Triathlon Training

Triathlon Training

Several times a month, I receive emails from people interested in competing in Triathlon events that consist of swimming, biking, and running. Usually, they are from athletes seeking to do the Iron Man Triathlon, but some are from folks who are trying to find a great way to break up the monotony of just running or swimming in order to get fit and lose weight.

Consider the triathlon as the ultimate cross training routine. In fact, fewer tri-athletes get injured every year compared to those who only run for their cardiovascular exercise. The non-impact exercises of swimming and biking are the reason. However, you do have to be careful on the bike, as accidents on a bike going 15-20 miles per hour can put you out of commission.

I am not a tri-athlete, but have trained with biking, swimming and running for over fifteen years. Here are some ideas to use if you are dabbling in a variety of training methods, but if you are looking for real Triathlon training, go to He is a friend of mine who actually wins races and can help you get to that level. In fact, he wrote a book about completing an Iron-Man Triathlon while working full time. His book is called Full-Time and Sub-Nine. Sub-nine refers to completing an Iron Man in less than nine hours. That is impressive. He has done that and he has beaten cancer too. Many consider him the Lance Armstrong of Triathlon. Go to his site and find out more of this inspirational coach (former Naval Officer).

Below is a sample triathlon workout I made for myself a few years ago when I was training with some Naval Academy Tri-athletes. If you are considering competing in a triathlon one day, you can use this type of training plan and adjust the distances as needed.

For the first month, I recommend the following schedule:

Swim 3 Times a Week

Two distance freestyle swims of 2000m (500m hypoxic thrown in), plus one interval swim with timed paces and increasing speeds (see below)

- 300m choice warmup - 4 x 50s one easy, one pace on 1:15 - 1 x 300m at 65% on 6:15 - 2 x 200m at 70% on 4:30 - 3 x 100m at 75% on 2:15 - 4 x 100m at 80% on 2:15 - 1 x 200 Pull breathe 3,5 by 50s - 3 x 100 take 4 breaths first 50, 5 the second 50 (Long smooth strokes). - 100 cooldown - total yards = 2400

Run 3 Times a Week

Two short runs of 6 miles, plus one long run of 10 miles (Saturday) after a 20 mile bike (triathlon slang BRICK = Bike Run ICK, because they are hard and should be done at great intensity and timed). You want to do the BRICKs in Bike-Run order to get accustomed to the Bike-Run transition--Work on speed from Bike to Run as well.

Bike 3 Times a Week

2 SPIN classes (if available) and / 1-3 long bike ride 20 miles.

Lift Weights 3 Times a Week

Weights are swimming and bike specific. No leg PT is needed (yet) due to the SPIN classes and bike build up.Concentrate on arm strength for swimming and lower back strength for long bike rides. The workouts should go in the following order for the first month:

- Lat Pulldowns - 3 x 15 - Rowing machine - 3 x 15 - Tricep Extensions - 2 x 15 - Tricep pushdowns - 2 x 15 - Bicep curls - 3 x 15 - Reverse Flies - 3 x 15 - Roman chair lower back extensions - 2 x 15 - Neck exercises (up,down,left,right) - 2 x 15 (do after abs)

LW Shoulder Workout:

- Lateral raises - 10 - Thumbs up lateral raises - 10 - Thumbs up/down lateral raises - 10 - Front raises - 10 - Cross overs - 10 - Reverse flies - 10 - Military press - 10


- Wide, Regular and Tricep pushups -- 20,20,20 - Abs of choice - 250 - Lowerback exercises - (swimmers 1:00 / R arm L leg lifts 1:00) - Pullups - pyramid set of pull-ups 1-10-1

Workouts Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun
Swimming Yes   Yes   Yes   Make-up
Biking Off 1 Hr Off 1 Hr Off 1.5 Hr 1 Hr
Running 6 mi Off 6 mi Off Off 10 mi 6 mi
Weights     Yes   Yes   Yes
PT: Abs/Back Yes   Yes       Yes
Calories 3900 3000 3500 2400 3500 3600 3900
Heart Rate Zone 140-150 140-150 140-150 140-150 140-150 140-150 140-150
Your Measurements              
Resting HR              

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at

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