You have set your objective, your first triathlon is taking place in just a few weeks. Now you need to train! But how should you manage your preparation for three sports? How do you organise yourself? Follow our advice!


Preparing for your first triathlon is like taking on the challenge of building your own house. Organisation, a good dose of courage and lots of discipline are required!

There is no one-size-fits-all approach and each training plan must be adapted to the sportsman or woman involved. On the other hand, there are some basic methods and tips that you need to know in order to tackle this phase that is the most important part of your adventure! In this article, I will provide the minimum training requirements you need to prepare for, the breakdown of your preparation as well as the content of the training according to your sporting profile and the format you are targeting.



Before getting to the heart of the subject, I need to make an important comment about the overcompensation principle. Behind this misused term is the fundamental principle of all sports training. The overcompensation principle is a phenomenon that enables the body to develop superior physical capacities after having been exposed to stress. It is a readjustment mechanism that generates a superior level of performance after having completed a recovery period. As a consequence, this improves your performance the next time you train.


There are three phases in the overcompensation phenomenon: the first is what is known as the bodily readjustment, i.e. the beginning of your preparation when your body is tired because it is being put under stresses that it is not used to. Then comes the adjustment phase, which occurs when your preparation is in full swing and you are increasing your workload but, contrary to the previous phase, your body is reacting better and you feel good physically. Finally, comes the moment of overcompensation. You reduce the burden on your metabolism by doing sessions that are less brutal in order to reduce the level of fatigue. This is also the time when you will add a rest period after an adjustment phase involving a high workload. If it is done properly, your physical level will have improved after the process. You will feel good, which is normal as you will be at peak fitness!




Triathlon is a demanding sport that requires a disciplined preparation because you are not just going for a swim, cycle or run, you will be doing all three one after the other. This means that you have to practise all the sports involved during the training phase. Whatever your ability as an athlete, and whatever your objective for the race, you need to define a minimum workload to ensure that your triathlon goes smoothly.


The amount of training:


- Preparing an Initiation or a Sprint triathlon requires at least 4 sessions/week, with 4 to 5 hours of training over 8 weeks and 1 week of rest halfway through the training course if you need it. This rest period is optional for this triathlon format because it can have an adverse effect such that you lose the benefits of the sessions you have completed until now, because you have put in too many hours of training, which has led to an abnormally high level of fatigue for the body and a corresponding overcompensation. Remember to train for each sport! For those who are new to swimming, this can be part of the fourth session because of the stressful effects that it can have on the uninitiated. If you are comfortable in the water, you can use this additional session to work on your running, which requires more technical training in order to improve and ensure that you are in the right physical condition for a triathlon.


- To prepare for an Olympic format triathlon, give yourself 4 sessions/week with a minimum of 6 hours of training over 12 weeks and a week of rest halfway through the course if you need it. Once more, take care to avoid disrupting your physical progress.


- A long distance triathlon will require at least 5 sessions/week with 8 to 10 hours of training over 20 weeks. In this case, at least one week of rest is compulsory in order to obtain the best possible results. If you do not take this week of rest, you run the risk of overtraining, which can have relatively serious consequences, to the point of ruining your race.


- Finally, for the triathlon junkies, the Ironman will require at least 6 sessions/week with 14 to 16 hours of training over 24 weeks. Once again, the rest period must form an integral part of your preparation. You must fit 2 weeks of overcompensation in your training calendar after periods of high-intensity training. Bear in mind that training plans that exceed 24 weeks are relatively inefficient.


Get a calendar and add the date of your challenge. Working backwards, note down the amount of training you need to do during the week. Now you know when you need to start training. You will be faced with the following two scenarios:

You are way ahead of schedule, in which case you can take advantage of this head start to do some fundamental training on your breathing (without forcing, you can complete some relatively long sessions) in order to be prepared for the workout. Thanks to these advance sessions, you will have acquired some fundamental endurance and you will already be perfectly aware of your physical condition!

The second scenario is that you are behind schedule, in which case do not rush your preparation and skip certain steps as you run the risk of getting an injury or overtraining.


