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Have you Tried a Sprint Triathlon?

Posted on May 10 2016

Have you Tried a Sprint Triathlon?

Competition is an exhilarating experience. And some of the most fulfilling competition is where you strive not against others, but against yourself. There is a personal feeling of triumph and satisfaction when setting a new personal record that somehow make the pain and the trials of training instantly worth the effort. And as far as personal fitness is concerned, there’s no better way to improve one’s own body.

We find a certain joy in the struggles to become our best. And so we not only endure the pain of working out, we revel in it. We thrive on it. And when that pain has subsided, and we look at ourselves, and we see just how far we’ve come, we learn to love that pain—not for what it is, but for what it does.

And when it comes to personal challenge and beneficial pain, there aren’t many athletic events more valuable than the triathlon.

Will you submit to the tides during your swim? Will you quit when you realize you’re just a fraction of the way through? Will you stop when you find yourself exhausted? With the right training schedule, diet, and attitude, you’ll be able to equip your body to face every challenge that the triathlon throws at you.

In this guide, we’ll discuss what it really takes to sprint a triathlon. If you’re interested in running your first sprint triathlon, or would simply like to learn, read on.

Before we get into details, allow us to explain what a sprint triathlon is.

What is a Sprint Triathlon?

The sprint triathlon is essentially a condensed version of the full event—a mini triathlon, if you will—and is better suited for those getting started with a beginner workout schedule. With that said, the sprint triathlon can still be very intense. All of the elements of the traditional kind are present here, which means you’ll still be swimming, cycling, and running.

So, what are the three main triathlons?

In a nutshell, the sprint triathlon is an excellent way to get yourself acquainted with the triathlon. It’s the perfect choice for the beginner triathlete, whereas the Olympic-level is the traditional event that probably first comes to mind when you hear the word ‘triathlon.’

Ironman? Well just look at those numbers. An Ironman training plan is best left for another discussion. If you’re fortunate enough to meet someone who’s completed the Ironman don’t be shy about asking them how they were able to prepare—they’ll likely be happy to share their strategy.

Let’s talk about commitment.

Sprint triathlon is about starting. Remember: if you do quit, you’ll never experience the thrill of reaching your goal.

Don’t ask yourself, “Do I have what it takes?” Since you haven’t yet completed a sprint triathlon before, you’re not exactly a trusted reference. Rather, try asking yourself the following:

“Do I feel that I have what it takes?”

With the right attitude, you’ll be able to follow a 12-week training schedule. Soreness will become an afterthought.

First, you must consider your sprint workout training as a process—not as a set of goals to achieve. It’s difficult to commit to a 12-week training program when you haven’t done anything like it before. So, take it one week at a time. Focus on what you’re doing that day, as opposed to what you have to do that week.

Secondly, you should enjoy your training. If running is your least favourite exercise, make a note of how great you feel after completing a run. Tell yourself that it’s building up your endurance so that you can cycle faster in your favourite event, if that happens to be the case. Keep a journal, so that you can record the positive feelings and thoughts that you experience while working out—this will help you appreciate what you’re doing for yourself, and believe it or not, when you make a point to focus your mind on the positive aspects, then you’ll stop noticing the negative ones quite as much.

If you’re able to focus on the process, while enjoying your training, you’ll build consistency. And with consistency comes commitment.

Why a Sprint Triathlon?

Next, let’s talk about some of the advantages and disadvantages of competing in a sprint triathlon.

Here are some negatives. As with any athletic activity, there is a risk of injury. This is the case with the triathlon, considering that it’s an event involving three different stages, each focusing on different endurance disciplines. A mental lapse could lead to a lapse in coordination, which can then compound into injury. This means that even with the best training, spraining an ankle, pulling muscle, or otherwise harming yourself is a possibility that cannot be ruled out.

But with proper sprint training and nutrition, the rookie can dramatically decrease the chances of injuries and other complications.

Now for the positives of competing in this athletic event are numerous.

