Training > Long distance

How to train in your 20s

We explain how ageing impacts your body as it gets older and the key training areas for your age, whether you’re 25 or 65, so you'll be stronger and faster than ever

Without patronising our younger audience, much of the triathlete’s improvement at this age stems from education. And as many 20-29-year-olds will be swim, bike and running away from home for the first time, it’s nutritional advice that heads the menu.

“This fuelling advice is applicable to all, but especially this age-group who could easily fall into bad eating habits,” says head coach of Tri for Fitness, Terence Collins. “Ensure your diet features recommended daily amounts of the following: vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, lean meat or fish, wholegrains, pulses as well as dairy. Also, avoid processed foods such as crisps, sausage rolls, pies, pasties, cakes and biscuits. These foods contain high amounts of sodium, fats and sugar, which can be harmful to your health.”

Avoid ready-meal ruin

You can avoid falling into ready-meal ruin by purchasing a Nutribullet. The Christmas kitchen hit of years gone by is omnipresent in the athlete’s kitchen because you can whip up a healthy juice or smoothie with little mess. A breakfast smoothie containing cherry juice is scientifically proven to ease sore muscles, while evidence showing age-groupers can race harder and longer thanks to beetroot continues to grow. 

Traffic-light system

Acclaimed nutritionists like James Morton, formerly of Liverpool FC and now with Team Sky, encourage a traffic-light system where green equals high carbs (1-1.5g carbs/kg bodyweight per day), amber is moderate carbs (0.5-1g/kg) and red is low carbs (less than 0.5g/kg). 

This ties in with the intensity of the session, so if it’s, say, a 3hr ride including numerous hill climbs, you’ll go green before, during and after the session. If it’s an ‘easy’ 30min lunchtime swim, you’d go red, and so cutting calories and potentially weight (if needed).

Becoming less reliant on carbohydrates retrains your body to utilise more fat calories for fuel, too. Like Sky, this is more easily recorded and actioned via online software outfit Today’s Plan, which matches this traffic-light system to your diary and session. 

“Just note that the use of energy products should be reserved for intense sessions,” adds Collins, alluding to those ‘green’-day efforts. “Also avoid nutrition products that haven’t undergone extensive independent testing to verify their performance claims.”

The 20-29 age group should aim for around 2-2.5g/kg protein every day, too, consumed from real food like tuna and chicken, though recovery shakes are fine when it’s impractical to eat from 
mother nature. 

Key sessions 

Terence Collins says 20-29-year-olds should spend time learning about the different methods of measuring sessions 


This is a heart-rate-based session.

Warm-up: 5min squats (bodyweight), lunges, single-leg squats, calf raises,  hip extensions

Main set (intervals): 3 x [6mins building to HR @ 140bpm, 4mins @ 150bpm, 4mins @ 160bpm, 1min @ 160bpm-plus]

Cool-down: 5min easy jog


Warm-up: As session above

Main set: 3 x 15mins as: 3mins @ 60-80rpm, alternating right and left leg every 30secs, (sprocket) 21; 3min @ 100rpm, 19, 1min @ 60rpm; 2mins @ 95rpm, 17; 1min @ 60rpm; 1min @ 90rpm, 15; 1min @ 60rpm; 1min @ 80rpm, 13; 1min @ 60rpm, 1min @ 60-90rpm, 11

Cool-down: 5min spin

Kids and teenagers

Children and teenagers should also follow general rules when entering the world of triathlon. The first is that triathlon must be fun. If it becomes a chore, you’ve taken it too seriously, too soon.

When it comes to training advice, a focus on technique can stay with you for the rest of your life. Our neural map’s more ‘pliable’ during formative years, so swim coaching’s a must. Bricks are also essential as, not only do they teach you the key USPs of triathlon, they’re thoroughly enjoyable – although maybe in retrospect!

How much triathlon training should children do?

What to do if your child is a talented triathlete...


When it comes to strength work, contrary to popular belief, the young athlete can use weights. But, to begin with, these need to be guided by an experienced triathlon coach. Bodyweight exercises are the ideal through the early teenage years as bones continue to harden.

Finally, young triathletes – and their parents – should digest good fuelling habits. A pint of water with breakfast and home-cooked food are two good places to start. 

Click here to find out how you should train in your 30s (3/6)


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