The Best Triathlon Training Programs

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When you combine swimming, biking and running you get the sport of Triathlon. There are a variety of distances which triathletes compete in, and the distance of a race will determine the best triathlon training program. Short triathlons are called sprints and include a 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike and five-kilometer run. The Ironman triathlon is much longer and harder to train for as it is the compilation of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run (a marathon). Before starting a triathlon training program, you need to know how long your race will be.

Swim Training

  • Swim training should include two to three swim workouts weekly of 30 minutes each. The basic goal of these workouts is to complete the 750 meters without stopping. Most athletes train in a swimming pool so 750 meters would be equal to 15 laps. If the athlete is new to swimming, it may not be possible to complete one lap without stopping.

    For athletes training to compete in longer-distance triathlons, such as Olympic or long, the swim distances will increase to 1.5 kilometer and 1.9 kilometer. This means it will be necessary to swim up to 38 laps in the pool without stopping, which can be extremely difficult. Throughout training, combine speed drills with endurance drills to try and reach the goal of 38 laps without stopping.

    Sample Swim Drills:

    Speed: 4 x 100 (complete 100 yards four times). Take 15-second breaks after each 100 yards.

    Speed: 8 x 25 with 15-second breaks.

    Speed: 4 x 200 with 30-second breaks, followed by 4 x 100 with 30-second breaks and 4 x 50 with 30-second breaks.

    Endurance: 2 x 500 with a 60-second break.

    Endurance: 4 x 250 with 60-second breaks.

    Endurance: 2 x 1000 with 60- to 180-second breaks.

Bike Training

  • Beginning bike training requires time to get used to being on the bike for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours depending on the length of the triathlon. Bike drills concentrate on leg strength and endurance. Shorter-distance triathlons, such as sprint distance, require less than an hour of time on the bike for race day, but longer races, such as Olympic and long-distance triathlons, may require two to three hours on the bike.

    Sample Bike Drills:

    Strength: Ride a 30-minute bike route that includes at least one steep hill.

    Strength: Ride out of the saddle (not sitting down) for 30 seconds every five minutes of your bike ride. This drill can be included in any training session.

    Endurance: Ride 10 miles with a five-minute break, followed by a 20-mile ride.

    Endurance: Ride for 90 minutes without breaks. Speed and distance covered is not a concern; concentrate on staying moving for 90 minutes.

Run Training

  • The run portion of a triathlon is the last leg of the race and will delve deep into the athlete's fitness reserves. For this reason, overall endurance is important as well as running-specific endurance. Times become more important as athletes advance in the triathlon competitions, but time is not as important for beginning athletes who are working for a finish in the race and not necessarily trying to win the competition.

    Through swim and bike training overall endurance and fitness will increase throughout a training regimen. Run distance training should concentrate on the distance which needs to be completed for race day.

    Sample Run Drills:

    Endurance: Run for 10 minutes without stopping. If this is easy, then up the time to 20 minutes.

    Endurance: Run for 60 minutes. If necessary, take short 30-second walking breaks, but no more than once per every five minutes.

    Endurance: Run at a pace for 30 minutes. Choose the pace based on what feels comfortable for you. If your goal is one hour for a 10-kilometer run, then your pace needs to be 10 minutes a mile. Figure out the pace you plan to run on race day and complete this drill weekly to measure your progress toward your race-day goals.

Ironman Triathlon Training

  • Because the Ironman Triathlon is so long, it does require its own breed of training. You must look at the entire race and not just specific legs within the race. Training schedules often need to be split into a morning and evening workout so you can accomplish all aspects of the training. Injury prevention is also an important aspect of Ironman training; taking one day off each week can help give muscles the necessary rest time to reduce injuries.

    Sample Weekly Training Schedule:

    Monday: Swim speed drills and short run.

    Tuesday: Long bike ride.

    Wednesday: Swim endurance and short bike ride.

    Thursday: Long run.

    Friday: Swim speed drills and short bike ride.

    Saturday: Bike endurance ride with transition to endurance run.

    Sunday: Off.

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  • Photo Credit triathlon image by Pascal Péchard from Fotolia.com
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