Beginner's Guide to Triathlon

Beginner's Guide to Triathlon

What is a triathlon? How do you train for a triathlon? What kind of people are triathletes?

Since 1974 when the modern triathlon was born, millions have completed a triathlon and enjoyed the sense of accomplishment that comes with swimming, biking, and running - one after the other.

You can too.

People of all fitness levels, all shapes, all sizes, and all ages will complete a triathlon this year, and you should too. A triathlon isn't simply a test of fitness. It's an adventure. In every triathlon, you swim, bike, and then run, in sequence, until you get to the finish line.

Why Triathlon

Different people have different reasons for wanting to do a triathlon. A few of those include:

  • Triathlon allows you to set personal goals and feel a sense of accomplishment.
  • Triathlon is a way to get healthy and stay healthy.
  • Triathon is a way to challenge yourself and track your fitness progress.
  • Triathlon is a fun way to hang out with friends and an even better way to make new ones.

Triathletes are a welcoming community of people from all sorts of backgrounds.

It's about having fun. If you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong. We hope you'll join us!

Beginner's Guide to Triathlon
Race Calendar
Find the best triathlons, run races, and bike races in the area.
Tri Shop Events Calendar
Check out the events, seminars, and fun coming to Tri Shop.
Triathlon 101 Seminars at Tri Shop
Triathlon 101 Seminars

Looking to get into triathlon? Our free Triathlon 101 seminar will get you started.

You'll learn how to train, what races would work best, what gear you need and what gear you don't need, and more.

Click here to see the upcoming schedule.

Ironman 101 Seminars at Tri Shop
Ironman 101 Seminars

Have you ever wondered what the journey to complete an Ironman triathlon looks like?

How do you take on Ironman and balance the rest of your life?

This free seminar provides answers. Click here to see the schedule and sign up.

Tri Shop's Meet a Triathlete Series'
Meet a Triathlete

What kind of people train and compete in triathlons? What advice would they give someone new to triathlon?

Our Meet a Triathlete video series tries to answer those questions by interviewing triathletes about what makes them tick.

Click here to see the answers for yourself.

Triathlon Distances

One of the biggest misconceptions about triathlon is how far you swim, how far you bike, and how far you run. Triathlons actually come in all sorts of distances, but there are four distances generally recognized around the world:

  • Sprint Distance

    Far and away, the most common distance for a triathlon is the Sprint Distance. The various distances most commonly associated with a Sprint triathlon include:

    • Swim: 200 meters to 800 meters (commonly 750 meters)
    • Bike: between 8 and 18 miles
    • Run:  2 miles to 5K (3.1 miles)

    Most participants complete a Sprint Distance triathlon in two hours or less, with some racers taking more and some racers taking less.

  • Olympic Distance

    The distance most likely to adhere to a general standard is the Olympic distance triathlon. Triathlon is an Olympic sport, and although the rules of the Olympic race (draft-legal) are very different from the average Olympic distance triathlon (draft-illegal), the distances are usually the same.

    • Swim: 1500 meters
    • Bike: 40 kilometers (24 miles)
    • Run:  10K (6.2 miles)

    Most participants complete an Olympic Distance triathlon in two hours to three hours and thirty minutes, with some racers taking more time and elite racers taking less.

  • Half-Iron Distance (70.3)

    The 70.3 distance, or half of an Ironman triathlon, has become a favorite of endurance junkies and avid triathletes looking for a longer race challenge and is less time-consuming to train for than a full Ironman distance race. The distance for each discipline is half of a full Ironman, resulting in athletes covering 70.3 miles total:

    • Swim: 1.2 miles (1931 meters)
    • Bike: 56 miles
    • Run:  13.1 miles (half-marathon distance)

    Most participants complete a 70.3 Distance triathlon in four hours to eight hours, with some racers taking more time and elite and professionals racers taking slightly less.

  • Ironman Distance (140.6)

    Ironman distance racing, covering 140.6 miles over the course of the event, has exploded in popularity over the past decade. Completing an Ironman (and training for one) is a significant challenge that requires a significant investment in time and energy, but for many the satisfaction of completing the challenge makes the effort worthwhile. In an Ironman distance race, the length of each discipline is as follows:

    • Swim: 2.4 miles (3862 meters)
    • Bike: 112 miles
    • Run:  26.2 miles (marathon)

    For the Ironman branded races, a time limit is set of 17 hours for the majority of races, with cutoffs for each discipline to ensure participant safety.

Beginner's Triathlon Gear Guide
What gear is necessary to complete a triathlon?
Buying a Bike
Experience a better way to buy the right bike. Get Fit First.
Training for Triathlon

Some come to triathlon with experience running, or cycling, or swimming, and sometimes a combination of those three. Some start their triathlon journey having no skills in the pool, no bike, and no running experience. Wherever your journey begins, don't let training for a triathlon seem daunting.

Triathlon isn't about reaching some pinnacle of fitness. It's about developing the necessary skills, fitness, and confidence to get yourself across the finish line and call yourself a triathlete. To reach that goal, the best thing you can do is follow a training plan.

Below, we've provided two plans - one for someone who owns a bike and one for someone who only has access to a gym. Before starting any training plan, you should consult with a medical professional to ensure your health and safety:

Sprint Tri Training Plan #1
If you already own a bike, this plan is for you.
Sprint Tri Training Plan #2
If you have gym access, this plan is for you.

These training plans may not fit into your schedule. They might not meet your specific needs. Searching online will yield dozens of training plans that might better suit your needs or race distance.

If these don't meet your needs, we strongly urge you to join a triathlon and multisport club or consider hiring a multisport coach. A multisport club and/or multisport coach can provide structure or programs designed to take you step-by-step to your fitness and triathlon goals. Many triathletes find clubs and coaches essential to their triathlon experience.

If you want to learn more about a multisport club or coach, we've assembled a list of the best coaches and best clubs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area:

DFW Triathlon Clubs
DFW Triathlon Coaches