Are you thinking of racing your first triathlon? There can be a million questions that you might have so I’m creating a Beginner Triathlon Series.
When I decided to train for my first triathlon I was lucky that my running coach actually had a program designed just for moms that wanted to get into the sport. Tri With Skye is a group that caters to moms with busy schedules and those with little to no experience swimming, biking or running. But if you do not live in Jacksonville, Florida, you do not have this amazing group near by.
If you are training for your first Sprit Triathlon, which tend to vary in distance, but are usually around a 500 meter swim, 15 mile bike and 3.1 mile run, here are some guidelines and advice I followed.
How much time should I allow to prepare and train?
Couch to Sprint Triathlon! Don’t swim, never biked, and haven’t ran a mile? No worries!
Plan on 8 weeks of training for at least 6 hours a week. This is a hard question to answer because it depends on your current activity level and abilities.
Swimming (1 hour a week, 2 days):
First of all, do you know how to swim? When I started training for my first Sprint Triathlon I couldn’t put my head into the water without hyperventilating. So, my only goal for a whole month was to put my face in the water while I stood in the pool and not freak out! By the end of the month I could float with my head down and not hyperventilate. That was huge for me. By my second Sprint Triathlon I could swim a mile and concentrated on form.
If you are starting from scratch or want to make sure you even have form there are many different swim programs for adults in any city. I went to a Swim Clinic at Planet Swim through Tri With Skye that went over correct freestyle form. If you need more than just a single clinic there are Master’s Classes (for seasoned swimmers), swim coaches (that specialize in triathlon training), and even swim classes for adults at many local pools and college campuses.
I highly recommend attending at least one Swim Clinic before starting your swim training. That way you can be sure you are thinking about form while you are building your distance. I used an App called “Swim a Mile” to build my distance between each of my training sessions. It breaks down a weekly swim schedule to reach a mile, so you only need to follow it up to 500-700 meters to prepare for a Sprint Triathlon.
Biking (2-3 hours a week, 2-3 days):
You’re either a biker or a runner. At least that’s what I’ve heard in the triathlon world. I was a runner. I had never been on a bike and the idea of getting out on the road and putting my life in the hands of drivers who weren’t paying attention scared the life out of me! So, a group to ride with was extremely important to me, and a beginner one at that. Being on the road is vital to race day, spin classes are a wonderful supplement once a week or when it’s raining but cannot train you for race day like being on your bike will.
Find a biking group near you. Trust me, they are in every city or town. You can contact your local bike shop, they usually have information on local groups. You can also check Facebook and MeetUp for “No Drop Rides,” these are groups that will make sure not to lose you even if you are the last one in the pack.
If biking is your weakness, plan on being on your bike 3 days a week. After at least two of your bike sessions you will then run. This is called a “brick.”
Running (1-2 hours a week, 3-4 days):
Are you going from a couch to a 5K? Then check out a plan like this by Jeff Galloway. If you’re an avid runner you could go with a plan more like this from Hal Higdon. But neither of these plans include your swim and bike. So, how do you get it all in? That wonderful brick session I just mentioned. You will run after you bike and then once a week you will run without the brick, usually speed work.
Although I had ran a few marathons before I started training for triathlons it was very hard to get used to bricks. Your legs are tired after a bike ride!
You could try to piece together a swim workout, a biking schedule, and a running plan yourself but I don’t recommend it. If you can’t find a beginner triathlon group near you I would contact a triathlon coach in your area for a plan that is catered to your activity and ability level. It will give you the best experience in training and racing your first triathlon.
You can also contact Tri With Skye who does virtual personalized training plans.
There are training plans that are not personalized available. A great resource for beginning triathlete moms is Swim Bike Mom which offers plans and online groups.