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8 Time-Saving Tips for Triathlon Training

By Gaelle Abecassis | Feb 2, 2024

At its absolute most basic, triathlon training breaks down into a repeated cycle of swim, bike, and run workouts, in that order, twice a week. That’s it. This simple approach works for any of the triathlon distances. You can train as little as 45 minutes a day for six days and likely finish a sprint distance triathlon. For an Olympic distance triathlon, setting aside 7-8 hours a week can do the job. Sounds easy enough, right? It is — until life gets in the way, the weather turns foul, or a last-minute business trip ruins your plan. Fortunately, some workarounds and hacks can get you back on track. We listed our eight favorites below. Use them as needed to keep your triathlon training plan on track during a hectic period or to stay in tri shape between events.

Tip #1: Consistency matters more than long workouts.

Since triathlon requires you to train in three different sports, practicing all three will yield a bigger payoff on race day. Rather than skipping three days and trying to make it up on the weekend with a long bike ride followed by a run, it’s better to spend even 30 minutes a day on one sport twice a week. If you travel and have to use a treadmill or exercise bike in the hotel gym, do it. Your goal is to train six days a week, even if some of your sessions are short.

Tip #2: Prioritize high-intensity sessions over endurance ones.

High-intensity interval training builds speed, strength, and mental toughness. It also provides a bigger fitness payoff than long rides or runs for the amount of time invested. Because of this, you want to skip your longer endurance rides and runs if you skip anything. In short, the harder the workout looks on your plan, the more critical it is to your triathlon fitness. For shorter triathlons, that means make your high intensity workouts the priority. For longer Ironman distance races, those long-distance rides and runs take precedence.  Come race day, you’ll be glad you did them.

Tip #3: Prioritize hard days on the bike over hard runs.

Biking at full throttle throughout your training — or even at race pace — will be easier on your joints than on a run. The goal is to develop your cardiovascular capacity and strength, and cycling is a perfect low-impact way to do it. Plus, the bike makes up more than 50% of a triathlon. It makes sense to prioritize cycling time and work on the bike.

Tip #4: Proficient swimming is okay.

Triathletes can spend countless hours perfecting their swimming stroke and logging hours and hours in the pool or lake to become strong, efficient swimmers. But the swim leg is only 10% of a triathlon. To save time, work to become proficient at swimming, not trying to become Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledeky. Your bike and run legs will determine how well your race goes, not the swim. So, use your swim training to find efficiency in your swim stroke. Learning how to save energy in the swim will help you start the bike leg feeling as fresh as possible. This workout will also rest your joints from the impact of your runs and to help you recover from those high-intensity bike workouts above.

Tip #5: Strength train to accelerate power gains.

A 30-minute full-body strength circuit, 1-2 times a week, targeting your back, shoulders, arms, core, glutes, and legs, will help you in all sports because resistance training fatigues your muscles faster than the pool, bike, or run. Strength training will also strengthen your core, improving stability and creating a foundation for a powerful swimming stroke, pedal stroke, and foot strike. Strength training is especially helpful at the start of a training schedule to prepare your muscles and joints for the work ahead. As you get closer to race day, you can drop the strength training and devote those workouts to your long rides and runs.

Tip #6: Use brick days to organize and practice your T2 transition.

Brick workouts, where a run workout immediately follows a bike workout, are excellent opportunities to dial in your T2 transition. Start by setting up your running gear, fluids, sports gels, bars, and other foods in advance. After finishing your ride, pull on your running gear as quickly as possible and head back out. Use these practice transitions to figure out what process works best for you. Some athletes grab a bite and down some fluids before changing. Some swap that order. Some find it better to eat and drink something in the closing minutes of their ride to set themselves up for the run. Others may find it better to eat and drink at the start of their run, taking it slow until they find their running legs. You’ll never know what works for you without practice.

Tip #7: Recover, recover, recover.

There are three keys to recovering smartly: Get plenty of good sleep. Take one day off each week with no workouts. Don’t complete two high-intensity, hard workouts in a row. Strategic recovery periods give your body time to build muscle, strengthen joints, and prepare you to work harder and longer. And the more consistently you can train harder, the stronger and faster you get.

Tip #8: Get a coach.

The ultimate hack to triathlon training is a coach. Humango’s AI coaching app was created to coach triathletes to their best performances. Whether you have four hours a week to train or 20 hours, it can design and manage a plan that fits your schedule and triathlon racing goals. Even better, it’ll schedule workouts that maximize your progress without overloading your body with more work than it can handle. Have to miss a workout or two? No problem. Humango will adjust your workouts to accommodate your life and then adjust the rest of your program to account for that missed work. When no workout is wasted, saving time is automatic. 

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Posted by Gaelle Abecassis