How to Train for a Triathlon


Are you looking for a new challenging fitness goal? Are you seeking a new fitness community for connection and support? If so – participating in your first triathlon may be for you.

What is a triathlon?

A triathlon is a race that combines swimming, biking, and running,  completed in that order for safety. You want to complete the swim while you’re fresh, not exhausted and minimize any mishaps on the bike. The races vary in location, terrain, and distance. 

Swim Bike Run
Super sprint 500m 10km 2.5km
Sprint 750m 20km 5km
Standar/Olympic 1.5km 40km 10km
Half Ironman 1.9km 90km 21.9km
Ironman 3.9km 180km 42km (marathon)


How to start

As with most things in life, do it because you enjoy it. 

Start with a super sprint or sprint triathlon if it’s your first race. What style of race you choose will depend on your fitness level and how much time you can dedicate to preparing. Triathlon isn’t the type of race you can sign-up for with no work put in, it requires training, and you may need to spend a decent amount of time building your endurance, depending on your current fitness level. 

Swimming can be the most challenging and risky for people so if this isn’t your strong suit, take lessons and practice in a pool before going out to open water.

 * Pro-tip – Always train in open water with a spotter, having someone paddle beside you in a boat so you can take breaks safely as needed. 


Training schedule

Depending on your fitness level, you will require about 6-15 weeks of training before your first triathlon. There are so many training schedules already, and we have listed a few examples below. Find one that works for you, knowing that you’ll typically be training about five days a week, 2.5 to 4 hours per day—partner with a buddy or group of friends to keep the momentum going. 

 MultiSport Canada – Basic Training Guide

 Triathlon Magazine Canada – 3 months to your first Tri

 Triathlete.com – The Rookie’s Tri Plan

  * Pro-tip: Ironmans are a whole new ball game, so you’re going to build up to that by getting experience with shorter distances under your belt first!


Essential gear

There is no need to break the bank, especially if this is your first triathlon. You will need: 

  • Swimsuit, goggles, and a cap if you have long hair (sometimes this is provided by the race organizer)
  • A bicycle that fits your size and is in good working order. It can be a road bike, a mountain bike or a hybrid. If it is a mountain bike, swap out knobby tires for smoother ones to travel faster on smooth surfaces. Unless you’re getting into the sport, a special triathlon bike is unnecessary.
  • Cycling shorts for training. You want to be comfortable spending all that time in the saddle. 
  • Clipless pedals and cycling shoes are “nice-to-have” but not necessary.
  • A water bottle
  • A good pair of running shoes that fit your feet well. Check out your local running store.


Mindset & community

If this is your foray into competitive racing, start small and then look for new challenges as you gain endurance, confidence, and experience. Remember, you are doing this because you enjoy it, and you deserve to be at the starting line; you have worked hard to get there. There is the challenge of the event itself, and sure you’re competing against others, but you’re primarily competing against yourself. It’s achieving the goal, reaping the rewards of all your effort. 

Some athletes will talk about “getting into the zone”; it’s a place of comfort you get to with experience. You’re training at a moderate intensity, floating along on your bike. 

 If you get into the sport, traveling around to different races, you will see the same familiar faces on your circuit. It’s an opportunity to build friendships, a community and make lifelong friends with like-minded people. 


Pick your race

Choose a race that’s known to be “beginner-friendly.” You may want to go close to home and research the terrain and the swim location; the ocean can be challenging for beginners because of the waves. You may also want to run your first race with your team or training buddy for moral support. Races earlier in the season (spring-time) are typically less competitive and hard-core, as more seasoned competitors are testing their fitness level. 

 Race calendars:

 Triathlon Canada – Calendar 

 MultiSport Canada – 2022 Race Calendar 

 Ahotu – Triathlons 2022-2023: Races held in Canada 


Rest and recovery

Incorporate stretching, massage, foam rolling and other rest and recovery tools into your training routine. Your schedule will include rest days. Take care of your body and ensure that you have adequate time to recover from overexertion. Be mindful that long-distance cycling can be hard on the neck, and running can be hard on your joints; add the recovery you need. 

 Before you decide to ‘try a tri,’ give it some thought. It should be an extension of something you already love, like cycling or running. You want to do it and look forward to a fun, challenging, and rewarding experience. We’ll be cheering you on as you reach that finish line!



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