If you’re looking to get into triathlons or Ironman races but find the thought a little intimidating, then a sprint triathlon is a great option for you. There is a range of triathlon events and the sprint triathlon falls on the shorter end of that scope, making it perfect for those looking to dip their toes into racing, or wanting to work towards something but not wanting to commit to a full-on Ironman event.
What is a sprint triathlon?
While the distances can vary depending on the race, the average sprint triathlon consists of a 0.5 mile (750m) swim, 12.4 miles (20km) cycle and a 3.1 miles (5km) run. All up, you’ll be covering 16 miles.
How to train for a sprint triathlon
While deciding to do a sprint triathlon is a great first step, after that comes all the training and preparation that you need to do.
There are many factors that need to be accounted for when preparing to train for one. These include the length of your training, your training program itself and of course, rest and recovery.
How long should you give yourself to train for a sprint triathlon?
The answer to this depends on your current fitness state. However, on average, it’s best to give yourself a minimum of 12 weeks to train properly. This way, you can improve your time and speed without extra pressure on you.
If you’re completely new to training in general, then give yourself some extra time with a 16-week program. On the other hand, if you’re fairly fit already, then you may be able to train sufficiently enough in 8 weeks.
Evaluate your current fitness levels, especially in relation to swimming, cycling and running, and go from there.
What should a training program look like?
Aim for at least two sessions a week of each component
You want to make sure that you’re covering the swim, bike and run fairly evenly across your training. When you’re better at one thing than the other, people tend to stick to the one they’re best at. However, in a sprint triathlon, you need to ensure that you show an equal amount of dedication to each area to give yourself the best results.
Fit in one brick session
A brick session is a session that consists of training two disciples back-to-back. It’s commonly a bike/run session but can also be a swim/bike one as well. This way, your body and mind can adapt to combining two types of exercise immediately after the other before the big race.
In addition, you’ll be able to practice your transition from swim to bike or bike to run, such as getting on or off the bike. You don’t want to leave anything up to chance on the actual race day, so it’s best to practice these in-between but key moments.
Do an open water swim
Swimming in the pool is a great way to build your confidence in the water as well as your stamina. But as sprint triathlons are typically in open water, then it’s important to practice swimming there too as it’s vastly different to pool swimming.
Ensure that you’re safe about it though. Let a buddy know where you’re going or bring one with you so you can keep an eye on each other. Wear a brightly covered swimming cap that can be easily seen from shore and research the area that you’re swimming in beforehand.
Include strength training, if possible
There’s already so much to train for when competing in a sprint triathlon that it may not be possible for everyone, but if you can, try to include a couple of sessions of resistance training. It can really help build more muscle in your body as well as improve mobility.
Swimming, cycling and running use specific parts of the body so by strength training to these specific parts, you can really prep yourself for the sprint triathlon.
Make sure you rest
You definitely cannot train every day. Instead of making yourself fitter, you’ll be overtraining and not letting yourself physically and mentally recover. This will hinder your progress in the long run. Get at least one to two rest days in a week. Ideally, aim to include a rest day before or after your brick session, as that will be the most taxing.
This also includes getting enough sleep throughout the night. Sleep is when your body recovers and leaves you refreshed and energized for a new day. But if you have bad sleep, it can really affect your training the next day and if bad sleep occurs regularly, then these negative effects accumulate.
Prioritizing your sleep can really make a difference in your training and ultimately, the sprint triathlon, so give yourself the best chance by sleeping well.