How to Prepare for a Triathlon

Learn how to prepare for a triathlon in a few easy steps. There are so many factors: swimming, biking, running. How can you be sure you've trained adequately in each concentration? Here are some tips to help you train for your next triathlon.

The first thing you need to do to prepare for a triathlon is to determine the length of the triathlon you'll compete in. This will determine how you'll train. If you've never participated in a triathlon before, it's a good idea to start out with a sprint triathlon, which is generally a 750 m swim, a 20 km bike ride and a 5 km run. For first-timers or those who may not be in top physical condition, completion is a worthy goal for your triathlon. You'll gain exposure to the rigors of the triathlon as well as the intricacies, such as transitioning, which can make a major difference in your performance.

Now it's time to design a plan. Your base should depend on your current fitness level. If you're not a regular runner, swimmer or biker, you should start slowly with a modest distance. Doing too much too quickly can cause serious injury. At a minimum, it will probably lead to sore knees, which can hamper or even halt your training. Never increase your distance by more than 10% per week.

You may choose to train either by distance or by time. For example, the average run length in a sprint triathlon is 5 km (3.1 miles). So, you can either work yourself up to that distance (and preferably a bit farther), or you can train your body to be able to run 30 to 45 minutes straight (or longer).

Start by training for just one leg of the triathlon per day, training for each once or twice per week. Each week you should have a minimum of one rest day where you do nothing. As your training progresses, combine workouts. Swim and then bike. Bike and then run. If you're feeling particularly energetic, aim to do all three in one day. Combining the sports can help you practice your transitions. The transition is the point at which you come out of the water and get yourself ready to bike and get off the bike and prepare to run.

If you're participating in a sprint triathlon, you have several options for the transition. You can do the whole triathlon in your swimsuit, putting running sneakers on to compete in the bike and running portion of the race (provided your race doesn't require you pin your number to a shirt). Or you can change clothes, wear shoes designed specifically for your bike and then change into running sneakers for the last leg. Whatever you decide to do, you should be comfortable with the transition before the triathlon, because you can lose a lot of time there.

Ultimately, choose a program that is feasible considering your ability and goals and stick with it. Keep in mind when determining how to prepare for a triathlon, the more fun your training is, the more likely you are to complete your training.

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