  • Improve your athletic ability and endurance
  • Improve your health and well-being
  • Challenge yourself in a thrilling manner
  • Experience a unique form of achievement
  • Push yourself out of your comfort zone (physically andpsychologically)
  • Test yourself.

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s take a look at the kind of training you’ll need.

What’s Your Fitness Level?

Before you can proceed with your training, determine your current fitness level.

Beginners that charge into a strenuous training plan without getting their feet wet first would be making a mistake. Lacking preparation in this manner is counterintuitive. Try to do too much at once, and you’re risking complete failure.

If you’re a novice to training, you should take it slow (at least during the initial stages), and stick with workouts for beginners. Besides, you don’t want to injure yourself by overexerting muscles that are not yet used to being pushed to their physiological limit.

Regarding your endurance, are you currently able to run a few kilometres with relative ease? If not, don’t worry. Many people have to start from the ground up. Fortunately, athletic endurance is something that comes very quickly, as you’ll undoubtedly discover. Your muscles are remarkably adept at habituating quickly to the stimuli imposed upon them. In other words, if you struggle to complete your first practice run, the same might not be said about your second.

On the topic of running, some may be wondering if their prior experience as a runner is enough to ease their progression into a sprint triathlon. If you’ve been an avid runner for years, then it goes without saying that you’ll have to overcome a shorter learning curve when training for a triathlon. Make note how often you’ve been running lately, and you’ll have an easier time identifying your current fitness level.

If you’ve recently completed a long distance running event, you’re likely close to being ready to sprint a triathlon. At the very least, you’ll likely have the necessary endurance component established. But you can’t forget that running is not the only activity you’ll be doing. While it certainly builds up your cardiovascular resistance significantly, you’ll still have to practice on the bike and do laps in the pool. Particularly the latter, considering that technique is a crucial element in the swimming portion of a triathlon. Remember, not every training regimen is well-suited to every triathlon.

Research your race, so that you can adapt your training to its specifics. Will it be a mass start, or will the start be staggered, with waves at different times? Will you be running/biking on city streets, or across dirt trails? Can you expect flat terrain, or will you have to prepare for steep hills? Where will you be swimming—will you be in a calm-surfaced lake, or ocean waves? Will the water be cold, or can you expect warmer temperatures? Will you be wearing a wetsuit? What kind of weather should you expect? Your training isn’t going to be nearly as valuable to you if it prepares you for the wrong race, so in your preparation, try to mimic the conditions you can expect to experience in the actual event and select a race that you feel comfortable with.

It may help you to know the baseline level of fitness you need before you can follow this training plan. Here are three minimum standards you should be able to complete before following our training program:

  • Swim for 500 meters
  • Bike for 15 kilometres
  • Run for 3 kilometres

These baseline standards should be completed individually, without stopping. Don’t worry about timing yourself, unless the sprint triathlon you’re training for has a minimum finishing time—you’ll be able to worry about improving your times once you know that your body can handle the basics.

Test yourself in the three exercises. If you’re able to do the swimming and the cycling, but still struggle somewhat with the running, you know which activity you have to work on first. If you’re not yet able to run 3 kilometres at a comfortable and consistent pace without stopping, don’t fret; you’ll likely only need a few extra weeks of training. In that case, wake up early for a morning run 3–4 times a week. A good base-building training option is to run for short durations, and then taking short walking rests whenever needed, tracking your running interval distances and total run distances as you do so. Focus on running for longer run duration, with shorter rest durations in future workouts. Gradually increase your total running distance to 1.5 miles.

As you gradually improve your pace, you’ll notice that with each run you’ll be able to run a little bit faster for a longer distance without stopping. Before you know it, you’ll be running 40 minutes to an hour at a brisk, yet comfortable, pace.

Once you’re able to do all of the above, you can finally move on to the meat of the training program.

The Training Program

Assuming that you’ve raised your fitness level to a superior threshold by ensuring that you’re able to perform well in all three activities, you’re finally ready for the next step.

Now, you may be wondering how long it will take for you to prepare for the event. While the duration of training will vary between individuals, we can set a realistic time frame that will work for the vast majority of trainees. We’ve set a 12-week plan.

