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6925 Views 7 Replies Latest reply: Mar 25, 2011 9:15 PM by thecenterline
Kmarie115 Rookie 1 posts since
Mar 10, 2011
Currently Being Moderated

Mar 10, 2011 8:26 AM

How long should I train for my first sprint tri?

Hi All! I am new to this website and to the tri world! I completed my first ever 5k last fall and this summer I decided to shoot for a triathlon. I just started graduate school, in addition to working a full time job, so I'm questioning why on earth I decided to add a triathlon to my never ending to-do list.  Anyway, the race is in mid July which gives me a total of 4 months to train.  Currently, I am lucky if I make it to the gym 3 days a week-this needs to change, I know!  I found a few training schedules online that recommend training 6 days a week which is just unrealistic for me time wise.  I am an okay runner (meaning I will survive 3 miles, not excel) and I've never really biked or swam.  I can't imagine the biking being too difficult but I am worried about the swim.  To add one more issue, I live in WI so its still freezing outside-literally.  Help!!  Is completing this race realistic? How should I be training in order to make the most out of the time I do have?  Any advice would be great as I already registered for the tri so I'm giving it a whirl, I just hope I don't die in the process!

  • KurtinSC Pro 126 posts since
    Nov 23, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    1. Mar 10, 2011 11:14 AM (in response to Kmarie115)
    Re: How long should I train for my first sprint tri?

    The first, most obvious question is... can you swim?


    The follow up if you can... can you swim freestyle or are you more of a doggie-paddler?


    If you can swim a freestyle stroke already... even if it's not efficient and you get tired easily... then you can be ready for the swim portion by the time of the race.  I have a swimming background, but I worked with a group of coworkers who were very sketchy swimmers and got them to the point where they could get through the 400 meter swim for our event.


    The best thing to do find someone who has a swimming background and get them to watch you swim a couple of times and give you pointers... or if you're more serious hire a coach or join a masters swim team.  Swimming is all about technique... physical fitness is much less of a factor.  I was the least fit of our work group who did a sprint last year... and I was 4 minutes faster then the next closest person in the swim.  Of course they all finished ahead of me overall... because running and cycling are MUCH more dependent on overall fitness.


    At a bare minimum, I'd say you should get to the pool twice a week.  You can walk during the run and pedal slowly for the bike... but stopping swimming (especially in an open water event) isn't really an option.  You don't have to be fast, but you need to be confident about the distance.


    You also do need to practice the cycling some, and especially get some brick (bike/run) workouts in.  Your legs will feel like jelly going from the bike to the run... you need to be prepared for that feeling.


    Based on what I experienced and what I saw from my co-workers... you'll want to work on whatever you feel the least confident about first and most.

  • Joe_h1 Community Moderator 1,833 posts since
    Jul 9, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    2. Mar 10, 2011 1:42 PM (in response to KurtinSC)
    Re: How long should I train for my first sprint tri?

    totally agree w/ kurts post work on your weakest events the most  and since it's harder to bluff a bad swim I suggest you double down on that till you get comfortable.  definitely get someone to watch you if possible get lessons or try (a swim teach w/ a coach for adults)  you have plenty of time to get it all together but find a plan that works w/ your schedule and have at it.  keep us posted on your progress

    goals for 2011:

    break 19minutes for 5k

    break 2:42 for olympic triathlon probably Anthracite olympic

    break 3:16 for marathon ( a long shot but it's fun putting yourself out there)

  • cbjhkygal Rookie 4 posts since
    Apr 13, 2010
    Currently Being Moderated
    3. Mar 16, 2011 9:35 AM (in response to Kmarie115)
    Re: How long should I train for my first sprint tri?

    Completing your race is absolutely realistic.  I completed my first sprint triathlon last June after just 10 weeks of of training under the direction of  a USAT-L1 Tri Coach.  We met once a week for 2 - 2 1/2 hours.  I was very weak in all disciplines but more so in the swim and run so my early training focused on those two disciplines.  I spent a lot of time in the pool and once the weather permitted, did an open water swim.  I think I did my first open water swim the week prior to the race.  What is important and I found extremely helpful is doing brick workouts.  Once I got the swim and run basics down - I focused on doing a swim/bike workout then a bike/run workout.  I would divide the time up between the disciplines and as I got stronger would divide the time further into swim/bike/swim/bike then bike/run/bike/run workouts.  I'm lucky enough to belong to a health center that has a fantastic lap pool - but I would definitely join a swim club or facility that had a pool.  If your in graduate school - I'm sure you could use the pool at the university.  Aside from my specific training session - I think I was working out an additional 3-4 times a week for no more than an hour (total of 5-6 hours a week).  I would suggest taking whatever schedule you got online and re-working it to fit into your schedule.  Focus on your weak disciplines to begin then as you get comfortable get back to running.  I hope you find this helpful.  Crossing the finish line was the best feeling I've ever had.  I did 5 more races last year and hope to complete 12 this season.  Tri and Duathlons are addictive.  Good luck to you.  

