Sprint Triathlon Training for the Beginner Triathlete

Updated on August 25, 2017

My First Triathlon. And Yours

When I contemplated attempting my first sprint triathlon over 5 years ago, I had many doubts and fears that I could actually do it. After all, the only races I had completed prior were 5K and 10K road races, plus a half-marathon or two.

I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was a kid, when riding the mere nine-tenths of a mile from my home to Angie’s Country Store was as intimidating a prospect to my young self as contemplating completing an Ironman is to the average adult.

Fortunately for my young self (and more so, perhaps, for my dentist's retirement account), the intimidation that I felt was never a match for the dreams of mouthfuls of Gobstoppers and Bubblicious that awaited my heroic arrival (cue sweaty, dirt-ridden rider flicking his kickstand down in slo-mo, gallant bravado) and the motivation that these dreams provided.

And swimming – well, once again, the last time I had swum, if you can call it that (splashing around a bit in a murky lake), was so far back in my memory that I questioned whether I ever had actually swum in that murky lake.

So why, then, was the finish line of my first sprint triathlon such a glorious place to reach – was it because I had swam a quarter mile, biked 13 and ran 3.1, or was it because I had overcome my doubts and fears and forged ahead with planning and incremental training steps to complete what at times seemed like an impossibility? I think you know the answer. And, the best part: You can do it too.

The Sprint Distance Triathlon

The sprint distance triathlon is unique among the four major triathlon distances (Sprint, Olympic, Half-Ironman and Ironman) in that it is the only triathlon where the distances may vary a bit from race to race. Most sprint triathlons have a swim distance between 400M and 750M, or approximately one-quarter to one-half mile. The bike leg will typically be a 20K ride (12.8 miles), and the run is usually a 5K (3.1 miles).

Another aspect that makes sprint distance triathlons unique is that they are often reverse triathlons – that is, in a typical triathlon the order of events is swim-bike-run, but in many sprint distance triathlons the order will be reversed to run-bike-swim. This is important to know ahead of time, particularly if you are a weak swimmer (which most beginner triathletes are, since most come to the sport of triathlon from running), so that you can adjust your training appropriately.

Training Schedule

Triathlon training for the first-time triathlete begins with setting up the training schedule. I have outlined below the triathlon training program that I used to train for and successfully complete my first sprint triathlon.

This sprint triathlon training program is a great program for a beginner who jogs a couple of times a week for at least 30 minutes and has completed a couple a of 5K and 10K races. If you are not yet at that level of fitness, I would recommend adding four weeks of base training before starting this triathlon training schedule, during which you can build up to running 30 minutes 2 times a week and biking for 30 minutes 1 time a week.

Also, If swimming is very foreign to you and you are not familiar with the basics of breathing, I would highly recommend taking four to six one-on-one lessons prior to beginning the training program. If you live near a college or university, you can usually go to the pool and ask around to find someone on the swim team who gives lessons – this is usually the cheapest and most flexible way to get lessons. You can also get one-on-one swimming lessons at the local YMCA, but it will be more expensive than getting swimming lessons from a college student.

And so, without further ado, I present:

Your 8-Week Sprint Triathlon Training Program (leading to your eventual world domination)

Week 1 (Total time 3:10)

Monday: Rest Day! (Boy, this plan starts off easy)

Tuesday: Run 30 minutes or 3 miles

Wednesday: Bike 40 minutes or 10 miles

Thursday: Swim 20 minutes and Run 25 minutes or 2.5 miles

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: Run 30 minutes or 3 miles

Sunday: Swim 20 minutes and Run 30 minutes or 3 miles (if the triathlon you are training for is a reverse sprint triathlon, do the run first and then the swim)

Week 2 (Total time 3:50)

Monday: Rest Day

Tuesday: Run 30 minutes or 3 miles and Swim 15 minutes

Wednesday: Bike 45 minutes or 11 miles

Thursday: Swim 20 minutes and Run 20 minutes or 2 miles

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: Run 35 minutes or 3.5 miles

Sunday: Swim 25 minutes and Bike 40 minutes or 10 miles (if the triathlon you are training for is a reverse sprint triathlon, do the bike first and then the swim)


Week 3 (Total time 4:00)

Monday: Rest Day

Tuesday: Run 35 minutes or 3.5 miles

Wednesday: Bike 50 minutes or 12 miles

Thursday: Swim 20 minutes and Run 30 minutes or 3 miles

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: Bike 50 minutes or 12 miles

Sunday: Swim 25 minutes and Run 40 minutes or 4 miles (if the triathlon you are training for is a reverse sprint triathlon, do the run first and then the swim)


Week 4 (Total time 3:55)

