The Basics of Triathlon Training

A triathlon is an athletic contest that challenges its competitors in three different events: swimming, cycling, and long-distance running.

There are typically four to five different levels of triathlons that you can choose to compete in.

Level 1: Super Sprint Triathlon (Beginners)

  • Swim: 500m
  • Bike: 10km
  • Run: 2.5km

Level 2: Sprint Triathlon (Beginners)

  • Swim: 750m
  • Bike: 20km
  • Run: 5km

Level 3: Standard Triathlon – Olympic Distance (Intermediate)

  • Swim: 1.5km
  • Bike: 40km
  • Run: 10km

Level 4: Half-Ironman Triathlon (Advanced)

  • Swim: 1.9km
  • Bike: 90km
  • Run: 21.9km

Level 5: Ironman Triathlon (Advanced)

  • Swim: 3.9km
  • Bike: 180km
  • Run: 42km (marathon)

Source: Cycling Weekly

What to Bring to a Triathlon

  • Tri suit*
  • Triathlon designed wetsuit for anything Olympic length and longer. Sprints are usually reverse so swimming is last and short so no wetsuit needed. Tri suits are nice because you don’t have to change clothes from swim to run but Tri shorts and a tank top works great too. Wetsuits are for warmth but more so for buoyancy to keep your legs on the surface of the water. It really helps a lot, especially in ocean swims. Surf wetsuits are not preferred since they are cut differently and it’s hard to swim in them. (Suggestion provided by Tom G., competitive triathlete and LA Fitness member.)
  • *If you’re not competing in a tri suit, make sure to bring proper clothing for each event (i.e. wetsuit, cycling shorts, and top.)
  • Swim Cap
  • Swim goggles
  • Bike helmet
  • Bike (road bike preferred but any bike with street tires)
  • Tire repair kit
  • Cycling shoes
  • Socks
  • Hat (optional)
  • Sunglasses (optional)
  • Bag(s) for dry/wet clothing
  • Fitness tracking device (optional)
  • Water bottle
  • Pre/post-race nutrition
  • Towel(s)
  • Confidence ?

Triathlon Training Requirements

A triathlon training schedule is going to vary based on current fitness level, age, gender, and the level of triathlon you plan on competing in.

Taken from the Triathlon Training for Dummies Cheat Sheet, they recommend:

Sprint/Super Sprint

  • 2 to 4 hrs./week
  • 12 weeks before event


  • 4 to 6 hrs./week
  • 16 weeks before event

Half Ironman

  • 4 to 10 hrs./week
  • 24 weeks before event


  • 5 to 15 hrs./week
  • 30 weeks before event

Of course, this is only a suggested guide. Everyone may need to adjust their fitness routine accordingly.

Triathlon Training with a Certified Personal Trainer

If you find yourself struggling with swimming, biking or running, consider investing in a certified personal trainer who can help create a personalized training schedule for you to successfully reach your goals.

It’s an additional way to help you stay accountable during your training, further establish your goals, and measure and track your progress leading up to the big day!

Tip: Know the terrain well before race day and share this information with your trainer. It can greatly impact the intensity and style of training you’ll need for optimal success.

Triathlon Training at LA Fitness

Any time is a good time to start training at LA Fitness, but it’s a great time if you’re training for a big event. With state-of-the-art equipment, a Junior Olympic size pool*, and plenty of cycle bikes, it’s a great place to put in the work needed leading up to the big day.

If you’re looking for an upcoming triathlon to try, consider the Time to Tri Indoor triathlon series at

The Time to Tri Indoor Triathlon Series features a 10-minute pool swim, 30-minute stationary bike, and 20-minute treadmill run. Choose from one of five LA Fitness locations in the Tempe/Tucson area July 15 or July 22.

Triathlon Training Nutrition and Diet

The basic concept is to eat for training as you would an actual competition. This enables you to test out which foods, beverages and meals work best with your body for your specific race distance. Competing on a full stomach is uncomfortable, doesn’t allow the best digestion, and can impair performance so you’ll want to be sure and have a higher carbohydrate meal 3-4 hours prior to a full training session with all three sports. This meal should contain a moderate amount of protein (~30 grams) and a low amount of fat, followed by about 2 cups of water. Races are usually first thing in the morning making this timing impractical, so load up on carbohydrates the night before and practice early mornings while following the below.

About an hour prior to the event, eat a snack with around 30-60 grams of carbohydrates and about 10 grams of protein, again lower fat and with a cup of water. Consumption of this snack is critical as there is no intake during the first swim leg and fueling during the bike and run legs will likely be limited to sports drinks. The goal is to create a constant supply of blood glucose throughout the triathlon. Hydration for thermoregulation is critical, so drink ½ – 1 cup of a lightly salted solution of 5-8% carbohydrate (10-20 g CHO and ~110 mg Na+ per cup) every 15 – 20 minutes during competition and training. Everyone’s body is unique and gut tolerance varies, so find your ideal foods and volume to ensure peak performance.

Response above provided by LA Fitness registered dietitian, Debbie James, RDN.


Sunday, July 15 at 7:30 a.m.:

  • Tempe
  • Queen Creek
  • Tucson North

Sunday, July 22 at 7:30 a.m.:

  • Camelback @ I-51 (Phoenix)
  • Oro Valley

It’s your time to try a triathlon! For more information and to register, visit LA Fitness members save $10 on registration.

For a more comprehensive look into everything you’ll need to know before your big day, check out this all-inclusive article published by the New York Times on triathlons.

All guests using club facilities must be 18 years of age or older, show I.D., and sign a waiver of liability prior to admission. Advertised events are subject to change. ©2018 Fitness International, LLC. All rights reserved.

* Amenities may vary by location and some may require an additional fee. Access based on membership type.

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