Triathlon Fitness

Triathlon Fitness

triathlon start

From its very beginning in the 1970s, the triathlon event has been at the pinnacle of physical endurance and strength conditioning. The triathlon event includes swimming, cycling and running predetermined distances of varying lengths depending on the race in which the competitor is competing. These events range from the Enticer (250 meter swim, 10 kilometer cycle, and 2.5 kilometer run) to the grueling Ironman (3.8 kilometer swim, 180 kilometer cycle, and 42.2 kilometer run).

Individuals entering the Enticer triathlon competition typically complete the entire event in less than sixty minutes. On the other hand, it is not uncommon for elite athletes competing in the Ironman triathlon to cross the finish line in over twelve hours.

Most individuals tend to believe that they should not compete in a triathlon until they have mastered each of the three events: swimming, cycling and running. While this belief is true in some respects, participating in a shorter triathlon such as the Enticer is not only enjoyable but rewarding as well.

However, only after gaining experience by participating in shorter triathlons should a competitor consider entering longer events such as the Ironman. No matter the length of the individual events within the triathlon, competing requires a wide range of physical and mental skills. In order for an individual to effectively compete in a triathlon, they will need to possess strength, speed, endurance, flexibility, mental tenacity and focus.

Even for individuals that do not intend to compete in a triathlon, designing a fitness routine that incorporates the necessary physical and mental requirements of a triathlon can produce outstanding personal results. The training required to compete in a triathlon emphasizes cardiovascular conditioning, works all the major muscle groups, builds a full-body/structural strength that many runners lack, and provides a deep diversity in training approaches that assist in maintaining a fitness routine that is anything but boring. Hence, many individuals that train in this manner find it much easier to stay motivated, focused and regimented in their personal fitness approach.

Getting Started

triathlon cycling

Embarking on a triathlon fitness routine is as simple as incorporating all three elements (swimming, cycling and running) into an exercise plan. One approach would be to set a goal, distance, and time for each of the three events. Thereafter, define a weekly exercise schedule that doubles the distance of each event’s goal, and work at a steady but reasonable pace to achieve each of your three personal distance and time goals.

Since most individuals that decide to participate in a triathlon come from either a cycling or running background, the swimming portion is usually the most difficult. Once you’ve determined which of the three events is the most difficult, set a reasonable time goal for the completion of that specific event. Thereafter, focus on making up the lost time on one or both of the remaining events.

It is also very important to train in an environment that parallels the actual race conditions as closely as possible. If the running portion of the triathlon will include several steep hills, train in an area that has several steep hills. Muscle memory and conditioning are the most important aspects of being successful in a triathlon.

Sample Triathlon Training Program

Week 1

Goals: To begin a fitness routine that will condition the entire body and build a solid structural frame. An individual will arrive at the end of the 1st week with enthusiasm and rejuvenated muscles.

Day 1

  • Strength Training: Back, Legs and Abdominals.

  • 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps for each part of the body.

  • Cycling: 25 to 30 minutes using an Upright Bike

  • After the cycling portion, take a five minute break.

  • Stretch: Stretch for 15 to 20 minutes at the end of this session, employing stretches to relax the entire body. Do not skip the stretching portion of the fitness routine as injuries may occur.

Day 2

  • Strength Training: Chest, Shoulders and Abdominals.

  • 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps for each part of the body.

  • Cycling: 25 to 30 minutes using an Upright Bike

  • After the cycling portion, take a five minute break.

  • Stretch: Stretch for 15 to 20 minutes at the end of this session, employing stretches to relax the entire body. Do not skip the stretching portion of the fitness routine as injuries may occur.

Day 3

  • Strength Training: Triceps, Biceps, Abdominals.

  • 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps for each part of the body.

  • Cycling: 45 to 60 minutes

  • Use periodic resistance adjustments to simulate terrain with hills. This can be done on either an upright or recumbent bike. The resistance adjustment periods should be no longer than three to four minutes (short burst energy).

  • Stretch: Stretch for 15 to 20 minutes at the end of this session, employing stretches to relax the entire body. Do not skip the stretching portion of the fitness routine as injuries may occur.

Week 2


Goals: To continue to build upon last week’s exercises. Incorporate additional variety and focus on improving overall endurance and level of short burst energy.


Day 1

  • Strength Training: Biceps, Back and Legs.

  • 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps for each part of the body.

  • Cycling: 30 to 35 minutes using an Upright Bike

  • Use periodic resistance adjustments to simulate terrain with hills. This can be done on either an upright or recumbent bike. The adjustment periods should be no longer than three to four minutes (short burst energy).