Unless you’re coming off an injury or are of below-average fitness, 12 weeks will be enough time for you to get ready. Otherwise, just take your time. Don’t rush the process. Get into shape as fast as you can, but do so reasonably. Once you’re able to swim, bike, and run without much trouble, you can finally start our training plan.

Here’s an overview of our 12-week plan:

Weeks 1 and 2:

Early training phase. Build up endurance, and get used to the three exercises.

Weeks 3 and 4:

Transition phase. Now that you’re in better shape, it’s time to increase the intensity.

Weeks 5 through 11:

Endurance phase. Focus is on building endurance while optimizing power in your movements to improve performance

Week 12:

Competition week. Objective is to maintain intensity while emphasizing recovery before the ultimate event. Consider tapering your training in either volume or intensity, so that the accumulated fatigue of your 12-week training program doesn’t negatively impact your final performance.

Essentially, your first month will be about establishing consistency, your second month will focus on training to your limit, and by the third month you’ll be firing on all cylinders, so to speak, as you get ready for the day of the triathlon.

Remember, your objective is to be fully prepared for the sprint triathlon. Here’s a reminder of what the event consists of:

Sprint Triathlon:
750-meter swim • 20-kilometer bike ride • 5-kilometer run

It should go without saying that you should be able to do all three events individually before you take on the triathlon; being able to do so will be one of the key indicators that you are ready to compete. By the time your training is complete, cycling for 20 kilometres should be relatively easy for you. On the day of the event however it will be much harder, considering that you will have just swam beforehand. Still, there is a big difference between difficult and impossible, and by being able to easily complete each separate event will go a long way towards ensuring that completion of the final race remains firmly in the realm of possibility.

In addition, while you focus on training your body, don’t neglect to train your mind as well. Your mindset holds the key to your success. With every training day, you’ll strengthen your willpower a little bit more. That’s why you must dedicate yourself at all times, and follow the triathlon training schedule religiously, so that on the day of the race, you’ll have what it takes to push through the discomfort and eventually cross the finish line.

The first objective is for you to be able to do each of the sprint triathlon events we just outlined above as soon as possible. Ideally, you’ll be able to swim 750 meters, bike for 20 kilometres, and run for 5 kilometres by the end of week 6–8. From there onwards, you can focus on improving your endurance even further and increasing your quickness as well. By week 9–10, you should be able to do each of the events separately quite comfortably.

As such, your schedule should look something like this:

Weeks 1 and 2:

Weeks 1 and 2 focus on building up your endurance and priming your fitness for what’s to come. As a general rule, don’t worry about following the schedule perfectly. Life gets in the way sometimes. But you should be able to follow through at least 90% of the time.

Week 1

  • Monday: Run 2 kilometres
  • Tuesday: Swim 250 meters
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Swim 250 meters
  • Saturday: Run 2 kilometres
  • Sunday: Bike 30 minutes

Week 2

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Run 3 kilometres
  • Wednesday: Swim 300 meters
  • Thursday: Swim 300 meters
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Run 3 kilometres
  • Sunday: Bike 30 minutes

Weeks 3 and 4:

Weeks 3 and 4 will feature your first timed runs. This is where you can first start to work on your speed. Pace yourself, but try to run a little bit faster each time. The same principle applies to your bike rides; increase your intensity each time, but do so within your comfort level.

Week 3

  • Monday: Swim 350 meters
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Run 3.5 kilometres
  • Thursday: Swim 350 meters
  • Friday: Run 20 minutes
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Bike 40 minutes

Week 4

  • Monday: Swim 350 meters
  • Tuesday: Run 20 minutes
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Swim 500 meters
  • Friday: Run 20 minutes
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Bike 60 minutes

Weeks 5 to 8:

During weeks 5 to 8, you’ll see some changes in the program. Here’s where the endurance element of your training will really start to kick in. Additionally, you’ll also be incorporating a higher intensity into the exercises, so it’s not just about time or distance.

