Once you’ve decided you want to compete in a Sprint Triathlon, your next step is figuring out the training plan that’s best for you. For many triathletes and cyclists, this step can prove to be somewhat challenging — you’ll soon learn it doesn’t have to be!
In this new series of posts, our goal is to break this process down as simply as possible. By the time we’re done, you’ll know the most important questions to consider when choosing your triathlon or cycling training plan, the specific plans we recommend most for your event and the reasons we recommend them. Let’s dive in!
Questions to Ask Before Choosing Your Sprint Triathlon Training Plan
Sprint triathlons more so than any other triathlon event require a slightly different approach because of its short duration. To give you an idea of how short, most beginner sprint triathletes can finish the event in less than 2 hours, whereas more advanced triathletes can complete it in under an 1 hour and 20 minutes. For elite triathletes, that number gets closer to an hour.
Whether you’re a novice to endurance training or the opposite, here are the most important questions to ask yourself before deciding if a training plan is right for you:
Do I have a solid base level of fitness?
This is a touchy question for some athletes more so than others. If you’re starting training with no prior established exercise routine, your answer will be simple: No. This response is OK! The more truthful and matter-of-fact you are, the easier it’ll be to select an appropriate training plan. The last thing you want to do is overestimate your current level of fitness. This will only lead to early fatigue, sickness and a possible injury.
A good rule of thumb to help gauge where your fitness is before you start training is to recall the last time you exercised for a consistent period of time. If it’s been around 10 days, it’s safe to say you still have a considerable amount of base-level fitness. If however it’s be been more than a couple of months, it’s fairly conclusive your base fitness is weak.
How much time can I realistically dedicate to training?
When training for three sports versus one, time is an even bigger factor to consider before choosing your plan. This has a lot to do with travel. Jumping on the bike or treadmill is one thing, but the second you start to add in travel time to and from a pool it’s a whole other thing. Be brutally honest with yourself here. If you do this, your end decision will aid you rather than exhaust and stress you out. Once you’ve figured out a definitive number of hours you can train each week, that information will be critical in deciding the plan that’ll works best for your lifestyle and goals.
What are my specific goals for the event?
This final question can also be stated as, “How good do I want to be?” There are the athletes who simply want to finish their event, the athletes who want to PR their event and then there are the athletes who want to walk away with a medal. Each of these goals necessitates a different degree of commitment and sacrifice. Having said that, it’s important not to let your ambition and competitiveness overshadow the knowledge you’ve learned answering the two questions above.
Yes, your body is tremendously adaptable and can yield big changes in fitness in relatively short durations — but it’s not wise to let your eagerness discount facts: your triathlon experience (or lack thereof) and your current level of fitness. This is how athletes can get into muddy water choosing an overly ambitious training plan. Avoid this at all costs. Just because you may have the time and desire to train at high volumes, doesn’t mean you should. Keep this in mind for later in this post when I discuss low-, mid- and high-volume plan options.
The Plans We Recommend to Prepare for a Sprint Triathlon
A few months ago we scrapped our old triathlon training plans (you can learn about why here) in favor of our new triathlon training plans that are complete with swim, bike and run instructions. Each new triathlon training plan comes with detailed workouts that go well beyond a bulleted list. You’ll get weekly objectives, training tips and coaching insights from me scattered throughout each phase of training.
True to their names, the training plans we recommend for those looking to prepare for a sprint triathlon are our Sprint Triathlon Base, Sprint Triathlon Build and Sprint Distance Triathlon plans. As I mentioned before, sprint triathlons require a very different approach than the increasingly common Half- and Full-Distance triathlons. The short duration of these events generally requires a relatively larger dose of high-intensity. These recommended plans make sure you’ll get just that.
Why We Recommend These Plans for Sprint Triathletes
There are a handful of reasons we recommend the sprint triathlon plans we do. Here are the most significant:
16 Weeks of Progressive Training
As with every training plan we provide, our sprint triathlon plans are progressively phased to help you cultivate a solid foundation of fitness, build your muscular endurance and fine-tune your training for your specific event. Unlike our other training plans, these plans have reduced Base and Build Phases. You’ll get 4 weeks of Base, 4 weeks of Build and 8 weeks of Specialty for a total of 16 weeks of training.
What you’ll find as you progress through our sprint triathlon plans is that your stress will ramp up at the same tolerable rates across all your different types of training. This is key. Making three disciplines of training work together, such that you’re not tired from doing the wrong thing on the wrong day, is tough — but it’s the core reason these plans are effective.
3 Volumes of Training Plans to Choose From
Like most things in life, settling on the one-size-fits-all option doesn’t often serve you as well as a custom-fit solution. The same things goes with selecting a triathlon training plan. For that reason, every one of our new triathlon training plans has a Low-, Medium- and High-Volume plan option to suit each athlete’s personal fitness level.
