So you are all fired up for a triathlon. A Sprint triathlon is the place you want to start. How do you go about achieving this?

We are going to assume that you have some form of fitness base to work off. The majority of 1st timers we encounter either come from some form of cycle or run background. We do however have the odd swimmer or two who is also keen to give triathlon a good crack.

For those working off a zero fitness base level, 12 weeks of training might be too short a time frame but it’s still totally possible

We are going to transform you from zero to hero in 12 weeks


Set Training Times aside

  1. You need to look at your current daily schedule (taking work, family and all else into account) and set some time aside for training sessions. This already might be in place but if it’s not – sit down – have a think about it and diarise time slot allocations. This will ensure you stick more religiously to a program plan than waking up each day and trying to find the time to sneak in a training session here and there
  2. Work out what the best – most cost effective routine would be for you to make training-times work smoothly. What days would suit you best to go for a swim for example – what times to set aside for the cycle and run sessions? If there is gym work to be done – include that as well. A basic plan of your weekly routine that you can stick to in advance – that way the plan is there – all you need to do is follow it – consistency is the key factor here – week in week out training
  3. If you are going to do a few bike sessions and time is limited – make sure you have an indoor trainer for example where cycling can be done indoors at a more convenient hour


Tools for the TRI Trade

  • Access to a swim pool facility – this may be hard to come by for some and expensive as well. Look to open water swimming venues then on weekends as a good alternative – we are looking at swimming 2 x per week during this 12 week program. Some might want to swim more as you get nearer race day but if you can get in at least 2 x swims per week – this will be sufficient to get you in and out of the water safely
  • A bicycle of course (indoor gym bikes are great) but you need your own bike or at least a borrowed one for race day – the indoor trainer with a weather climate that is ever changing ensures that cycle sessions are less likely to be disrupted or written off cmpletely
  • A decent pair of running shoes that will last a good 3 to 4 months – try and not change your shoe model during this 12 week program. What you start training with is what you want to finish racing with
  • There are a host of other more advanced triathlon related accessories that one could buy but to make this simple and more achievable – let us stick with to the absolute basics. Once you have completed your first sprint triathlon, you can then look to improve your performance levels by utilising equipment that might help improve your triathlon ability down the line.






  • A good place to start with the swim is to set a few bench-markers. This will give you some idea of where you sit swim “fitness” wise right at the start of the program. This will ensure you have times to work off as you work your way into the 12 weeks program


  • Example: Swim Test Session


  • Swim 200m (or yards depending on the measurements) easy as a warmup
  • Swim 3 x 100m at a moderate pace – resting 45 secs after each one – take your split for each 100m and keep a record of this – it will help you track your fitness levels going forward – the fitter you become – the faster these times will be with less rest required in between.
  • 4 x 50m with 20 seconds rest in-between – record the swim splits for each 50m – once again, these times will be used as bench-markers as you become fitter
  • See how far you can complete swimming without having to stop and rest – this might only be 100m at the start of the program – work your way up to 400m – no further – you want to record a time for this 400m eventually – that will give you a good indication of what sort of time it is going to take you to complete the swim of 750m when you eventually line up for the race in 12 weeks-time



  • The simplest test session (either on the open road or on the indoor trainer) is to see if you can ride between 5km and 15km (does not have to be fast) without having to stop and take a break. If it’s only 5km – great – don’t worry about it – what we are doing here is measuring your current fitness levels vs the fitness levels that will be required to complete the 20km cycle



  • Measure a 1km stretch of road (as flat as possible) to be used for interval training – this can be near your home (even 500m out and back would qualify for this purpose) or it can be done on a track – school-sports field (wherever is most convenient)
  • Do 4 x 1km intervals – the first one is super slow and used as a warmup – the next 3 you will run at a moderate- sustainable pace – rest between 45 and 60 seconds between each of them – make sure the first one is not too fast as you want to try and run the same pace for all 3 of them – see what this pace is? then use these run times to gauge future run training sessions


Now that we have the schedule-routine in place – as well as the “test” sessions done and dusted, time to start that 12 week program plan and get you across that finish-line to collect your medal and bragging rights


