovery from the weekend

Tuesday- Bike- Short, fast intervals or hill work

Wednesday- Open water swim

Thursday- Run- short, fast intervals or hill work

Friday- Pool swim

Saturday- Long Aerobic bike ride (2+hours) with a run off the bike (15 minutes)

Sunday- Long Aerobic run (60+ minutes)

Achieving Balance

Achieving a balanced program when considering a triathlon can be challenging. The first thing you need to do is look at the type of triathlon you are doing.

If you are doing an Olympic distance event you can create a more balanced approach and ideally aim for three sessions per week per sport.  If you are doing an Ironman event however you may want to weight the bike and run portion of your training a bit more heavily because of the length. Certainly if you break it down from an hourly perspective you should be spending way more time biking and running.

The second aspect you need to consider is your own personal strengths and weaknesses. If you are a great cyclist but cannot swim then it’s a good idea to make sure you can get comfortable in the water and you may want to spend extra time swimming.


Triathlon is an equipment intensive sport but don’t be overwhelmed. You can get yourself to the start line and across the finish line with a few basic essentials. Here is what you will need.

  1. Wetsuit
  2. Swim suit
  3. Goggles
  4. Bike (anything will do- mountain, road, cross, triathlon)
  5. Bike shoes
  6. Helmet
  7. Running shoes

There may be three sports but you only need one outfit to get from A to B. You can get one or two-piece triathlon swimsuits that are appropriate for the bike and run as well. Triathlon is notorious for fancy bikes but you don’t need a top of the line time trial bike to get there. In fact, any bike will do in the beginning. After all, the goal is to have fun and take part so a mountain bike or road bike is totally fine. Keep it simple, keep it relaxed, and keep it fun!

Rest and Recovery

The importance of rest and recovery in your program cannot be overstated. Most people think that training is what makes you stronger. In fact, it is the recovery from hard training that makes you stronger. When you train you break your body down. When you recover your body rebounds to a higher level- that is the most basic principal of training. Including an easier/recovery day into your weekly schedule is essential for success.

Strengths and Weaknesses

One of the best aspects of triathlon is that everyone will have strengths and weaknesses. If you struggle running, you may be one of the best cyclists. If you are an awesome swimmer, you may struggle on the run. Triathlon is a sport where everyone has their shining event and everyone has their challenging event. You may be last out of the water but you have a bike and run section to catch people. Or you may be first out of the water and become the hunted. There is no shortage of excitement and no shortage of equalizing and this is part of the reason why triathlon has become so popular.

2 thoughts on “Thinking of doing a triathlon? Here are some tips on how to start”

  1. This image is the wrong shape! Boooooo. :) Please don’t approve this message. But do please let me know if you get this message by email notification! Cheers.

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