Training > Long distance

How to train for triathlons in your 50s

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

The alarm sounds. On auto-pilot, you turn it off before slowly rising to your feet to the tune of cracking. Yes, it’s inevitable that your joints stiffen as you grow older. Why is because the amount of lubricating fluid inside your joints decreases and cartilage thins out. Exercise certainly helps, as do supplements like glucosamine.

“I swear by it,” says coach Jo Lewis, who runs Tri50, a coaching outfit specifically aimed at the over-50s. “You also need to pay careful attention to your running to reduce chances of injury as well as improve performance.”

Avoid joint impact

Lewis recommends that the over-50s should run on alternate days to avoid too much impact through the joints, while high-quality speed sessions should be limited to once a week. “Don’t always run on tarmac roads, either,” Lewis continues. “Instead, include trails and cross-country routes, which are excellent for ankle and leg strength. Enter some winter cross-country run events, too, as they provide a goal and the necessary incentive to get out the front door when it’s cold, wet and windy.”

Invest in a quality pair of trail shoes – you can’t go far wrong with brands like Inov-8 and Salomon – as well as an aqua belt if you struggle with persistent running-related injuries. “Aqua jogging replicates your run technique and is proven to boost aerobic fitness without injuring yourself further,” says Lewis. “There are many aqua-jogging sessions available online but, broadly speaking, start off in the deep end before moving to shallower waters once the injury’s healed to allow re-introduction of impact.”

2:1 training approach

Lewis suggests a 2:1 training approach, meaning two weeks of either building volume, intensity or duration across all three disciplines, before easing off in week three to rest and recover. This maximises performance gains while reducing the chances of overtraining. Here’s an example three-week block for the intermediate 50-59-year-old…

Weeks 1 and 2: Monday – rest day; Tuesday – 1:30hr aerobic ride; Wednesday – intense run session; Thursday – intense swim of 10 x 100m off 1:50mins with 15secs rest; Friday – pilates or yoga; Saturday – 60min trail run; Sunday – 2.5hr group ride followed by T2 practice and 10min run.

Week 3: Monday – rest day;
Tuesday –  1:30hr easy ride ride; Wednesday – social group run; Thursday – 10min aqua jogging followed by a 1km continuous
swim; Friday – pilates or yoga; Saturday – rest day; Sunday –
low-intensity 2hr group ride

Top tip

Maturity can equate to stubbornness, which is a barrier to swim improvement. “That’s why you should sign up to a local tri club or Masters swim group,” Lewis explains. “Consider the benefits – weekly coached swim sessions,  technique focus and increased motivation.”

Takeaway advice

Overcome fear and flex issues to keep performing well into your 50s, as coach Jo Lewis explains…


Descending on the bike can be a worrying factor for mature athletes, so you must get out on the roads as often as possible to build competence and confidence.

How to ride downhill fast and safely


Flexibility, mobility and balance are aspects which are often overlooked. A weekly pilates or yoga class will improve your recovery from the stresses of the three triathlon disciplines


For women going through the menopause, ensure you consume plenty of dairy foods, which can help prevent the onset of osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercises help, too.

Click here to find out how you should train in your 60s (5/5)


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