Andrew L
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Training for your triathlon: Do you need to follow a training plan?

Andrew L
Posted by
03 Feb 2014

Some thoughts for those competing in their first triathlon but not working to a specific training program....

For your first triathlon a training program may appear to be a little daunting..."training programs are for proper athletes, aren’t they?" I hear you say! Well they’re not, but it’s not a necessity to have one.

With that in mind, here are a few thoughts to help you prepare.

Be consistent

If you know that your busy lifestyle will allow you to swim twice a week, run twice and cycle once, then make this your core exercise week. This way you are more likely to complete a ‘standard week’ and feel smug! Any extra workouts that you find yourself sneaking in will be a bonus! I’ve put some ideas together for each of the 3 disciplines to help with preparing for the Blenheim Triathlon (which will be the target event for many of you), so this assumes you will be competing in a sprint or super sprint distance. So, if come race day in about 22 weeks time you have swum 750m in the pool, ran a Park Run successfully and cycled in excess of 20k, you WILL be able to complete the sprint triathlon! There is a 4th discipline – transitions...nothing to worry about at this stage of training and definitely nothing to worry about if you’re not desperately watching the clock! So, here goes:

a. Swimming – Firstly, I’m assuming you haven’t got a coach. If you have you’ll be in good hands so move on to section b. If you’re still with me then I suggest you keep your swim session to 30mins tops for the moment. Avoid trying to swim continual laps for the complete session. I watch many novice swimmers at my gym starting a swim session with good form, only to see it deteriorate dramatically as they continue. If you’re swimming front crawl and you know that this happens to you then split your session up. Swim 2 lengths (assuming a 20 -25m pool) of your very best swimming then stop and recover for 20 to 30 seconds (until you feel ready to go again and able to swim 2 more lengths of your very best swimming). Do this for 15 mins then swim 4 to 6 lengths  - can you feel a drop off in your stroke quality over the latter length or so? I would expect the answer to be Yes for now. Do the same with the second 15 mins of your session. Think all the time about how you are swimming...what feels right and what feels wrong when you tire. Don’t clutter your mind with technique just yet. Believe me that swimming is a mystery to many triathletes that have swum for many years – it can be so complicated when you delve into the intricacies of it. But for now you have 3 disciplines to worry about, so just let your natural stroke develop. Plenty of time after Blenheim to improve your stroke if you’ve a mind to, for now develop muscle memory to get you thro 750m!

b. Cycling – Now this is easier....get on your bike and peddle! Again, we’re looking for muscle memory here, but don’t be a slave to your schedule if the weather is foul! Spin classes are good if you’re a member of a gym. One really good thing to do early is try to get someone in the know to look at your bike set up. Most bike shops will do this and it’s quite inexpensive if you explain you’re new to cycling and only require a basic set up. Otherwise, work your ride times up to an hour – unless you’re really enjoying it then do a bit more!! As you get more confident consider joining your local cycling club. They normally cater for all abilities in an uncompetitive environment and you have the added bonus of ‘cake stops’.

c. Running – again no real mysteries here (though it’s always been a mystery to me as to how to run fast!). So, get out and run. Start with 15 to 20 mins and slowly build up to a maximum of 45mins nearer to the event. You’re training to compete 5k so you don’t need to run for more than this. If you have a local Park Run near you – – it’s a great way to monitor your progress over 5k. Watch one first and you’ll see how friendly they are.

Coming next...

Nearer to race day we’ll talk about transitions, brick sessions (what!!?), open water swimming (yes you will need to try this before race day) and other things which will be of interest. I’ve lined up a series of experts to help with these, so watch out for future blogs.

But for the time being go out and enjoy yourselves and remember, when I say ‘race day’ I mean the day of the event – it’s you verses the challenge....with a load of other folk around you in the same boat, all helping each other. There is really no other sport like triathlon!

PS. If you do want a training program I’ll be putting some together starting 16 weeks out from Blenheim. Steve Titmarsh – 2013 British Triathlon West Midlands Coach of the Year will be helping me – so you’ll be in good hands.

Any queries please contact me. I’m really looking forward to helping you!



Thanks for this I'm entered as part if a relay I'm bike leg! And a very novice bike rider never ever riden a race road bike so scared!!!


Hi Michala.
I can remember the exact same thoughts the first time I got on a road bike about 15 years ago. I'd always ridden mountain type bikes, but there seemed to be nothing of this road did it have the strength to carry me! But they do and they're very strong.
Just keep riding it. Try to ride in a group or with a friend who will support you. Let me know how and when you are cycling and I'll try to give some extra advice.
Thanks for contacting me!


any tips for a tri-suit versus a wet suit? lowish budget in mind, where shall I go to check them out (I'm in the North London area)? Don't really want to buy online... Many thanks, Danny


Hi Danny.
Sorry to be so long getting back to you. I've been in Majorca doing a half ironman - well, swim and bike in a relay - and the wifi was none existent!
Have you sorted your dilemma out yet?
You will need both unfortunately, as wearing a wetsuit will most likely be mandatory - water temp- and a tri suit is advisable. My advice would be to hire the wetsuit (this can be just for the event or for the season) and can be quite competitive cost wise. Tri suits mean you can swim bike and run in the same bit of kit. The LLR tri suit is one of the best priced ones on the market. If you only want to borrow one for Blenheim, i do have one that my daughter used for the 2012 London tri. It's a size 10 and it's based on the LLR yellow tee shirt design.
Regards Andy