Monday: Rest Day

Tuesday: Run 30 minutes and Swim 15 minutes

Wednesday: Bike 55 minutes or 13 miles

Thursday: Swim 20 minutes and Run 25 minutes or 2.5 miles

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: Run 40 minutes or 4 miles

Sunday: Swim 25 minutes and Run 40 minutes or 4 miles (if the triathlon you are training for is a reverse sprint triathlon, do the run first and then the swim)


Week 5 (Total time 4:05)

Monday: Rest Day

Tuesday: Run 20 minutes or 2 miles and Bike 40 minutes or 10 miles

Wednesday: Bike 60 minutes or 14 miles

Thursday: Swim 20 minutes and Run 30 minutes or 3 miles

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: Run 45 minutes or 4.5 miles

Sunday: Swim 15 minutes and Bike 45 minutes or 11 miles and Run 30 minutes or 3 miles (if the triathlon you are training for is a reverse sprint triathlon, do the run, then bike, then swim)


Week 6 (Total time 4:25)

Monday: Rest Day

Tuesday: Run 35 minutes or 3.5 miles and Swim 15 minutes

Wednesday: Bike 60 minutes or 14 miles

Thursday: Swim 25 minutes and Run 20 minutes or 2 miles

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: Run 50 minutes or 5 miles

Sunday: Swim 15 minutes and Bike 60 minutes or 14 miles (if the triathlon you are training for is a reverse sprint triathlon, do the bike first and then the swim)


Week 7 (Total time 4:50)

Monday: Rest Day

Tuesday: Bike 40 minutes or 8 miles and Run 30 minutes or 3 miles

Wednesday: Bike 60 minutes or 14 miles

Thursday: Swim 20 minutes and Run 30 minutes or 3 miles

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: Run 50 minutes or 5 miles

Sunday: Swim 20 minutes and Run 40 minutes or 4 miles (if the triathlon you are training for is a reverse sprint triathlon, do the run first and then the swim)


Week 8 (Total time 2:27 + Sprint Triathlon)

Monday: Rest Day

Tuesday: Run 30 minutes and Swim 15 minutes

Wednesday: Bike 50 minutes or 12 miles

Thursday: Swim 10 minutes and Bike 12 minutes or 3 miles and run 10 minutes or 1 mile

Friday: Walk 20 minutes or 1.5 miles

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Sprint Triathlon

*Most triathlons are on Sundays. If your triathlon is on a Saturday, adjust the above by one day to make the Sunday workouts on Saturday, the Saturday workouts on Friday, etc. You may also add strength training (a moderate workout with free weights/universal) and/or stretching sessions to one of the rest days.


Source

The Finish Line

This sprint triathlon training schedule took me to the finish line and it will take you there as well. In the five years since my first sprint triathlon, I have completed several other sprint triathlons, several Olympic distance triathlons, and I am training now for my second Half-Ironman.

Each race is its own world, bringing the racer face to face with conflicting moments of fear, struggle, elation, doubt, misery, euphoria, success (and, ultimately, relief . . . that moment when you cross the finish line and say to yourself, after you have given it your all, “thank God that’s over!”, followed by the thought that comes a half hour, or four hours, or two days, or one week later, when you say to yourself, “I need to do that again. When ‘s the next triathlon?”)

See you at the finish line.

Comments

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    • thebusyathlete profile image

      thebusyathlete 

      6 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Great advice! Sprint Distance is a great way to get involved in Triathlon.

    • Mike's Corner profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike's Corner 

      6 years ago from Maryland

      Thanks for stopping by, Conguer -- good luck on the road!

    • Mike's Corner profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike's Corner 

      6 years ago from Maryland

      Congrats on completing your first sprint Elizabeth!

    • elizabethmcgriff profile image

      elizabethmcgriff 

      7 years ago from South Alabama

      Great hub. Love the schedule you included and the Garmin suggestion, I'm saving up. Just finished my first sprint- completely agree with your post race sentiments. You might enjoy Training Peaks as an online way to track your training and performance.

      Thanks for writing.

    • Mike's Corner profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike's Corner 

      7 years ago from Maryland

      Happy training Whitney!

    • WhitneyNZ profile image

      WhitneyNZ 

      7 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      Thanks for the resource! I'm just getting into triathlons and the training schedule is really helpful.

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 

      7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      Absolutely!

    • Mike's Corner profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike's Corner 

      7 years ago from Maryland

      Thanks, Frieda, and thanks for stopping by . . . I've noticed a few triathlon lovers in only the week that I've been here -- looks like HubPages will be a great resource for training info!

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 

      7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      You'll find a like of triathlon lovers on HubPages. Great info. I really like that you put in a schedule! Very helpful. Thanks.

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