8 Weeks to Your First Mini Triathlon: Beginner Plan
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Fitness

8 Weeks to Your First Mini Triathlon: Beginner Plan

Get the sleek arms of a swimmer, the firm butt of a cyclist, and the toned legs of a runner in just 8 weeks with this beginner-friendly training plan.

Triathlon -- You'll Love It!

You'll love your first mini triathlon. Here's why:

  • If you're moderately fit, you can be ready for a "sprint" distance in eight weeks. Most sprint tris are just a half-mile swim, a 12-mile bike ride, and a 5K run.
  • You'll get in very, very good shape. Tris offer beginners a doable challenge, fast results, and little risk of injury, says Terri Schneider, coauthor of The Triathlete's Guide to Mental Training.
  • It's life-altering. Really! "'Doing a triathlon changed my life' is the comment I hear most often from the women I train who are new to the sport," says Schneider.

8-Week Training Plan

Training doesn't have to feel hard-core, says Schneider, who created this newbie guide. Include speed bursts in at least one cardio workout per week; on strength days, do at least one exercise for each muscle group. Here's how to get race-day ready in 8 weeks:

week
1
week
2
week
3
week
4
week
5
week
6
week
7
week
8
M Rest Day Rest Day Rest Day Rest Day Rest Day Rest Day Rest Day Rest Day
T Bike
30 min.
Bike 40 min. Bike
35 min.
Bike
30 min.

Bike
30 min./
Run 10 min.

Bike 40
min./ Run
15 min.

Bike 40 min./
Run 15
min.

 

Bike 30 min.
W

Walk/Run
or Run 20
min.
Strength Workout

Walk/Run or Run 20 min. Strength Workout

Walk/Run
or Run 20 min. Strength Workout

Walk/Run or Run
20 min. Strength Workout
Walk/Run
or Run 20 min. Strength Workout
Walk/Run
or Run 20 min. Strength Workout
Walk/Run
or Run 20
min. Strength Workout
Walk/Run or Run 20 min.
T Swim
400 yd.

Bike 30 min. Swim 500 yd.

Swim
600 yd.
Bike 30 min.

Bike 50
min. Swim
700 yd.

Bike 45 min. Swim 800 yd.

Bike 40 min.
Swim 900 yd.

Bike 30 min. Swim 600 yd.

F Rest
Day
Rest Day Strength Workout Rest Day Rest Day Strength Workout Rest Day Rest Day

S

 

Bike
45 min.
Bike 50 min.

Bike
1 hr.

Bike 45 min. Bike
1 hr., 10 min.
Bike 1 hr.,
15 min.
Bike 50 min.

Bike 10 min.
Swim 10 min. open water or 500 yd.

S Walk/Run
or Run 20
min. Swim
300 yd.
Walk/Run or Run 35 min. Swim 400 yd.

Walk/Run
or Run 40 min. Swim 15 min. open water or 750 yd.

Walk/Run or Run 20 min. Swim 15 min. open water or 750 yd. Walk/Run
or Run 45 min. Swim 20 min. open water or 1,000 yd.
Walk/Run
or Run 50 min. Swim
20 min. open water or 1,000 yd.
Walk/Run
or Run 35 min. Swim 15 min. open water
or 750 yd.
RACE

Cross-Training Tips

For the Swim

  • Train with all the strokes you like -- freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, even sidestroke if you feel like you need a break. And make sure you can swim at least slightly farther than the race distance; it'll make the actual race seem shorter.
  • If possible, do a practice open-water swim. If the water is cooler than 78 degrees, borrow a wetsuit, which will keep you warm. (Note: The snug fit can take some getting used to.)

For the Bike

  • Make sure yours (road, mountain, or hybrid) is in good condition. "Get a basic tune-up [approximately $40 at most shops, plus any needed parts] to avoid glitches, and adjust the seat and handlebars to fit your body," advises Schneider.
  • Know your terrain. Take a look at the course map ahead of time. If it's hilly, make sure all your training isn't just on flat ground. On the stationary bike, train at a moderately high resistance.

For the Run

  • Do some combos. A short bike ride followed immediately by a brief run is aptly known as a "brick" in tri parlance, because the transition can make your legs feel heavy and sluggish. Prepare yourself for the sensation with at least a couple of them before the race itself.
  • Run/walk if you need to. If you're a beginner, it's a smart way to get to the finish line. Start by running for two or three minutes, then walking for the same amount of time. As you get fitter, increase your runs and shorten your walks.

Essential Gear: 5 Items

We've boiled things down to our five favorite training essentials.

  1. With its lightweight aluminum frame and relatively light price tag, the Felt FW4 road bike is perfect for the beginner triathlete. $699; for info, feltracing.com
  2. The supercute Zoot Sports TRIfit Hula Honeys Racesuit goes from the swim to the bike (padded rear) to the run (built-in sports bra). $110; zootsports.com
  3. Giro's Skyla helmet has 20 vents to keep you cool while firmly hugging your head. $38; for info, giro.com
  4. Mizuno's Wave Creation 8 running shoes have a unique cushioning system to get you through the final miles. $130; for info, mizunousa.com
  5. Barracuda's Wire Naia goggles have a comfortable silicone seal to prevent raccoon eyes. $16; skylinenw.com

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, July 2007.

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