If you go online you will find countless posts trying to sell you on Triathlon training plans for veterans and beginners.
They will all throw catchy titles at you, such as:
8 Week Sprint Training Plan
Half Ironman Training Plan – Do Better at Your Next Half Ironman!
But this is all garbage, junk, clickbait... As you can see from this picture alone!
Now let me preface this by saying there are some good sources out there, a few people whom are also Triathletes whom legitimately want to help. I am not referring to the few, I am referring to the majority.
That said, as you have seen in my previous blog, I am counting down to my first Half Ironman in good ol’ Kona, Hawai’i and what better time than to give all my fellow current and future triathletes a FREE training plan right here on DocTriathlon!
After all that’s why I started this blog.
So over the next 18 weeks I will be providing everyone my daily routine and what I did leading up to my race. For now though, while I am a few more days on surgery recovery, let’s talk about what I did to get started in training before this site was launched.
Okay so the obvious, let’s get this out of the way.
There are different distances in triathlon, so your training end result will vary based on what you choose to do.
Want to do a Sprint Triathlon as your first Tri?
Well then you need to be competent at running a 5k.
Want to do an Ironman as your first Tri?
Well then you need to be able to run a full marathon, about 26 miles!
I am NOT one of those people that are going to say you have to do a Sprint Triathlon before you can do an Olympic or a Half-Ironman.
I believe you can accomplish WHATEVER Triathlon distance you want as your first one. You have to come prepared to work. You cannot give up.
So now that my motivational pep talk is out of the way all Triathlons are inherently the same from there.
The only thing that changes is the distance!
From my perspective people training to compete in Triathlons, or anything in really, should go after their weakest ability first. For me this was clear cut and the same as it is for most Triathletes…. The Swim.
Swim Training for Triathlons comes in two parts, Open Ocean Swims and pool swimming.
This varies based on where your race will be and what you have available to you based on where you live. So for interest of this being part one of this guide, lets go with where everyone will probably, and should for safety reasons, start… THE POOL!
So grab your favorite swimwear and head to the nearest pool! You can do this in anything, no need for fancy gear or sexy speedos at this point. It is just time to get your feet wet.
So for me personally, I was a terrible swimmer. I knew how to swim, I even surfed. But I did not have endurance to swim for any length of time, without something to help me float. I also was terrible at having my face in the water, so from a swimming for triathlon standpoint, I was at ground zero. And overall my swim stroke was honestly pretty bad.
So for about a month I did nothing but follow this guys advice:
“I blow my bu-bbles”….
I used to hum this in my car.
I would have a bowl of water in front of me on the couch and would practice while I watched TV.
I did this religiously.
When I went to the gym, every day was nothing but blowing bubbles in the pool and then doing my best to do as many slow steady laps as I could while….
Blowing bubbles in the pool!
I know it sounds boring but, when you are bad at something, it has to go back to basics.
Once you get this breathing down, you will know when you do because you will hum this randomly, it is easy from there!
After the breathing in the pool was fairly easy it was then just about distance which is where you want to be!
Remember, ALL triathlons foundations are the same.
The only thing that changes is distance.
So from there, and continuing now as I train, all I have to work on is increasing my pool distance.
Me, knowing that I am doing a half-ironman, I need to be able to swim about 1.4 miles in the open ocean.
So my training start as me doing 400m four days a week, and as many as I could in 1 hour every Friday.
My reasoning for this was 4 days out of the week was to improve my muscle memory and not lose sight of my basics, while improving them. Then Friday’s were all about getting as close to 1.4 miles as possible.
The 1 hour cut off time was something I personally set due to the race cut off time and the maximum time I would want to be in that length of the race.
So onto Cycling!
The Cycling portion was the next piece I decided to train for. Why?
I think the last time I had road a bike before I started Triathlon I was 10. So I had a good 20 year learning gap to cover and zero road bike or cycling experience.
Where to go from here?!
First thing was first, riding a bike. To ride a bike I needed to own a bike.
So to the bike shop I went.
I will not turn this into a bike review or buying guide for getting into triathlon. For now just know that any bike will do for short distances. If you are aiming at Olympic Triathlon distances or higher you probably want to get a road bike.
You can do full ironman’s on a road bike so start there!
I bought a low end road bike, I am talking sub $1000 and I got it on Black Friday as well. Your goal at this point is to build your basics.
When you buy a new road bike from any local bike shop they are going to give you a bike fit on the spot for free. If they do not offer this, take a walk to the next bike shop because that one sucks!
If you are like me the part of this that is going to feel weird is that your feet will not be able to touch the ground. You MAYBE will be able to touch a toe on the ground with your road bike fit if you are lucky but I wasn’t so for me this was a challenge!
So I practiced most of my riding at designated places. For me this was local parks, my street, places that I would not have to deal with a ton of people or moving vehicles. I knew I would not be good at getting on and off the bike at this point. I also knew I would not be able to handle long rides either.
Once however you are comfortable in the saddle, fancy term for a bike seat, it is now the same as the swim. How long can you stay seated on the bike saddle? How many miles can you ride for in one session in the saddle? Can you do the number of miles you need to for your race (and before your race cut off time)?
A lot of articles and Triathletes will tell you that the bike is the main thing that gets a direct correlation to time in saddle = increase in speed, performance and overall race time.