  • BT.ROB Legend 270 posts since
    May 12, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    4. Mar 17, 2011 9:58 AM (in response to Kmarie115)
    Re: How long should I train for my first sprint tri?

    Welcome! You absolutely have plenty of time to train for a sprint triathlon. You have great suggestions already from other posters. My general feeling is that anyone with a modicum of fitness, some swim technique and a bike can finish a sprint triathlon. My first two (at age 50) I did the backstroke 90% of the way. Looking for the buoys was more difficult, but I can backstroke fairly straight. Then I got some coaching and practiced technique. Two years later I did a full ironman distance tri and swam freestyle the whole 2.4 miles. Lakes are still frozen here too so it is pool swimming for awhile. If you can get an hour a day in for trainng, that should be sufficient. A couple of additional pointers: your race, if in open water (not a pool), will probably allow wetsuits. You will want to try some out so check if a local running/triathlon/biking store rents them. It will take some getting used to but the buoyancy factor is significant and helps put your mind at ease if you have any anxiety about open water swimming (you bob like a cork in a tri wetsuit). Also, check out YouTube for videos about setting up your Transition area. Finally, if you already have a bike, any bike, great. Mountain bikes are fine, just use skinnier, slick tires (not knobby tires). Make sure it is in good working order and that you have a helmet!


    Feel free to post any and all your questions as you go along, let us know how the training is going and when the day arrives how your race went. Good luck and have fun!



  • IronMakeover Community Moderator 738 posts since
    Jul 7, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    5. Mar 18, 2011 3:35 PM (in response to Kmarie115)
    Re: How long should I train for my first sprint tri?

    Hey there Kmarie115!

    Welcome & hello from another Wisconsin-based triathlete.


    Which event are you signed up for? I think 4 months is almost perfect, depending on your current level of fitness and on your exectations for the race.

    Don't worry, you can do this without getting crazy or spending tons of money.


    Do you own a bike?


    Enjoy the milder weather,


    Sara Cox Landolt

  • DDChies1 Expert 42 posts since
    May 19, 2010
    Currently Being Moderated
    6. Mar 23, 2011 8:53 AM (in response to Kmarie115)
    Re: How long should I train for my first sprint tri?

    I'm in MN so I feel your pain.  Swim in the pool, bike on the trainer, run on the treadmill.  Stinks, but you have to sometimes.


    Check your local bookstore for a cheap beginner Tri book with a training plan. Or, search online.  You should be able to find TONS.


    Most beginner plans are 12-16 weeks, I think 12 is plenty, if you are reasonably fit.  Even simple plans don't have you do more than 2hrs a day - and that is bike only.  Most days are 30-60 minutes.


    Adapt the schedule so it can it YOUR needs.  If you only can make 3 days a week, then ok.


    You will do just fine - the goal for your first tri is to finish with a smile on your face!   Welcome to the tri world!

  • thecenterline Amateur 10 posts since
    Jan 21, 2010
    Currently Being Moderated
    7. Mar 25, 2011 9:15 PM (in response to Kmarie115)
    Re: How long should I train for my first sprint tri?

    Hey Kmarie115,


    I love it when I see someone feel the pull towards tri!  A GREAT resource (especially considering you're in grad school) is a new book called The Time-Crunched Triathlete.  It's written by Chris Carmichael who is Lance Armstrong's coach.  The book has some solid, scientific-based info on everything from nutrition to swim drills.  There are a few training plans in the book specifically designed for sprint and olympic distance races and require 8 hours of training (or less) each week.  It's an awesome book and has helped me prepare for an upcoming olympic distance race in April. 


    If you have any follow-up questions, feel free to email me at and I'll do my best to point you in the right direction   Good luck on your race!

    "If you set a goal for yourself and are able to achieve it, you have won your race." Dave Scott

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