Train for your first sprint triathlon

Train for your first sprint triathlon

Sprint triathlon is becoming more and more popular with runners as more of us seek a new challenge. They also offer a great way to shake up your training and put that cross training you might be doing to use.

Whatever your motivation for choosing to take on a triathlon, you’ll naturally have one of the swim, bike and run disciplines that you prefer and are most confident at. The trick of training is to focus on your weaknesses and not just your strength.

If you’ve just completed your first 5k, training for a triathlon is a great alternative to moving up to a longer running distance.

How long is a sprint triathlon?

super sprint distance

  • swim 400m
  • Bike 10km
  • Run 2.5km

sprint distance

  • Swim 750m
  • Bike 20km
  • run 5km


Before you start training, look at where you are with the swim distance. If you feel that swimming 400m non-stop is a little way off at the moment, you could break down the distance into 50 or 100m sections with a rest in between and aim to cover it over the course of a session. Plan to progress this over the coming weeks by reducing the rest you take or increasing the distance you swim before stopping.

Adding in some faster swimming intervals into your sessions will help to develop your speed and overall fitness.

Spend some time each easy swim session on a technical aspect of your stroke; for example, you may want to practice breathing on both sides. Aim to get out of the pool a better swimmer than you got in.

open water swimming

Your triathlon is likely to involve an open water swim, though if you’re nervous of this you can find races that have a pool swim. So you’ll need to practice swimming in open water, or wild swimming.

You can begin your open water training in the warmth of the pool though. ‘Sighting’ is a skill that means checking the direction you’re swimming to ensure you don’t go off course and end up swimming further than you need. There’s no need to wait until the weather warms up to practice skills such as sighting (looking up to see where you are going). Pick an object in the pool or place a water bottle one end and keep looking up every few strokes to look at it.

You’ll also need to get used to the cooler water and swimming in your wetsuit which will feel a lot different to your cossie.


You’ll need to spend more time in the saddle than either of your other two sports combined on race day. And that means spending more time on the bike in training. But you’re like.y to get less sweaty cycling at an easy speed than you would running so cycling could easily be incorporated into your everyday life.

Please don’t attempt to do bike intervals on the roads as this isn’t safe. You can do these in the gym or pick up a turbo trainer (a contraption that attaches to your bike that makes it a stationary bike) to use at home cheaply secondhand. You could swap the bike intervals for a spin class if you’d find that more motivating or enjoyable.


By the time you get off the bike and onto the run leg of your sprint triathlon, you’ll feel like you’re on the homestretch. It certainly is the most straightforward of the disciples, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. And even seasoned runners can find the run leg uncomfortable.

You’ll be starting your run on tired legs and having just spent an hour or more in a seated position. So it’s going to feel somewhat unnatural to then stand up and run. To help with this, your training should include some ‘brick’ sessions. This involves finishing a training ride and immediately running a mile to help your body and mind get used to that transition.

sprint triathlon kit list

Triathlon can be a pricey sport with a seemingly endless list of items to buy (and no upper limit to how much they might cost). But if you stick to the essentials and consider borrowing or buying a second hand, you can keep the cost down.

Swim: Wetsuit, goggles, swim cap, swimsuit

Bike: Bike, helmet, clip-in shoes (optional)

run: Running shoes, running bra

race day: Trisuit, number belt

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