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FITNESS Training for a triathlon


Give it a tri ...

Paul O'Brien

Over the past few years, Ireland has been gripped by a new sporting craze – the triathlon. Traditionally, triathlons attracted athletes from three endurance sports, distance running, swimming and cycling. Triathlons offered a variety of different sports, over short or long distances, which was a lure for endurance athletes with too many miles in the legs or in the saddle.
Nowadays, triathlons attract all-comers and their popularity is growing every year. This year in Mayo there were triathlons in Westport, Ballina, Louisburgh and elsewhere. How do you become involved in this exciting and challenging sport?
A good first port of call is the Triathlon Ireland website The TI website has information on all affiliated clubs around the country and a schedule of races. It can also send you information on setting up your own club.
There are still many towns without triathlon clubs. Sometimes you have to go it alone for a while. It’s important to note that you don’t have to be a TI member to take part in races. You simply pay a one-day registration fee so it ends up costing about €15 more per event than TI members pay. If you’re interested in taking part in a triathlon, here’s a good starting guideline:

Find a race that you want to try. Start with a sprint distance (750m swim), 20k bike ride and a 5k run. If this sounds like too much, plenty of clubs and races offer mini-sprints and for those not comfortable swimming in the open water, there are also races where the swim leg takes place indoors.

Training for your first triathlon is not a huge challenge if you are already in training of some sort. Aim to complete two training runs, two cycles and two swims in your first couple of weeks.

After the first two weeks training, you’ll know what you need to work most on. For a lot of people, it’s usually the swim. Here, it may help you to join the training sessions organised by your local triathlon or swim club. They will usually cater for all levels. Or you may want to try a bit of individual coaching. Your local pools will have some fully qualified swim teachers available to you.

Focus more of your training on your weakest area, taking a extra session here weekly. After about four- to six-weeks’ training each discipline individually, you are ready to begin putting them together. So, for example, do a 15k bike ride, followed immediately by a 5k run. This is known as ‘block’ training and is excellent preparation as it mirrors your upcoming event.

At this point you should also train your ‘transitions’. This refers to the changeover point between disciplines in a triathlon. So you transition from swim to bike and then from bike to run. At higher levels of competition, transition time is key to race time, so it’s never too early to start. Plus, you really don’t want to wait until race day to practice getting out of that wetsuit, unless you want to entertain the watching crowds!

And you’re ready to go. Triathlon is a challenging but hugely enjoyable sport. Your all-round fitness will benefit hugely due to the sport’s multi-disciplinary structure and being part of a burgeoning tri club can be a completely new social outlet too. All told, it’s a triple winner.

Next week Training for Hurling

Paul O’Brien is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise and a qualified life coach. He runs his own business in Westport and is the creator of Bootcamp West, an exciting and challenging exercise programme in Westport. For details of upcoming classes, visit or e-mail or telephone 086 1674515.