  • After the cycling portion, take a five minute break.

  • Stretch: Stretch for 15 to 20 minutes at the end of this session, employing stretches to relax the entire body. Do not skip the stretching portion of the fitness routine as injuries may occur.

Day 2

  • Strength Training: Triceps, Chest, Abdominals.

  • 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps for each part of the body.

  • Cycling: 30 to 35 minutes using an Upright Bike

  • Use periodic resistance adjustments to simulate a terrain with hills. This can be done on either an upright or recumbent bike. The adjustment periods should be no longer than three to four minutes.

  • After the cycling portion, take a five minute break.

  • Stretch: Stretch for 15 to 20 minutes at the end of this session, employing stretches to relax the entire body. Do not skip the stretching portion of the fitness routine as injuries may occur.

Day 3

  • Strength Training: Back, Shoulders, Abdominals.

  • 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps for each part of the body.

  • Cycling: 55 to 65 minutes using an Upright Bike

  • Use periodic resistance adjustments to simulate a terrain with hills. This can be done on either an upright or recumbent bike. The adjustment periods should be no longer than three to four minutes.

  • After the cycling portion, take a five to ten minute break.

  • Stretch: Stretch for 20 to 25 minutes at the end of this session, employing stretches to relax the entire body. Do not skip the stretching portion of the fitness routine as injuries may occur.

Typical Injuries Associated with Triathlons

triathlon running

Runner’s Knee (Chondromalacia Patella): A very typical ailment that plagues runners and cyclists alike. During healthy operation, the knee cap moves in a smooth fashion across the bone known as the femur.

This motion is typically smooth because the underside of the knee cap is completely covered with cartilage. However, when a person is suffering from runner’s knee, the cartilage has become rough or soft through continuous excess force and causes the knee cap to move painfully and roughly across the femur.

The most common and successful treatment is to employ the R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) and to avoid intense running or cycling over hills. Cyclists could also adjust the seat so that it is higher, and stand often when riding over hills. Incorporating strength training exercises into your fitness routine will go a long way in preventing runner’s knee, but should be eliminated until pain subsides if the knee is already injured.

Achilles Tendonitis: Common causes of this injury include a sudden increase in the amount of exercise in the form of volume, intensity, or too many cycling rides that incorporate steep climbs. Misuse of equipment has been shown to be a primary cause of this condition as well. Discomfort is normally experienced in the calf muscles, and could be more intense at the heel end of the posterior muscle.

As with Runner’s Knee, employing the R.I.C.E. method is helpful, as well as identifying the increase in activity that may have caused the condition and then reducing the work load. Avoid steep inclines during running or cycling until the pain subsides. In contrast to Runner’s Knee, a lowering of the seat by only a few millimeters could assist in preventing this injury. If you have just purchased new shoes and you suspect that they’re the problem, try a heel pad.

Swimmers Shoulder: Most triathlon injuries occur during the running or biking portion, and although swimming is often used for rehabilitation, it can cause some injuries of its own. Particularly in freestyle swimming, the shoulders suffer continuous and repetitive motions that could lead to injury by wearing down the rotator cuff (particularly the microvasculature within it).

Swimmer’s shoulder can be readily treated by using the R.I.C.E. method and reducing the amount of time or distance during training. Simple over-the-counter drugs like aspirin help to reduce inflammation. Adjusting any inconsistencies or errors in stroke or form can also assist with treatment.

Nutritional Advice for Triathlon Participants

triathlon cycling

By ensuring that you maintain a healthy balance between carbohydrates, fats and proteins, you will give your body all the energy and nutrients it requires to support an extended period of high energy exertion. Carbohydrates (50-60%) come from vegetables, grains, bean products and fruit. Proteins (15-20%) can be obtained in lean cuts of meat like chicken, fish and turkey. Healthy fats (20-30%) will be found in olive oil, legumes, avocados and most seeds.

While participating in any fitness activity, make sure to drink plenty of water. If you know that your route has little or no water on it (water fountains or bathrooms), bring a water bottle with you to replenish fluids during your breaks. You may also consider bringing a drink that contains electrolytes if the training session will last for more than an hour and a half.

After completing your workout, try to consume a half-gram of carbohydrates and an eighth-gram of protein per each pound of body weight. Females should consider a 250-300 calorie carbohydrate snack after working out, while males should consume a carbohydrate snack closer to 350 or 400 calories after their activity.

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