What you will not find in your training plans is the motivation to get up in the morning or the strength you need to work on two sports in the same day! What is important to understand is that the triathlon is a very time-consuming sport and that you need to be well-organised in order to successfully manage your work life, training sessions as well as your private life! Getting your friends and family to buy into your plan is crucial. So that they are aware of the commitment you will have to make and the concessions that your friends and family will have to make, you need to explain this to them in order to maintain the balance between your professional life, personal life and training. Some will look at you as if you come from another planet or you are off your head while others will even see you as a pain in the neck. So you need to take this on the chin and get training.



Now that you have set yourself a schedule and you know how much training you need to do, let's discuss the content! However much preparation you need to do, it can be broken down in the same way in terms of the different functions.


The first third of your preparation should be devoted to building up your training capacity. Indeed, you need to gradually increase your training time with each session starting from a point where you feel comfortable breathing (basic endurance). At the end of this first third of your preparation, you will have built up a strong foundation and you can start adding some intensity to your sessions while increasing their duration (this is the adjustment phase). Finally, during the last 2 weeks of your training plan, remember to take it easy in order to overcompensate and be on top form on the day of the race.


Depending on the triathlon race format that you have chosen, you will need to work on specific areas. From the Initiation to the Olympic race format, you will have to work on your speed and up the pace of your sessions significantly (interval workout), whereas the endurance aspects will be less important. As for the L and XL race formats, your training plan will focus on endurance and intensity (threshold and fundamental endurance exercises).


The sports that you need to work on will depend on your previous sports experience. If you have previous experience in one of the three sports, do not overlook your strengths and train equally hard on your favourite sport. Bear in mind that if you want to progress, you will need to set aside two sessions a week for the sport that you wish to improve. Lastly, for those who do not know how to swim, I strongly recommend taking swimming lessons rather than going to the swimming pool by yourself as you will develop bad habits in your technique that will be very hard to correct later on. Furthermore, you will not improve your swimming performance. Sign up for swimming lessons at your local club and ask to do educational exercises. Educational exercises will teach you the swimming techniques and help you to learn the correct movements that will make you glide through the water more efficiently. Don't bother with the mindless lengths up and down the pool or the intensity training or even the frequency training. Simply learn how to swim and see how it affects your times.


s'entrainer  premier triathlon


This is a very important point which, if neglected, will turn your race into a living hell! A simple rule is to test your nutrition under the real-life conditions that you will experience on the day of the race. These tests will reveal how tolerant you are to certain energy foods. So, make sure you test them! Depending on your taste, you will want to mix savoury and sweet foods or you will have a preference for solid food on the bike while you still have the energy to chew comfortably on a bar. Or you will want to choose some quick-release products such as gels for the run.

Be careful not to take too much as this can cause stomach cramps (I will spare you the details on the consequences of this). Finally, also try out your hydration beforehand in order to find the ideal quantity that suits you for the triathlon.




During the time that you will devote to preparing for this event, unexpected events will occur. You can catch the flu and be forced to stay in bed, your job can get particularly busy, one of your children can get sick, you can get injured, you may feel a drop in motivation, etc. The list of problems that can occur between now and race day is endless. Above all, do not put yourself under any more pressure than is necessary. It is better to skip a training session or even reduce the duration of your session and recover completely than push yourself to the limit and run the risk of overtraining or burning out. You have already done the most difficult part which is signing up! So, rather than looking at your training as a burden that has to be shouldered in order to succeed your triathlon, look at it as an incredible opportunity to become a better version of yourself. During such difficulties, the support of your family and friends will be a lifesaver for you.


Now, you have all the key elements you need to be ready for your challenge. If, however, you need further guidance, join your local triathlon club or get the help of a private sports trainer who will give you the guidance and supervision you need to fulfil your plan. Good luck to all of you for your preparation!


photo conseiller


I have been a triathlon fan for 5 years, tackling full-distance and full-distance triathlons. I am a member of the AMSLF Triathlon club in Fréjus, France. I have ticked off some wonderful experiences so far: Ironman® 70.3 in Aix en Provence, Polar International Triathlon in Cannes, Embrunman… A seasoned cyclist and mediocre swimmer, my running reflects my view of the triathlon itself - pushing myself to the very limit and beyond!


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