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Home / Training / Beginners / One sport to multisport: swimmers

One sport to multisport: swimmers

Tempted to get into tri? If you're a swimmer then you'll have a natural advantage over many triathletes

Swimming training

Tempted to get into tri, but wondering how to progress from one sport to the magical three disciplines? Andy Bullock reveals how to play to your strengths…

With many triathletes citing swimming as their least favourite discipline, you have a real advantage if this is your strength.

The mental discipline that is required to follow a black line in training for length after length, day after day, week after week will also stand you in great stead for the repetitive nature of an endurance event such as triathlon.

The aerobic engine you’ll have developed and optimised through a high volume training regime offers a brilliant physiological base as a starting point to build strength and fitness within the other two disciplines.

Also, most club swimmers who have put in a number of years swimming through their teens will be familiar with the alarm clock going off at ungodly hours in the morning.

Getting an early morning training session in is a great habit to be able to bring to triathlon training as it means where needed, you can sneak in a second session on some days.

While the benefits of swimming make a great starting point at which to begin your multisport journey there are many hurdles that need to be carefully negotiated. The first is that two-thirds of triathlon requires a greater level of self-support for your own body.

Triathlete in bike training

While cycling contains some support for body weight (i.e. you sit on a saddle), running offers no such support and requires the body to cushion and support its own weight every time you take a step.

As a swimmer, your body is used to being in a horizontal position, whereas as a runner your lower limbs will need to support you in a vertical position.

The second area you’ll need to focus on as a swimmer are your ankles and feet. After years of being used as propellers, ankles are often loose and less able to control the movement of the foot as it hits the ground – making it easier to roll and sprain if landing on an uneven surface.

Emma Pallant in run training

The best way to counter this is to work through a strength and conditioning programme focusing on strengthening the core, glutes, feet and lower limbs, while also running frequently for short periods in order to gradually improve your body’s ability to withstand the forces put on and through it.

A suitable strength and conditioning programme can be done in 30mins, three times a week and should be viewed as the second half of a run session. If your swim background is significant and your run background minimal, it can take several months of strength and conditioning to properly build the strength you need.

Training plan

As swimming is your strength you will be able to maintain your ability on fewer sessions per week. Try reducing your swims to two per week, while adding in two or three bike sessions and at least three, short run sessions per week.


Running: 45min fartlek


Swim: 60mins
Spin class: 45mins


Running: steady 30mins




Bike: 60mins turbo/rollers, focus on high cadence and smooth pedals


Swim: 60mins
Running: 40min hill reps


Long bike ride: 2hrs steady with hill sections

Coming up in the next instalment: how to go from cyclist to triathlete

Profile image of Jamie Beach Jamie Beach Former digital editor


Jamie was 220 Triathlon's digital editor between 2013 and 2015.