The ultimate 12 week triathlon training program for beginners

You’re doing it! You’re going to participate in your first triathlon. Congratulations! This is one of the biggest commitments you’ll undertake, and it’s well-worth the feeling of accomplishment when you cross the finish line.

In this post, we’ll guide you through a simple, beginner’s triathlon training program. We’ll discuss how to train for a triathlon, and what first-time triathletes need to keep in mind for a successful event. 

What is a triathlon? 

A triathlon is a sporting event with three parts: a swim, a bike leg, and a run. The length of a triathlon depends on your fitness level. For beginners, a sprint triathlon is the best option. It consists of a 750-meter swim, a 20k bike ride, and a 5k run. 

Necessary Equipment

What do you need to train for a triathlon? We’ve got your back! There isn’t a whole lot to worry about. The essentials are:

  • Durable, ventilated sports clothes
  • A singlet
  • High-performance running shoes with good arch support
  • A high-quality water bottle (and possibly a hydration vest) 
  • A set of weights and resistance bands
  • Cycling shorts or a cycling suit
  • A helmet
  • A bike
  • A swim cap
  • Swim goggles

These are the basics that will get you through your initial training. You should also check with your event to make sure you’re fully compliant with their supplies and uniform regulations!

How to Train for a Triathlon

Week 1

Your first week will start off super slow, just getting into the groove of moving each day. You’ll need to prepare your triathlete training diet (plenty of carbs and healthy protein!) 

Consider writing down a stretching routine that will help you target the right muscle groups each day. 

Stretching before and after workouts can lower the risk of cramps and fatigue; this will make it easier to fall asleep and get plenty of rest after you’ve trained. 

This week, run for 30 minutes at least twice (or walk if you’re not up to running yet). Ride your bike at least twice for 30 minutes, and go for a practice swim. 

You’ll want to lay the framework for training at this stage. Use week 1 to identify your greatest needs, and find resources to improve your skills. 

Week 4 

Have one day off each week where you’re off your feet as much as you can be. Let your muscles recover as fully as they can from a hard week of training. 

By the time your first-month rolls in, you should be able to complete an easy run, swim, and bike ride at a light pace without difficulty, taking breaks as needed. 

After a month of training, you’ll also likely notice that your muscle strength and endurance has increased a lot from when you started.

This is also a good time to connect with a triathlon coach. It’s important to have someone to hold you accountable for your training, help with race-specific training plans, and give you feedback on how well your body is adapting to the training load.

Week 6

It’s time to start introducing interval training into your easy sessions at least 3 times a week. 

Interval training is one of the best ways to improve your aerobic fitness and get faster. It’s also an effective way to increase your power output, which will help you go faster on climbs or sprints at the end of a race.

You’ll want to start slow and go at your body’s pace. Remember, slow and steady is the goal. You can always target faster performance later.

Week 8

You should be increasing your runs, rides, and swims by 15 to 20 minutes during this week. In biking, perform at least 4 intervals in a 60-minute session. 

If you’re participating in any strength training routines, make sure you’re increasing weight if needed. Otherwise, keep up the same weight, but stay consistent.

Week 10

You’ll hike up the intensity again during this week to start pushing yourself closer to the level of performance the triathlon requires. By now, you’ll have developed enough strength and endurance to complete about 50% of each event successfully.

Rides and swims can be done at an easy pace, so long as they’re done at least 2 to 3 times a week. You may place more time on one over the other if you notice your performance in biking, swimming, or running is behind the others.

Week 12

This is a big week: You’ll want to run 50% of the triathlon distance, alternating between your race pace for 4 minutes, followed by a brisk 1-minute walk. Repeat until you reach your target distance.

For riding, you should aim to complete 50% of the event distance at your performance speed for 10 minutes straight, easing up for a 5-minute “easy” pedal mode.

As for swimming, swim half of your target distance. Wear a wetsuit if you’ll be participating in one. It’s best to train at the venue if you can. If not, then just head to the pool. 

Get comfortable in all your gear, and make sure you’re able to perform in the uniform you’ll wear on race day. 

Cross-training and Nutrition Tips

Cross-training incorporates different types of exercises and movements to target various muscle groups at once. They can be great for triathletes because it helps them build strength, endurance, and stamina without overexerting themselves during training.

Some great cross-training activities for triathletes include hiking, rock climbing (indoors counts, too!), rowing, and mountain biking. 

When it comes to your triathlon diet, make sure you’re eating plenty of carbs, refueling with lean protein, and getting ample fruits and vegetables. Even more importantly, make sure you’re rehydrating after all your workouts

You should drink 475ml (16 ounces for US readers)  to 710ml (24 ounces) for every pound of weight lost during training through sweat. This article by Sports Dieticians Australia can help you learn more about the importance of fluids in training.

For more triathlon nutrition help, check out Fixx Nutrition’s line-up. We have endurance-boosting formulas to help you stay on top of your performance. Our all-natural products are made by athletes, for athletes, and help target common problems like dehydration and cramping on the track or trail.