Training Guide

This is a very basic 7 day program that you can keep for the duration of 10 weeks. The last 2 weeks will be used for specific race preparation. All you need to do is slowly increase each session in term of distance – increase the intensity and in some case – decrease the rest periods as you become fitter. This is a really basic version of what you can do – there are different programs that might arrive at the same goal – there is no exact one-size-fits all program. Trial and Error will be the order of the day going forward



Swim Session Am and Pm

200m easy swim

4 x 25m kick – rest 10 secs

2 x 100m pull-buoys – rest 20 seconds between each slow

4 x 100m swim moderate to harder effort – rest 60 secs between each one

100m cool down




Am: Bike Session

  • Work on time based – ride the bike (either on the indoor trainer or open roads) for between 30 and 60 mins depending on your fitness levels – don’t worry too much about how fast you can ride – just ride a comfortable maintainable pace that you can manage. This distance can increase to between 45 and 75 minutes over the span of the 12 week program plan


Pm: Run Session

  • This will start off with a minimum 20 minutes (taking walk breaks in between if need be) up to 3-4km to start with – once again – pace is not an issue now – just complete the distances – as you get fitter – the speed will increase naturally – choose a route that is as flat as possible




  • We can take a break mid-week – especially if you are new to the game of daily training – a mid-week rest day will do you good. If you are fit and keen to carry on – add a gym session where you work on your upper and lower body plus core strength is a good option – 30 mins is all you need – allow for some post gym stretch as well. We call this type of session, “active” rest. Gym work is paramount to improviing all round ability and those that are strong are less prone to getting injured



Am or PM: Brick Session

  • We can start with a really short manageable distance like ride 30 mins easy – followed by 10 minutes run directly after the bike (you can even walk this as the body adjusts to running after a bike ride
  • For the fitter individual – 40 minutes cycle at moderate pace – followed by a 20 minute easy run is a good brick session to start with. As you get fitter, you will gradually increase the distance on the bike and the run to closely mimic (after say 7-8 weeks) what would be required of you on race day (20km cycle – 5km run)


Am and Pm

  • 2nd swim set for the week
  • 6 x 50m (or yards) easy swimming rest 10-15 seconds after each
  • 4 x 25m kick easy rest 10 secs
  • 8 x 25m swim moderate to harder (rest 20 secs between)
  • Try see how far you can swim without needing to stop to rest – between 100m and 400m done slowly – as you get fitter – this distance will increase and with you eventually being able to manage at least 600m non-stop before you head-off for race day – being able to swim this far without stopping is a safe bet that you will easily manage the race distance of 750m on race day. The speed in the water will also get faster naturally as you get fitter.



WE REST DAY completely – (this will allow for you to give some time to family and normal social pressures that each athlete might face when taking on their 1st triathlon and the training time required!



Another Brick session can be planned, this time on the weekend when more time is available – try and get on the open road for this one – especially for those that are new to cycling – getting onto the road and learning bike skills is an important part of any triathlon. Make sure you are bike “confident” before heading into your 1st race.

  • Start with a 5-10km cycle – followed by a 1-2km run – here you can practice the transitions and get more accustomed to the sport of triathlon. These sessions will get easier as time progresses.
  • An indoor version can also be done if the weather is grotty – use the indoor trainer for the bike leg but try and make it out the door for the run portion if possible

LAST 2 weeks

  • Here we will start resting a little more but at the same time – keeping the sessions slightly shorter but more intense
  • The week before race week is where you rest the most
  • Race week you go back to some form of structure as has been done the last 10 weeks previously – make sure your session is short but at a higher intensity to mimic what you will want to achieve on race day
  • At least 3 days full rest during race week
  • NOTE: train lightly the day before the race – short and easy – often allows the body to be more ready for race day than resting completely



  • Don’t start too fast – rather do less and “ease” into the mode of triathlon training – the 1st couple of weeks are prone to injury issues as your body adapts to the rigours of daily training in the different disciplines
  • Heed that advice that people will naturally fling you way – listen – absorb but don’t necessarily follow – this sport is so diverse and everyone has a differing opinion on how you should be training. Try and stick to your guns and keep the focus and don’t let outside advice necessarily sway you from the chosen path. This is definitely case of trial and error – get the 1st one under the belt and then you look to see what can be done to improve into the future


Good luck – the 1st triathlon is always the best – there are no expectations and the bar has not been set as yet – all you need to do is finish and cross the finish-matt. Once you have accomplished that, then look to see what you can do to improve overall at the next one