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Give it a Tri! A 10-week training program for your first triathlon

Want to compete in your first triathlon this year? Here's a 10-week plan to get you to the line

There are lots of reasons for wanting to do a triathlon. Maybe you want to lose a pound or seven. Maybe you have friends who do them–it’s all they want to talk about, and you want in on the conversation. Or, maybe, you just want to see if you’re up for the challenge. Regardless of the reason, you want to take a stab at doing a triathlon. But, let me suggest that you want to do more than just finish one – you want to finish one with grace and dignity.

It is my contention that almost anyone could, with a minimum of preparation, get to the finish line of a sprint triathlon (750m swim/ 20K bike/ 5K run). But the trick is to get there ready to go. And how does one go about doing that? In a word, preparation.

So, with that in mind, here are some considerations you should think about along with a simple blueprint to dip your toe in the water and see if triathlon might just be the thing that’s missing in your life.


We can’t investigate the demands of triathlon without discussing the demands it will put on your bank account. Anyone who has raced for any length of time, and at any level, will tell you this is not a cheap sport. There is simply no end to the upgrades that can be purchased. From $5 gel packs to new bikes, your cash can flow faster than Summer McIntosh swims. There is good news though: you absolutely don’t have to spend a lot of money to finish your first triathlon. You don’t need a $10,000 bike, or even specialized clothing. A basic swimsuit and then a pair of shorts and a shirt to pull on when you get out of the water. And, as far as a bike goes, it just needs to have air in the tires. Other costs you will likely have to consider will be the race entry fee. My first race, in 1984, cost $35. At the time, it felt like a lot of money. And things haven’t got any cheaper. An Ironman entry can crowd the $1,000 mark, with the 70.3 distance hitting close to $400 for some events. But a local grass roots sprint can still fall comfortably under $100. Putting on a race is expensive. Don’t begrudge that fee. Beyond that, you might be looking at a new pair of running shoes. You don’t need dedicated cycling shoes, but you might need a recreation centre/pool membership.

“Won’t I need a coach?” you’re asking. “Aren’t they incredibly expensive?”

I do believe that you’re better off with a good coach than you are without one (of course, I have to say that – I’m a triathlon coach), but committing to a coach for your first race is absolutely not necessary. You just need a plan. (Read on for that.)

Buyer’s Guide 2023: Entry level tri bikes

Time commitment

Of course, the costs of doing a race go far beyond money. For many, the highest price to be paid is time. There is no getting around this. You have to look at your budget of hours in the day and decide how much you can spare. Keep in mind, though, that if you’re in poor health, the hours you invest in this project will provide a huge return.

While I believe that almost anyone who does a minimal amount of preparation can finish a sprint triathlon, the question is what does that “minimum” look like? The answer varies from person to person.

Everyone arrives at this challenge with a different background. If you played water polo in high school or university, your swimming needs will be different than someone who doesn’t know how to swim. Regardless of your specific needs, give yourself 10 to 12 weeks of preparation. A nice starting point is to try and do something five or six days a week. Depending on what that “something” is, you might be looking at 30-60 minutes a day, with a few longer days as you progress on your journey. Anyone who commits to a program that falls within these parameters stands an excellent chance of completing their first triathlon – with dignity.

The best affordable running shoes for 2023


Roughly speaking, look at swimming, biking or running twice a week at least. And it can not be overstated – you should engage in a simple core/strength program as well, at least twice a week. This can be anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes long, and a basic one can be executed at home. There’s no need for a gym membership. This little routine can make the difference between getting to the start line or not, because athletes who engage in a basic core/strength program are far less likely to develop injury.

A 10-week strength training program for beginner triathletes

Good luck

When you get to the finish line of your first race you can expect to experience a wide range of emotions from pure joy to the frustration of wanting to do it again – but faster.
I’ve coached people to Ironman championships, and I’ve coached people to their first finish line at a local park. Both are wonderfully satisfying because crossing a finish line, whether it’s a chalk line in the grass or banner beneath an arch with flashbulbs popping, can be one of the most profoundly enjoyable things you will do.

So, go on – give it a tri.

Note: Click on the link above for a strength training program to follow along with this program.

Weeks 1 & 2

Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun
Swim 800 m 800 m 1600 m
Bike 45 min 45 min 1:30
Run 30 min 30 min 60
S/C * 15 min 15 min 30

Week 3

Build 1
Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun
Swim 1,000 m 1,000 m 2000 m
Bike 50 min 50 min 1:40
Run 35 min 35 min 1:10
S/C 20 min 20 min 40

Week 4

Build 2
Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun
Swim 1,200 m 1,200 m 2,400 m
Bike 55 min 55min 1:50
Run 40 min 40 min 1:20
S/C 20 min 20 min 40

Week 5

Build 1
Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun
Swim 1000 m 1,400 m 2,400 m
Bike 50 min 60 min 1:50
Run 35 min 45 min 1:20
S/C 20 min 20 min 40

Week 6

Build 2
Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun
Swim 1,500 m 1,500 m 3,000 m
Bike 55 min 55 min 1:50
Run 45 min 45 min 1:30
S/C 20 min 20 min 40

Week 7

Build 1
Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun
Swim 1300 m 1,500 m 2,800 m
Bike 50 min 1:05 1:55
Run 40 min 50 min 1:30
S/C 20 min 20 min 40

Week 8

Build 2
Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun
Swim 1,600 m 1,600 m 3,200 m
Bike 55 min 1:10 2:05
Run 50 min 55 min 1:35
S/C 20 min 20 min 40

Week 9

Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun
Swim 1,400 m 1,200 m 2,600 m
Bike 50 min 50 min 1:40
Run 45 min 40 min 1:25
S/C 20 min 15 min 35

Week 10

Race Week
Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun
Swim 1,000 m 800 m 400 m RACE
Bike 45 min 30 min 25 min RACE
Run 30 min 25 min 12 min RACE

Clint Lien is Head Coach at Mercury Rising Triathlon www.mercuryrisingtriathlon.com