From Swim to Bike to Run: Ten Training Tips For A Sprint Triathlon

Cutting Your Teeth On A Sprint Triathlon Is A Good Way To Prepare For A Bigger Race

In the same way the Couch to 5K Program gets you in the habit of following a training schedule and prepares you for your first running race, a mini-tri is the place to start if your goal is participate in a triathlon.

The min-tri has become a popular event because it’s less competitive than the long-score version, and gives you an opportunity to see which legs of the race you can excel in and where may need some work.  It will also give you a chance to work through the transitions – from swim to bike to run – so you’ll have an idea of how you need to train to be competitive for a bigger event.

Training for all three legs of the race will give you the best overall score.

If you’re thinking about participating in a sprint triathlon, here are 10 tips that will help you be successful.

Ten Training Tips For the Mini-Tri Event

1.  Know Your Race – Find out the distances you’re expected to cover for each leg of the race.  There are no standard distances for mini-tri’s so they can vary from one event to the next.  Here’s an idea of the range of distances:  Swim – 100 yards to ¼ mile; Bike – from 6 – 12 miles; Run – from 1 – 3 miles.  Knowing what you’re in for ahead of time will help you train accordingly.

2.  Train Both Strengths and Weaknesses – Most of us – unless we are already true tri-athletes– excel at one of the three: swimming, biking or running.  The tendency is to spend the most time training for your best sport with the  hope that you can clock a good enough time during that leg of the race to make up for the other two.  A better plan would be to spend more time training your weaknesses so that you can pace yourself throughout the event and end with a better overall score.

3.  Think Sprint – The mini-triathlon is considered a sprint race so you should train to move through each event as quickly as possible.  To improve your speed, incorporate interval training into one cardio workout each week.  One week pick swimming, the next week running, and the third biking.  Adding short, effective speed bursts will improve your overall fitness level, increase endurance, and make you faster during the race.  I wrote about how to incorporate speed drills into running awhile back.  You can read more about it here.

4.  Practice Your Transitions – Have a plan in place for your transitions. For several years I was a volunteer for a triathlon that our local Y sponsored.  The mile swim took place in a lake, and when the participants finished the swim they ran up a hill, furiously changed clothes and jumped on their bikes.  Some people were extremely efficient at getting this done which was no doubt the result of practice.  If this is your first tri-race, you’ll want to figure out the best way to store the clothes and shoes so they are easy to get to and put on.  Practice this a couple of times before race day so you won’t be stressed over how this is going to work when the time comes.

5.  Add Bricks – Climbing off of the bike and putting your feet on the ground to start the run isn’t something that comes naturally.  It’s important to train the legs so you can easily go from one to the next.  Weeks five and beyond of training should include bike-run bricks.  If you add these to your workouts your legs will be strong on race day.

6.  Put It All Together – If possible, do a run through of the event prior to race day.  You don’t need to do the full distance for each sport, but going from the pool, to the bike, to the run will help you mentally and physically prepare for the real thing.

7.  Cross Training – Adding some cross training days into your workout schedule will help prevent over training.  Strength training, yoga, Zumba, and core strength classes are good fill-ins. Take advantage of your rest days and do something different that doesn’t stress the muscles in the way swimming, biking and running does.

8.  Follow A Structured Training Plan – It never hurts to have a structured plan to follow.  There’s a three-month training guide at Women’s Health.com. Following a pre-designed plan takes the guesswork out of what you should be doing when.

9.  Hydrate, Eat and Rest – Dinking adequate amounts of water each day, and eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains will supply you with the energy you’ll need for your training program and provide you with strength and speed on the big day.  Getting eight hours of sleep a night is also critical to overall performance.

Click here to read about Allie's first mini-tri.

Click here to read about Allie’s first mini-tri.

10.  Pace Yourself – This is good advice for any race, but even more important for one where you have to accomplish three different sports. Jumping in the pool and blowing the other swimmers out of the water might feel good in the moment, but if you’re too pooped to run three miles at the end of the race, you’ll be sorry you didn’t hold a little something back.  If you’ve trained properly for the race, you should have goal times for each leg.

With proper training, rest, and nutrition you can have a successful first mini-tri and be on the way to reaching your goal of competing in a full triathlon.

Have you participated in a mini-tri?  What tips do you have for someone that’s getting started?