Training > Long distance

How to train for triathlons in your 30s

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

Over the last four decades, the average age of parents having their first child has risen by almost four years to 33.2 years for men and 30.3 years for women. This presents the triathlon paradox, according to Tim Williams of coaching outfit Perfect Condition.

“In theory, the 30-39 age-group is old enough to have acquired experience and training history, and young enough to be at their physical peak [take Kona 2017 winners Daniela Ryf, 30, and Patrick Lange, 31],” he says. “However, athletes in their thirties typically have young families and financial commitments, and are often climbing the career ladder. Under these circumstances, training and racing are often squeezed into short, sub-prime spots and rushed.”

That’s why Williams suggests two key areas to focus on – optimising time and periodisation, which broadly tie in with each other.

Optimise your time

Optimising time is self-explanatory but includes ideas like running with a buggy or indoor riding while babysitting. And that’s where a simulating platform like Zwift comes in. Online cycling outfit Zwift features three courses containing numerous routes where you can virtually race against triathletes and cyclists all around the world.

Smart turbo trainers: 5 of the best reviewed


All you need to create your indoor haven is a turbo trainer or rollers, internet connection and supporting device (from desktop computer to smartphone), a bike and an ANT+ or Bluetooth measurement tool. This could be a basic speed sensor right up to a cutting-edge power meter. Indoor training can sear the synapses but platforms like Zwift add a motivational competitive edge.

You can also check out our turbo training section on Flipboard for session ideas


Periodise your training

“Periodisation’s also key,” adds Williams. “It can be difficult to get your head around as it means excluding or minimising some aspects of training for periods of time to focus on others – maybe technical, maybe cardiovascular, maybe strength – but trust me, it’s worth it.”

There are numerous periodisation methods around but, unless you’re near-elite level, we’d recommend the traditional model. The idea is that you build endurance, add speed before peaking for your goal race come the summer.

How to periodise your training during the off-season


Train to improve

A more detailed breakdown is:

Transition – 1-6 weeks, where you recover from the previous season
Preparation – 3-4 weeks, where you begin swim, bike, running and again but not too formally
Base – 9-12 weeks, where you build endurance through long, moderate-intensity sessions
Build – 6-8 weeks, where you can increase intensity and reduce volume to forge speed and power
Peak – 1-2 weeks, where you taper, meaning volume right down but maintenance of intensity 

“Ultimately, this maximises your training time,” says Williams. “You train to improve your racing rather than to keep fit.”

Top tip

Time-starved individuals need to maximise recovery. That’s where compression socks come in. Graduated pressure from ankles to calves acts like a second ‘heart’, swiftly pumping deoxygenated blood back to the heart for a hit of oxygen and faster recovery. We’d recommend bespoke socks to enjoy the physiological claims.

Three time saving tips

There are many time-saving ideas to make the most of your training week. Tim Williams provides three here

1. FORM NOT FITNESS Short sessions are great for keeping focus so think ‘form’ rather than ‘intensity’. E.g. swim – do a certain number of strokes per length; bike – set yourself a min cadence or a max gear; run – a target stride rate.

2. MAXIMISE BRICKS Don’t forget that tri’s a continuous challenge, which is where transition training comes in. As well as the physiological and psychological benefits, you can also enjoy the added time saving of a single session.

3. BURN FAT Simulate the training effects of long sessions by starting short sessions in a glycogen-depleted state to stimulate your fat-burning metabolism. Just don’t work too hard as carbs will be the predominant energy system\

Click here to find out how you should train in your 40s (3/5)


Daily deals from top retailers

We'd love you to add a comment! Please login or take half a minute to register as a free member

Back to the top