Triathlon training: an introduction

As a USC member, you’re probably into a few different types of sports and have them firmly established in your training routine. Here at USC we believe that variety is the spice of life so we love stepping up to all sorts of challenges. That’s why we’re taking a closer look at the life and training schedule of a triathlete – because swimming, running and cycling is a pretty good way of summing up the Urban Sports Club experience. 

USC’s Junior Event Manager, Dario, is currently training for a Triathlon – and he’s sharing his gruelling training schedule and insider insight so we can experience what it’s like too – but without getting quite so sweaty…

What is a triathlon?

The popular endurance sport of triathlon originated in 1920s France and has become a popular, competitive sport since the 1970s. It consists of three disciplines: swimming, cycling and running and is played all over the world in exactly this order. As with most competitions, the aim is to be the fastest to the finish line. 

How do I start my training?

Most of us learn how to swim, cycle and run pretty early in life. Swimming lessons at school at least show you how to stay afloat – but this might not get you very far if you want to win a triathlon. That’s why they call this part ‘swim training’. 

And that’s exactly where Dario starts. He has seven months until his first competition, but he’s already in the water, learning how to develop an efficient swimming technique so that he has the strength to complete the entire competition. Because after swimming, he has to get on his bike – and after that go on a pretty long run. With the help of a friend Dario starts swim training with a noodle to help perfect his front stroke. Although he already knows how to do a front-crawl, he has to learn everything from the beginning – including how to breathe properly “so I don’t need an oxygen tank after I run which is usually the case,” he says. After leg training he’ll start work on his arms and gradually the intensity and complexity increases until he has one helluva strong swim stroke. 

Dario says that everyone will have a different training experience. Because Dario played football as a child, he’s already a good runner, so his training will focus on swimming. Others might be strong swimmers or cyclists depending on their background. But the key is to complete the course as efficiently as possible to save energy which is why Dario’s trainer is helping him work on his weak spots. 

If you like to train in company you can find communities and clubs all over the world where triathletes can exchange ideas, advice and take part in competitions together.

What do I have to watch out for?

First a few questions should be answered: What equipment do I need for my training? Which triathlon should I sign up to? And which distance is best for beginners?

Your training equipment when cycling or running is obvious (a good bike, ideally a racing bike, as well as comfortable running shoes). But you should also have suitable swimming goggles for swim training and if you want to learn and improve crawling like Dario, there’s optional equipment like float aids, boards or paddles.

Which triathlon you should register for depends entirely on the distances of the disciplines. From the sprint to Olympic, there is something for everyone. Dario has decided to start with the Olympic distance and prepare for 1.5 km swimming, 40 km cycling and 10 km running. For the sprint distance you must cover half of the distance which is in contrast to the medium and long distance, which demands a lot more endurance. Last but not least, there’s the famous ‘Ironman’. This is an extreme triathlon that’s an almost insurmountable challenge for normal athletes: First 3.84 km swimming, then 180 km cycling and then a marathon with 42.2 km running. Doesn’t sound possible? Every year thousands of athletes from all over the world take part in an Ironman and prove the opposite! 

Advantages of triathlon training

One thing is clear: the combination of these three sports gives you pure variety in your training. But you don’t have to work on all three disciplines on each of your training days – which is exactly what Dario likes about it: “If I don’t feel like riding a bike and would rather go swimming, then I can simply postpone the bike tour to another day,” he says. But about 8 weeks before competition day Dario will follow a strict training plan which includes a big change in diet. We’ll report all about that on our blog.

How to use USC for your triathlon training

At first glance it might seem like triathlon is a summer sport – swimming in cool water, cycling in fresh air, running through parks and forests. But appearances can be deceptive.  

Even if the outdoor pools are off limits, you can still improve your swimming technique and work on your best times in an indoor pool with lanes. 

Cycling works just as well inside, too. USC has tons of fitness studio partners that offer spin training, or you can practice on your own in one of our many fitness centers. In spin studios, depending on the course you’re taking, you can also include strength exercises to your routine in addition to fitness training which makes a great full-body workout. 

USC also has tons of partners for run training. Most treadmills display your time and speed so you can keep track of your progress – and your feet will be warm!

In addition to targeted training in the three disciplines, Dario also adds strength and fascia training to his routine. In this way he improves his general fitness and helps his muscles regenerate better and faster. And a relaxing massage from time to time is also a must.

So why did Dario register for a triathlon in the first place? “I always want to be the first one to start off with my bike at the traffic light,” he says. That’s a good enough reason for us. 

Have you already registered for a triathlon or have you got the desire to do so? Then we hope this blog post will help you get kick-started with your training routine.

We have many USC partners across German that will support you in your training. Just check out our website and find indoor swimming pools, fitness studios and spinning courses near you.

Follow Dario on Instagram for his training updates.


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