Take a look at the three plan volumes we have for our Sprint Triathlon Base, Sprint Triathlon Build and Sprint Distance Triathlon plans below:
Sprint Triathlon Plans
- 4 weeks
- Swim: 34-40 Min/Wk
- Bike: 89-127 TSS/Wk
- Run: 50-60 Min/Wk
- 4 weeks
- Swim: 91-109 Min/Wk
- Bike: 170-230 TSS/Wk
- Run: 105-130 Min/Wk
- 4 weeks
- Swim: 130-210 Min/Wk
- Bike: 219-332 TSS/Wk
- Run: 177-200 Min/Wk
- 4 weeks
- Swim: 51-60 Min/Wk
- Bike: 116-150 TSS/Wk
- Run: 60-80 Min/Wk
- 4 weeks
- Swim: 99-116 Min/Wk
- Bike: 179-280 TSS/Wk
- Run: 130-150 Min/Wk
- 4 weeks
- Swim: 136-210 Min/Wk
- Bike: 250-337 TSS/Wk
- Run: 170-230 Min/Wk
- 8 weeks
- Swim: 53-63 Min/Wk
- Bike: 104-179 TSS/Wk
- Run: 75-105 Min/Wk
- 8 weeks
- Swim: 73-130 Min/Wk
- Bike: 193-304 TSS/Wk
- Run: 95-185 Min/Wk
- 8 weeks
- Swim: 131-232 Min/Wk
- Bike: 207-374 TSS/Wk
- Run: 130-246 Min/Wk
High Intensity Throughout All Phases of Training
We often get questions from athletes who are surprised to see we include high-intensity work in Base training. This is absolutely intentional. The goal is help you elevate your muscular strength as quickly and efficiently as possible. By increasing your work capacity early on through short, hard efforts your body will adapt wisely and prepare itself for the more intense training that’s ahead.
Brick Workouts Throughout All Phases of Training
Our sprint triathlon training plans include brick workouts as early as week two in the Base phase. If you haven’t done a triathlon before, you’ll soon discover what that somewhat strange and heavy feeling in your legs is like the moment you stop biking and start running — your muscles aren’t used to firing like that! This is a feeling to be learned early on. For that reason, I’ve included a lot of confidence-building brick workouts from the get-go, so 16 weeks later your body and mind will be prepared for your event’s transitions.
Power-Based Bike Workouts
The bike more so than any other leg is where you’re going to make up the most time in your tri event. Knowing that, it’s only advantageous to become as strong as possible in the discipline that’ll give you the greatest edge.
All our triathlon training plans are comprised of structured bike workouts that are scaled to your fitness when used with the TrainerRoad app. In addition to scaled bike workouts, you’ll also benefit from Workout Text. Workout Text is instructions written by me and displayed on your device’s screen during your bike workouts. The text is there to guide you up until the very last minute of the majority of your 60- to 90-minute bike workouts prescribed in our sprint triathlon plans.
Clear Objectives For Every Workout
A lot of templated training plans you can find online look like a bulleted list of workouts — no further explanation. You can expect quite the opposite with TR triathlon training plans. Notes like, “Think of a light, fluid stride and walk briefly if you find yourself lumbering or shuffling due to too-high fatigue …,” and explanations like, “The greatest benefit of VO2max works comes with longer durations at that high aerobic uptake …,” are scattered throughout every stage of your training. For first-time and more experienced triathletes, we’ve learned through athlete feedback that these bits of factual and anecdotal insights make all the difference.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I start training?
Exactly 16 weeks prior to your event you should start your first sprint triathlon training plan: Sprint Triathlon Base. If you have less than 16 weeks to train for your event, you can modify your plan accordingly depending on your base level of fitness. If you already have an established base, then you can skip your 4 weeks of Base training and start with your Build. The more fitness you already have, the more flexibility you have with bypassing Base conditioning. Base conditioning becomes extremely important if you do not have a Base established or you’re very new to the sport. So, if you have less than 16 weeks to train and you have a little amount of Base fitness, start with Base and try to get as far into your Build and Specialty as you can before your event.
How do I adjust my training if I get sick or injured?
Because these plans are progressive, meaning one week you might be doing 5 intervals, then the next you could be doing 6 or 7, you’re best bet if you get sick or injured is to pick up where you left off in your training plan once you’ve recovered. If, however, you’ve taken a week off for a vacation, more likely than not you should be okay scrapping the week you missed and restarting at the week you should now be at. The bottom line: In the case of an illness or injury, you don’t want to bump ahead into something substantially harder. But in the case of vacation, where you basically had a rest week, you can get away with skipping ahead.
How do I rebuild for another event?
In situations where you’re preparing for two events that are close together, very rarely will you have to start your training over from the Base phase. In most cases, repeating either your Build or Speciality phase is suggested. Here are some guidelines you can follow:
- Your races are 4 weeks apart: Redo the later half of your Speciality.
- Your races are 8 weeks apart: Repeat your entire Specialty.
- Your races are 12 weeks apart: Redo your Build and Speciality.
- Your races are more than 12 weeks apart: The very most you’re going to do is repeat your Build and Speciality. With any other excess weeks you have, use them as an opportunity to fill it with specialized training blocks, vary your training to focus on any limiters you might have, or simply step away from training for a week and just swim, ride and run for fun. The most important thing is to not lose fitness. Once you’ve gotten through these filler weeks and you’re 12 weeks out from your second event, restart your Build.
Do I need to own a power meter to do the prescribed bike workouts?
If you plan on doing all your prescribed bike workouts indoors, you can bypass purchasing a power meter for your triathlon training and use Virtual Power for all your indoor rides.
Are you ready to start training for a triathlon? With our monthly or discounted annual memberships, you can use TrainerRoad and any of our 80+ properly structured training plans to get ready for your next big event.
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