Biking helps ALL parts of Triathlon so you need to log some hours. The longer you sit in the bike saddle, surprisingly, the faster you get. Even without trying. I started struggling to hold 12 mph for about 6 miles. I now get around 20mph for an hour or two easily. Time in saddle = better cycling performance.
So my next step from obviously is how can I log the most time actually simulating a race. Which mean sitting in the saddle for hours (depending on race) on end. That means no stopping for stop lights or cars etc…
For this reason alone, if you are looking to do a Triathlon, I highly recommend you grab yourself an indoor bike trainer. It does not have to be a fancy indoor smart trainer if you are just getting started. The specific one I got was this one:
As you can see nothing fancy! But it works great and we have logged a lot of miles together!
From this point, the same as swimming it is now all about distance!
So currently I cycle 3-4 days a week with Saturday/Sunday being my long days where I will go for over an hour and a day or two during the week I will log 30-40 mins. This schedule fluctuates for me the most as it is based on work, I don’t get paid to race and I started this to help and for fun so net profit = zero!
So for the sake of simplicity my average training at this point of the guide is something like this:
Last but not least we will move onto the run!
Honestly this part is cake.
I can say that I have done little to no real training for running, ever.
There are definitely things that you can do to perfect your running process, such as making sure you have good form and you can control your breathing. But the running I feel falls into place as you get more and more used to cycling. This is a large reason why I say and agree with others that time in the saddle = overall triathlon improvement.
After spending a few weeks of riding on my indoor bike trainer I randomly decided before my swim one day, back when I was still blowing my bubbles in the pool, that I would run a 5k. And I did! Quite easily actually. I felt like I could have finished a 10k without much problem as I had a good pace that while not competing in time trials was a solid pace for finishing at marathons if I could hold it.
So far this has been the case.
I do add in running periodically in the form of “brick workouts” as they are called in triathlon.
A brick workout is doing two triathlon distance events back to back. So for in the instance of running leading up to a triathlon, I start doing indoor cycling trainer rides for an hour and then transition to going outside for a run for 20 minutes. I tend to keep this kind of 3 to 1 ratio. I also do this at the gym during the week and will go run on the treadmill for a 5k or 10k and then head on down to the pool for a brick workout and swim my 400m or if it’s a Friday then for an hour.
This is the extent of real training you need to do for running. Like all aspects of Triathlon it is about can you hit that distance.
Fortunately, cycling increases your leg strength and endurance so it transitions to running phenomenally well. Cycling does use way more muscle groups though than running so this transition does not work both ways. So do NOT think you can go run for days and then you will be able to hold up on the bike. The bike will turn your legs to jelly in an instance.
So my final weekly training plan looks something like this by the end of my beginning stage of triathlon training:
Keep in mind these distances were based on the races I wanted to achieve first! If you are only after doing a Sprint as your first distance you can go small on the runs as the 5k is your end point!
It doesn’t end here though! Starting this next week we will be updating this blog daily with what I did that day including strength training as well as endurance training for my upcoming half ironman and guess what! 100% FREE! Just log in and check it out!
Now onto the hidden part of training the one that no trainers or guides want to talk about because guess what, they don’t make any money if you don’t come back for more guides! So lets talk about…
So diet for triathletes is a big part of training as it is for all fitness programs.
The statements people make about results being made in the kitchen is not far off. You can ride your bike all day. Swim as many laps as you can. Run for days on end. But if you do not provide the gas for your body to make the trip you will never get there!
What I will not do with my guide for beginning triathlons is preach what you should eat or shouldn’t eat. There is no magic formula. I cannot tell you to eat the same diet as me because our biology is different and I may need a lot more or a lot less calories than you do.
What I will do is convey what I did eat on a day by day basis going forward with my training plans and tell you my philosophy of eating overall right now.
I have been on a Whole Foods, Plant Based Diet for about two years now. I don’t like to call it a Vegan diet because well that term has a bad stigma to it and frankly when I do go out to eat with family at restaurants, while making healthy choices, I am not going to argue with the waiter if there is any by product in my salad dressing.
I am very boring with food as you will see day by day. I tend to eat the same thing or close to it 5 days out of the week. With a little bit of variety here and there.
The overall global arch you will see though is I eat a TON of CARBS and a fairly large amount of fat (all from nuts).
I do not worry tons about protein.
I also do NOT count calories, track macros or any of that. I did at one point and used to be very meticulous about how much of everything I would intake. But as I switched over to a Whole Foods Plant Based Diet (WFPB Diet) I learned that I just felt good, could easily hit my distances and it wasn’t necessary.
The only necessary part of nutrition is making sure you are getting adequate intake of carbohydrates and energy to hit your distances. This will get increasingly important with long distance running and cycling as you get into half and full ironmans.
But that is for another guide and time.
Hope you have enjoyed this beginner guide and what kind of started me off. I will be adding daily content to this blog for my day to day training and diet! So follow along, enjoy the journey and get a free beginner triathlon plan out of it!
Hey there, my name is James and I am the creator and editor of this site. I have been doing Triathlons for a while now and am competing in 70.3 Ironman's as well come this year. I created this site to help those new to the sport and to share my journey with other athletes.