With the timed swims, you should be going for an all-out effort. Your training will be split into intervals. For example, swim for 1 minute as fast as you can, and then take a minute to rest. Repeat as many times as you can, increasing/decreasing your intervals where appropriate. You’ll find that the more you do these intervals, the longer you’ll be able to sustain maximal effort, and the less rest you’ll need overtime.

The same principle applies to the shortened bike rides, identified by the asterisk above. Challenge yourself with a variety of paces, to improve muscular performance. For example, go as fast as you can for a minute, followed by a slower pace for two minutes.

You’ll also note that from now onwards, there will be the occasional two-day rest. These are crucial to ensure that your body can recover properly as the training gets tougher.

* shortened bike rides

Week 5

  • Monday: Run 4 km
  • Tuesday: Swim 450 m
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Run 25 min
  • Friday: Swim20 min
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Bike 60 min

Week 6

  • Monday: Swim 500 m
  • Tuesday: Run 4.5 km
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Swim 20 min
  • Friday: Run 25 min
  • Saturday: Swim 500 m
  • Sunday: Bike 60 min

Week 7

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Run 4.5 km
  • Thursday: Swim 500 m
  • Friday: Run 30 min
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Bike 30 min *

Week 8

  • Monday: Swim 20 min
  • Tuesday: Run 30 min
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Run 4.5 km
  • Friday: Swim 550 m
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Bike 30 min *

Weeks 9 to 12:

Weeks 9 to 11 will undoubtedly be the toughest weeks of the training program. But as you’ll discover, the body is remarkably adaptable. Keep up the intensity, try not to miss any days, and make sure to recover on your days off. If you feel up to it, you might consider replacing one of your bike/run days with a 40k or 50k bike workout—this will help you get a feel for how much sustained endurance you have.

During this time, you’ll also see a combination of biking and running on Sundays. This is known as a brick workout. The purpose of the brick workout is to get your body accustomed to running after cycling. This will be the most challenging portion of the triathlon, so it’s a good idea to adapt your body to this activity beforehand.

Week 12 is competition week. You’ll notice that the intensity drops just before the event. This is to keep your muscles ready for the triathlon, without exhausting them beforehand.

Week 9

  • Monday: Swim 600 m
  • Tuesday: Run 30 min
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Run 5 km
  • Friday: Swim 600 m
  • Saturday: Swim 20 min
  • Sunday: Bike / Run 40 min

Week 10

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Swim 700 m
  • Thursday: Run 5 km
  • Friday: Run 35 min
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Bike / Run 50 min

Week 11

  • Monday: Run 6 km
  • Tuesday: Swim 750 m
  • Wednesday: Swim 25 min
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Run 40 min
  • Sunday: Bike Run 60 min

Week 12

  • Monday: Swim 500 m
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Run 3 km
  • Thursday: Swim 20 min
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Race Dayor Rest
  • Sunday: Race Dayor Rest

Nutrition

Knowing how to train for a triathlon is about more than just exercising. Before we can complete our training discussion, it’s essential that we touch upon nutrition. You simply cannot exercise properly if you’re not eating well. Moreover, the last thing you need is to get sick halfway through your training program, as a result of your diet.

One could talk at great lengths about the importance of nutrition, especially as it pertains to competing in a triathlon. But we will be concise and to the point so that you can familiarize yourself with the essentials.

Let’s split this up into two short sections: Training Nutrition and Race Day Nutrition.

Training Nutrition

A healthy balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins is essential. They’re all important; you should not be prioritizing one macronutrient over another.

  • Best carbohydrates: whole grain breads and pastas, quinoa, oatmeal, all fruits and vegetables
  • Best proteins: lean meats, eggs, dairy (Greek yogurt is particularly beneficial)
  • Best fats: nuts, peanut butter, avocados

Guidelines

Never train on a full stomach. Test yourself with different pre-workout meal sizes, so you will know the best amount to eat before you run on race day.

Eat vegetables to your heart’s content, and supplement them with some fruits.

