December 23th, 2021
What Training Plans for Triathlon Look Like
Training for a triathlon can seem understandably daunting at first, especially for someone who has never participated in one before. Training your endurance for a triathlon is the goal, but how do you achieve it?
Going swimming, cycling, and running regularly may seem like a great place to start, but they might not be as helpful as they may seem.
That is why having a training plan is extremely important. In this article, we're going to give a general idea of what a triathlon training plan may look like for anyone participating in helping get you started!
Why A Training Plan?
You need a triathlon training plan, especially if Ironman is your goal because triathlons are endurance sports that can take up a significant portion of your day. To complete one without hurting yourself, you need to know what you're doing and have a goal in mind.
Swimming, cycling, and running every day may help improve your endurance, but completing a triathlon requires technical skills as well. And without a well-structured plan, your endurance may not improve enough for a triathlon.
On top of that, triathlons, as the name suggests, are multisport marathons. Even for experienced athletes, the process of transitioning from one to the other will be jarring, especially when transitioning from bike to run.
Ask any triathlete; shifting from biking for miles and miles to running for even more miles is uncomfortable.
You will need to be smart about your training and use a triathlon training plan, especially if you're short on time.
What Do Triathlon Training Plans Look Like?
Training plans vary in (among other things) length, intensity, and of course, structure. You can start training anywhere from 3 months (preferably for advanced athletes) to 2 years before the event!
Triathlon training plans follow a rule of periodization, a cyclic plan an athlete puts into effect over time. Such a plan aims to achieve peak performance by the time the race arrives.
Training plans are usually divided into three phases, which we will describe shortly. The volume and intensity of each phase, and also the length of them, will depend on the race, the trainer, and the trainee, but for the most part, these phases follow this general pattern:
The Base Phase
This is the first three to four weeks of training. In which focus is on muscle and movement prep. In this phase of training, athletes typically will be training in pools, treadmills, and bike trainers.
The main goal of the base phase is to first ease into practice (especially for beginners) and work on technical skills to improve efficiency. For athletes who have a 'strong' sport (say someone is a strong swimmer), they will work on bringing the other two up to a comparable level during the base phase.
Build or pre-competition phase
This phase is the most intense part of training. Usually, at this time, the athlete will move outdoors and train all three sports to increase power and endurance for the event.
At this point, the volume of training will reflect the structure of the triathlon. And training will usually be divided into two to three weeks of intense, high-volume sessions, followed by a recovery week where volume will decrease to allow the body to recover.
This phase will also be typically where you begin brick training, which is the name for the transition between biking to running. As biking usually takes up the largest chunk of triathlons and running comes immediately after, what can (and does happen) is that the switch from biking to running can be severely jarring and uncomfortable even for experienced triathletes.
In fact, it’s called brick because of the way the legs feel during the first few miles of the transition. So it makes sense that this part of training is essential to get the body acclimated to that transition.
Athletes will also focus on open water swimming during this phase.
The competition phase is usually the last five weeks before the triathlon. During the first few weeks of this phase, the plan varies according to whoever created it, but usually, it will involve a peak and then taper.
The first two to three weeks will be high volume, high intensity before tapering off to decrease the training volume to allow the body to recover and prepare for the main event.
Training for a triathlon (especially as intense as Ironman) requires focus and planning. The best thing to do (provided it’s feasible for you) would be to hire a coach for the event. Otherwise, you can refer to this article and other online resources to help you get started.