How to train for your first sprint-distance triathlon

Entered your first sprint-distance triathlon but nervous about what you've taken on? Tim Don shares his top tips for beginners aiming for tri glory

Credit: The Secret Studio

Well, I’d definitely start to train as soon as possible, especially if it’s your first-ever triathlon. Six months of training is an amazing amount of time and gives you so much scope to improve – and also make a few mistakes along the way, no doubt!


It gives you time to work on your aerobic capacity over the swim, bike and run, as well as time to work on the technical side of triathlon. From swimming and working on your stroke before moving it into the open water when the weather warms up; getting in a few spin classes to really feeling comfy on the bike before then moving onto the road and maybe getting a very basic bike fit and perhaps even considering aerobars (although really not necessary in your race) and maybe even a tri-specific bike (but again not at all a requirement for your first sprint race). And with running, it gives you time to build up your volume nice and slowly, so you hopefully don’t get injured.

 Do a cheeky parkrun

These next six months also give you plenty of time to do a few small races in your build-up, including a cheeky parkrun once a month to monitor your fitness, track improvements and work on pacing. If you feel up for it, you could also attempt a local 10-mile time trial, just to really push the body and feel the pain of a ‘max effort’.

Record your training

I’d also recommend recording as much of your training as you can, so you can look back and see how far you’ve come and how hard you’ve worked to get there. If you need more structure, though, head to for a great 8-week beginner’s training plan

If you’re lucky enough to have a fairly active triathlon club locally, I’d get yourself down there – you’ll learn so much and come on in leaps and bounds, and hopefully have a great time while doing it. I started at Thames Turbo Triathlon club and loved it – such a great vibe at the club sessions and so many of the older triathletes took me under their wing to help me out. It was so great and cut my learning curve in half.

Consistency is king

For me, I’ve learnt so much over the years – sometimes the hard way! The biggest thing, though, is that less training is sometimes more when it comes to improvement; and also that ‘Consistency is King’ – better to do a few sessions throughout the week as opposed to a massive weekend which leaves you utterly smashed and having to take Monday, Tuesday and most of Wednesday off!

If you really want to have a great first race, then a coach, or at least a club coach, to follow with a basic plan/template will help you loads. It did for me anyway – I wish I’d done it more, to be honest, especially when I was young and thought I knew everything! Ha!

Don’t neglect the small things

I also neglected the small but key things that can complement your training, such as diet, doing an adequate warm-up and cool-down, and stretching – I’d just roll out of bed 10mins before swimming and jump in the pool, man, how stupid! It’s the small things that make a big difference – it sounds obvious but looking after your body will help you massively in the long run.

If you eat crap food you’ll have crap training, simple. Think ‘balanced’, ‘healthy’ and ‘hydration’ and you won’t go far wrong with your diet-to-training needs. You’ll recover and perform better in both training and racing.

But don’t deprive yourself

But please don’t forget to have fun! You really don’t have to deprive yourself of anything. I often have a chilled day or two with a glass of red and a quattro formaggio pizza. It’s all about balance. Don’t go full gas ‘Triathlon Triathlon!’ – you’ll go mad and most likely blow a screw before you’ve even toed the start line.

To race, and enjoy that feeling of pushing your body as far and fast as it will go – what a feeling! I can’t wait for you to experience it. Good luck!