Before exercising, using a pre-workout supplement such as PROGENEX Force will help increase your stamina and strength. Force also has 3:1 potassium-sodium ratio, which is important for maintaining proper electrolyte levels.

Post-workout supplements can help the body regain essential nutrients to help insure fast recovery. PROGENEX Recovery addresses force loss, and enables muscle to quickly repair themselves for future use by supplying readily available di- and tri- peptide amino acids. Endurance athletes often lose significant amounts of muscle in their training. Having readily available aminos post-workout can help maintain muscle tissue from being broken down. PROGENEX Build is another post-workout supplement that should be taken with post-workout protein to facilitate the glycogen component of recovery. Additionally, Build can be taken before exercising, as a carb loading tool.

Nutrition doesn’t end once you get into bed. The hours you spend sleeping are crucial to your body’s protein synthesis and muscle repair procedures. PROGENEX Cocoon is a sleep-aid supplement that uses slow digesting proteins and a steady release of amino acids to help stimulate protein synthesis, fight against muscle loss, and improve immune system efficiency. Additionally, it also promotes deep, restful sleep, making it the perfect answer to work out-soreness.

Maintain proper hydration by monitoring urine colour for dehydration. Light to clear urine is the target and a bright yellow if vitamin supplements are taken. If urine is dark in colour consume water until not thirsty.  In terms of water consumption, drink when your body tells you your thirsty.

The better you eat, the harder you can train, leading to better endurance and performance.

Race Day Nutrition

Race day nutrition starts the week of the competition—not just the day before. Here’s what you should do during week 12:

Guidelines

A healthy balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins is essential. They’re all important; you should not be prioritizing one macronutrient over another.

  • Focus more on carbohydrates over fats in your diet, but don’t forget about protein
  • Eat adequate amounts of fibre throughout the week to ease digestion
  • Eat your pasta the day before the race, but not too much. You must be light on your feet the next day
  • Maintain proper hydration as mentioned above.

 

Before Your Race

This being your first triathlon, you’ll probably have some trouble getting a full seven to eight hours of sleep the night before the event, but that doesn’t mean that you should try to sleep in later to make up for it. Wake up early the day of the event, and have a light, but satisfying breakfast. You should have tested out different breakfast options during your training, so that you know exactly what kind of meal will serve you best during the race. Alternatively, you could rely on some of the workout supplements mentioned earlier, with a Recovery/Build upon waking, and maybe another 30–45 minutes prior to the race, then following the race with Recovery, and then a Cocoon before going to sleep that night.

If you find yourself feeling hungry right before the race, eat something small and nutritious, such as a piece of fruit. Drink some water as well, as it will not only help to keep you hydrated, but it will also help curb your appetite.

Lastly, many triathletes make the mistake of eating too much the day before the event. Just eat normally. If you get your carbs in throughout the week, your muscles will be full of glycogen by the time your start the triathlon. A healthy breakfast the morning of is a fine finishing touch before your race.

Now that we’ve concluded training and nutrition, you’re ready for your first triathlon. All that remains is your execution.

Did You Know?

We thought that you might like to hear some interesting facts about the triathlon.

  • The first triathlon was informally held in San Diego, CA
  • The first Ironman event, which took place in 1978, had 12 people crossing the finish line
  • In 2000, the triathlon finally debuted in the Sydney Olympic Games
  • The triathlon season is Spring/Summer
  • 70% of triathletes are between the ages of 30 to 49

Will you be joining the thousands of people participating in a triathlon this year?

By this point, you have learned about what it takes to not only prepare for your first sprint triathlon, but also successfully complete it. What will you do with this knowledge?

An opportunity to change your outlook on life forever has presented itself to you. It’s an experience that you know is worth taking. More importantly, you know it’s something you’ll never forget.

The rest is up to you.

Remember if a sprint tri looks a bit far many events will have mini tri’s for you to start with. Check out the race calneder and check each event to see if they are running a sprint or mini tri.

 

“The pain is temporary; the memories will last the rest of your life.”

John Collins, The Founder of the Ironman

 

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