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5433 Views 9 Replies Latest reply: Feb 4, 2011 1:12 PM by ChristopherM of Boston
RunLabbyRun Rookie 6 posts since
Apr 23, 2010
Currently Being Moderated

Dec 21, 2010 5:48 AM

How does one go about training for their first triathlon?

I'm a good runner, an average biker, and a weak swimmer.  What's a good training method to address my lack of ability in the water?  Additionally, I don't own a road bike, only a mountain bike.  How would this affect my training?

  • BT.ROB Legend 270 posts since
    May 12, 2009

    To your first question, a little coaching never hurts. Being on Active's website helps as well. There are plenty of articles to read and videos as well here and elsewhere on the Web. Form is key, especially in swimming where you are moving through a thick medium. Biking with a mountain bike is ok but get slick tires (non-knobby) to reduce some of the road resistance. Most of all, swim, bike and run (and cross train with weight lifting, etc). After studying up, formulate a plan and be efficient in its execution. Don't do long miles just for the sake of long miles; get in intervals (short, fast bursts) in all disciplines. Run after a bike ride to get a feel of what it is like (the term "brick" is used). Find others to train with. Check at local gyms, bike shops, running stores, etc. Most of all, have fun and enjoy yourself.



  • KIKat Expert 27 posts since
    Sep 18, 2009

    Last summer I did my 1st tri and loved it.  Did 4 more sprints after that, one was XTERRA which was a lot of fun.

    I bought a wetsuit and got into open water as soon as there were lifeguards on duty.  I worked on swimming continuously for 30 minutes, whatever stroke.  Not sure if you can train with someone or a group, because there is a difference with all the people around you during the race.  It gets crowded and there's some kicking and shoving as well.

    Biking and running weren't a problem, but I recommend a few "brick" workouts so your legs get used to the feeling of running right after getting off the bike.

    I still like to work weight training in maybe twice a week.

    Good luck and have fun,


    If you say you can't, you're right.

    Twitter - KIKat1029

  • IronMakeover Community Moderator 738 posts since
    Jul 7, 2008

    Hey there,

    You're in a great place. I'm glad you came to active & also that you've decided to train for your first tri.



    - what distance?

    - how far out?

    - goals (time &/or other) for event?


    You mentioned you are weak in swimming, no problem. Are you comfortable in open-water? In groups? Or will you look for a pool-swim tri? It's totally fine to swim any pace as long as you are comfortable in the water. It's the riskiest segment of the three for accidents. I'd suggest taking a class, lessons, swimming with a masters group etc. There are also many videos on youtube & Dave Scott has some awesome clips on the activedotcom youtube channel.


    With your bike, I wouldn't worry about it. You'll see bikes of all kinds at races of all distances. I rode my basic, no shock, nothing fancy Trek mtn bike for several years in my first triathlons. I rode with tennis shoes (no bike shoes/pedals) and kept my nobby tires. You'll get more power/connection with clip-in pedals on any bike but get comfortable with them first before racing with them.


    Invite a friend or family member to train and race with you and sign up for an event to stay motivated.

    Enjoy & stay in touch,


    Sara Cox Landolt

  • cdubbs46 Amateur 18 posts since
    Mar 27, 2010

    I'm hoping to try a triathalon this next summer as well.  I have been an avid biker for a number of years and have done week long organized bike rides.  I started running in January of this past year and have run 5ks and one 10k.  I haven't really swam for years and am unsure about the swimming part.  I'm looking for advice on getting started as well.  Are there plenty of people at triathalons who aren't there to compete against anyone but just to prove to themselves that they can do it?  I like having a goal to motivate me.

    Iowa City River Run 5K

    Hudson Pump and Run 5K

    Torchlight 5K Minneapolis, MN

    Park to Park 5K Waterloo, IA

    Best Dam Run 8K Waverly, IA

    Sullivan Bros 10K Waterloo, IA

  • Hugo S. Amateur 9 posts since
    Sep 16, 2009

    Greate advise from the previous posters.  If I had to do it again I would get swiming lessons.  Try to find some one to help you with the sport of Tri; the Total Immersion swimming is a great way to go.  Swimming is more like golf than running.  Technique, technique, technique.


    One additional avenue is to find a super sprint to start with.  I participated in the Meek&Mighty in April 2010 (200 yards in a pool, 5 mile bike, and a 1 mile run).  This helped with putting it all together and now training for my first Olympic distance.


    And yes there are all sorts of Tri-ath-letes out there; serious age-grouper, loose weight people, get fit people, just for fun people, bucket-list people, and some of the most "curvey" shapes are actually quite fast and motivated.  Above all have fun!

  • Anthony5450 Amateur 25 posts since
    Nov 17, 2010

    Hhmmm...lots of questions here! Getting some advice that's all in one place might be a good idea. Have you checked out an official triathlon training program? I reviewed a very good one here: It's really great and is put together by a numerous Ironman finisher. Good luck!

    Sprint Triathlon Training Program

  • RunrGrl71 Amateur 12 posts since
    Feb 1, 2010

    WOW I am training for my 1st Tri also....I've got the bike down, I am a spin class junkie and own a super nice Trek mtn bike, I have run 5K's, 10K's and a half marathon.  While I'm no Olympian I have done well with no injuries.  I was on swim team in high school and college as well as track so I think I've got some good background.  In addition to your questions where is all my stuff (bike helmet, run shoes, bike) while I am doing these various intervals.....I bought a tri suit so I won't have to change clothes as I've read it slows you down.    For my 1st Tri I am doing .25 swim/11 bike/ 3.3 run.....all on my 40th b-day!!!  Good luck to you on your Tri I hope you KILL IT!!  Happy Training



    • 13.1 Half Marathon Venice Beach
    • March 18 2012 LA Honda Marathon
    • March 23, 2012 Torrey Pines Race for Research (3rd yr competing) Port St Lucie FL
    • April 7, 2012 Hollywood Red Carpet Half Marathon
  • ChristopherM of Boston Amateur 22 posts since
    Aug 23, 2010

    Great questions, and here are four steps that should help get you going:


    1 – Planning.  Either on a website or in a book (everyone seems to love Friel’s Triathlete's Training Bible), there are plenty of official triathlon training plans available for competitors of all ability levels.  Find one that seems to fit you and stick to it.


    2 – Coaching.  I never realized how technical swimming could be until I started training; very much like golf, success in the water is more dependent on form than strength or endurance.  A beginner triathlete doesn’t need a full time triathlon coach, but if you’re a weak swimmer, a swim coach with an understanding of triathlon is worth their weight in goal.


    3 – Open Water Swims.  The biggest challenge I faced was going from a nice, calm, clean pool in swim trunks to a salty, wavy ocean in a wetsuit.  Once your official training plan is underway, you should try to get at least one open water swim in per week.


    4 - Gear up.  I just finished the first of a two part blog series on equipping yourself on the cheap for your first triathlon.  Check it out, and see if it helps any:


    RunrGrl71, good question about your gear – this is a classic newbie question that doesn’t get addressed enough.  Before the race, you’ll lay out all your gear in a stall in the transition area – this is where you’ll change from one discipline’s gear to the next: come out of the water and dump your wetsuit, and your bike and helmet will be waiting, ready to go.  Come back and drop your bike, and your running shoes will be there.  The transition area is guarded by race staff, so no one will swipe your gear while you’re competing.


    Piece of advice for any new triathlete: if you can, go to a local race and watch the competitors come through transition.  It’ll give you a great idea of how the race works.  If you can’t, check out the youtube videos; just search for “triathlon transition.”


    Hope that helps!

    -Christopher M

    Boston, MA

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