Not sure if you’re ready for a triathlon? Coffee Stop and Zone3 have broken down each distance and highlighted the main requirements, discussed useful kit and worldwide events especially for you. So, this year you can reach new limits and get inspired to tackle the distance best suited for you.
Triathlon for the beginner athlete
A triathlon is a good challenge to tackle as a beginner athlete due to the cross-training involved. When training for a triathlon, you will exercise and strengthen a variety of muscle groups. This will reduce the risk of injury. For a beginner triathlete, we suggest a sprint or super sprint distance. We offer further training advice for beginners, please see our triathlon beginners guide which includes a training plan for a sprint triathlon as well as training tips and a kit list. When training towards any triathlon, it is also important to include strength and conditioning training in your training schedule. Click here to see our top strength and conditioning recommendations for triathletes.
SUPER SPRINT TRIATHLON: 400M/10KM/2.5KM
This is the typical swim/bike/run distance for a super sprint, although some events differ slightly in distance. You will most likely be swimming in a pool, as super sprints are designed to be slightly easier for the novice triathlete. However, in some hotter countries, it is common for super sprint triathlons to be sea swims too. In either case, it is unlikely you would need to buy a wetsuit but we recommend purchasing some race specific swimwear.
Am I ready for a super sprint? Typically, it would take someone anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes to complete a super sprint. So, you will be racing for around that length of time! The super sprint would be suitable for any athlete that has a basic level of fitness. Our biggest tip is to include brick training in your training schedule, practice moving from one discipline to the other, to get used to the feeling of transitioning between each sport. As with all distances triathlon, please consult advice from a doctor or medical professional if you have any health problems to ensure that you aren’t going to cause any damage to yourself.
Super sprint triathlons that you may wish to consider: London Triathlon / Brighton and Hove Triathlon / Blenheim Triathlon / Santander Triathlon Series: Valencia
SPRINT DISTANCE TRIATHLON: 750M/20KM/5KM
The sprint distance triathlon gives you a longer taste of a triathlon, but it is still designed to be a fast and achievable for a beginner. Generally, in a sprint or super sprint, you wouldn’t have to worry about energy gels or nutrition, which makes the logistics slightly easier as well as the distance more achievable. However, if you find in your training that you’re losing too much energy, gels/nutrition may be necessary. Don’t try anything new on race day though, if you’re planning to use energy gels during the race, then train with them! Some sprint distances take place in a pool. Others take place in either the sea or other open water spots. Because of this, there tends to be a higher variety in terms of location for sprint distance triathlons.
Am I ready for a sprint? Similar to the super sprint, a sprint distance is designed for beginners. So, if you have a basic level of fitness, and can complete all three distances separately without any problem, then you will be ready to start training towards a sprint. Where possible, it’s advisable to practice the route (or a slightly shorter version of the route) in preparation for the race. We advise at least 8 weeks training, but if you’re new to triathlon the more time you have the better!
Sprint triathlons that you may wish to consider: Royal Windsor Triathlon / Birmingham Triathlon (at the same venue which the 2022 Commonwealth games will be held!) / Santander Triathlon Series: Mallorca / Tinman Triathlon Series: South Africa
OLYMPIC DISTANCE TRIATHLON: 1500M/40KM/10KM
The Olympic distance, also known as the standard distance, is double the distance of a sprint triathlon. Because of the non-stop nature of the event, it would be advisable to use energy gels or nutrition while racing to maintain pace without depleting your glycogen stores. If you are going to use these gels and bars, be sure to practice with them too.
Am I ready for an Olympic distance? If you’ve done one or two sprint triathlons without a large amount of struggle and injury, then now is the time to tackle an Olympic distance triathlon. We advise 12-16 weeks to train, to ensure that you are prepared for the distance. Incorporate brick sessions into your training, as discussed above. Depending on your speed, expect to be racing anytime between 2-4 hours. If you are confident doing 2-4 hours of non-stop exercise, then that is another sign that you would be prepared to start training.
Olympic distance triathlons to consider: Royal Windsor Triathlon / London Triathlon / Birmingham Triathlon / Santander Triathlon Series: Valencia
70.3 DISTANCE TRIATHLON: 1.9KM/90KM/21.1KM
The 70.3 distance triathlon covers 70.3 miles in total. It can also be referred to as a middle distance triathlon. You could cause yourself injury if you don’t prepare properly, so this distance race has to be properly trained for. When it comes to longer distance triathlon races, it is important to remember to also prepare for the sun if it’s a summer race – wearing a race visor, short sleeved tri suit, and keeping hydrated throughout the race are all things that could protect you from the sun. It is also worth noting that 70.3 distance or full distance triathlons will nearly always be open water swims. This means open water training is important in the preparation and a triathlon wetsuit is a must.
Am I ready for a 70.3 distance triathlon? To sign up for a 70.3 triathlon, it is suggested that you have confidently completed an Olympic distance triathlon, and can comfortably do all three of the distances separately at the beginning of your training. The suggested time to start preparing for a 70.3 distance triathlon is 4-6 months. You must also incorporate some brick training and long days. Fitting in time for training will require a big time commitment, including early morning sessions! So, as well as looking at your fitness capability, it’s also important to assess logistically if it is viable.
70.3 distance triathlons to consider: Santander Triathlon Series: Malaga (slightly less than a 70.3, but maybe a good one to look at as the first one) / Marlow Classic Half Iron Triathlon / Immortal Wimbleball Half / Challenge Gran Canaria
FULL DISTANCE TRIATHLON: 3.8KM/180KM/42.2KM
The full distance triathlon is double the 70.3 distance. Similar to the 70.3 distance, a lot of training and preparation has to go into this distance. This could include up to 10 months training. The cut off time is usually around 17 hours for a full distance triathlon. So, depending on your speed, you could be racing as long as that.
Am I ready for a full distance triathlon? You should already have a high level of fitness. As stated above, you will be completing up to 17 hours of non stop racing. We advise to spend up to 20 hours across 6 days per week training. As well as that, use the weekends/free days to complete long training sessions. Therefore, another thing to consider is the time commitment. As well as the time and fitness, it is also expensive to enter and train for a full distance triathlon. So, budgeting for kit and race entry would be necessary.
Full distance triathlons to consider: Outlaw triathlon / Ironman (various locations worldwide)