Train Like a Triathlete

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Train Like a Triathlete

Triathlons are not for everyone—the training is intense, and it takes a huge time commitment. You can’t just decide to do a triathlon on a lark. Without proper long-term training, you risk injury and worse.

Traditionally a triathlon consists of a swim, bike ride and run ranging in distance from Sprint distances of ¼-mile swim, 12 to 16-mile bike, 5k run, to Olympic distance 1.5k swim, 40k bike ride, 10k run, to a half-Ironman distance 12-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, 13.1-mile run to a full Ironman distance 2.4-mile swim, 12-mile bike, 26.2-mile run.

The benefits of triathlete training, even for those not competing in a triathlon, are many, including cross training for any sport using different muscle groups, cardio fitness and endurance, strength and the challenge of learning a new sport.

Active.com recommends the following workout to train for a triathlon—or to train like a triathlete.

Swim workouts

Swim 1: (Focus = body position)

Warm up: 200 Free (Easy), 6x100 (25 Kick/25 Free/25 Drill/25 Free) with 15" rest.

Main set: 20x50 with 10" rest as 5 kick on side (left side 25/right side 25), 5 kick on back for 25/25 free, 5 kick on side (left side 25/right side 25), 5 as 50 free (fins optional for whole set).

Warm down: 200 easy choice.

Notes: Focus on body leaning into the water, be comfortable with water around edges of face and mouth.

Swim 2: (Focus = distance per stroke)

Warm up: 200 Free, 6x100 as alt. 100 Free/100 Stroke (20")

Main set: 4x(3x100 with 15" rest). First 100 as S-2 stroke, second as S-3 strokes, third as S-4 strokes (hand paddles okay for second and fourth set only).

Warm down: 200 easy choice.

Notes: Count strokes per length on the last 25 of the warm-up 100s; average and remember number -- this is your S (or Stroke) number. Remember, "S-2 strokes" means 2 less strokes per length (not per 100!).

Bike workouts

Bike 1: (Focus = speed skill)

Warm up: 15 minutes easy spinning.

Main set: 7x (1 minute spin-up/3 minute easy spin).

Warm down: 7 minutes' easy spinning.

Notes: Spin-ups should be 30 seconds building to fast cadence -- so your butt is bouncing around -- back off until the bouncing stops, and maintain for remaining 30 seconds).

Bike 2: (Focus = endurance)

Warm up: 20 minutes steady

Main set: 30 minutes steady with 30-second spin-ups every 5 seconds.

Warm down: 10 minutes easy spinning.

Notes: Use spin-ups to maintain technique emphasis.

Run workouts

Run 1: (Focus = turnover)

Warm up: 10 minutes easy jogging to get loose.

Main set: 20 minutes as 5x (2 minutes @ 20 LFS/1 minute @ 22 LFS/1 minute @ 24 LFS).

Warm down: 5 minutes easy jog.

Notes: LFS = "left foot strikes" -- the number is set for 15-second intervals (so 22 LFS would be about 88/minute).

Run 2: (Focus = endurance)

Warm up: 10 minutes easy jogging to get loose.

Main set: 30 minutes steady run (check cadence!).

Warm down: 5 minutes easy jog.

Notes: Keep the turnover up! Minimum of 22 left foot strikes every 15 seconds -- check every 5 during main set!