There are different variations of triathlon distances. The Super Sprint (not a common distance), the Sprint, the Olympic/5150, the Half Ironman, and the Full Ironman distances. First you need to choose one of those various distances, consider your family/work/other social commitments and then start putting in training that is specific to that distance, so what you’re doing is relevant and appropriate to your desired outcome.
Here’s how to decide which distance is right for you:
Swim 0.25mi (375m), Bike 6.2mi (10km) and Run 1.5mi (2.5km)
If you are completely new to triathlons, starting with a super sprint might be the best distance to sign up for, you need to put in 3-4 hours of training doing 1-2 sessions per sport weekly. So that means 1-2 bike workouts, 1-2 swims, and 1-2 runs per week.
Swim 0.5mi (750m), Bike 12.4mi (20km) and Run 3.1mi (5km)
If Sprint Triathlon is what you wish to tackle, then make sure you’ve got 4-6 hours to spare weekly for training to do 1-2 sessions per sport weekly.
Swim 0.93mi (1500m), Bike 24.8mi (40km) and Run 6.2mi (10km)
If you are able to swim 1.5km in open water, bike 60-80km and complete a 20km run (separately), then Olympic distance is right for you. You’ll need to spare 6-8 hours weekly for training and your longest workout will look like: a ‘brick’ workout, consisting of a 60- to 80kme bike ride, followed by a 14-16km run.
Half Ironman (70.3)
Swim 1.2mi (1900m), Bike 56mi (90km) and Run 13.1mi (21.09km)
Typically the major training for half ironman distance will happen on your weekends – on Friday 80-100km long bike ride followed by an easy transition run directly off the bike, and on Saturday a 15-20km long run. If you can commit to heavier training loads than those for shorter distances, then half ironman distance is suitable for you.
Swim 2.4mi (3800m), Bike 112mi (180km) and Run 26.2mi (42.19km)
Similar to 70.3, your major training will happen on your weekends but with longer distances. Your longest workout will be a race simulation consisting of 1hour swim followed by 160km bike ride and then topping that off with a 20-25km long run.
When you know you’re ready to commit to putting in the training hours, it’s always better to start with a short distance triathlon (e.g. super sprint or sprint) and work your way up. Once you’ve got a couple of short distance triathlons under your belt, you’ll know whether or not you’ll enjoy moving up to longer distance.
By Talal Almoallem
Certified Ironman Coach
ASCA Level 3 Swim Coach