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Triathlon Training for Beginners: Intermediate/Olympic Distance Triathlon

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 1/11/2011

You've mastered the sprint distance and now you want to move up to the intermediate distance. These Olympic triathlon training tips are focused on triathlon training for beginners, but are useful for triathletes at all levels.

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    Olympic Triathlon Training for Beginners: The Basics

    So, you survived the sprint distance with only a few life threatening injuries or life altering bowel problems and you think you're ready to move up to the Olympic/intermediate distance. I'm here to help.

    1. If this is your first triathlon, I urge you to strongly consider going with the sprint distance.
    2. The standard distance for an intermediate triathlon is a 1500-meter (.91-mile) swim, a 40-kilometer (24.8-mile) bike ride, and a (6.2-mile) 10-kilometer run.
    3. As part of your Olympic triathlon training, make sure you can comfortably complete each of the event distances separately.
    4. Make sure you can comfortably complete a sprint distance triathlon.
    5. Olympic triathlon training requires considerable more time and effort than sprint triathlon training. Make sure you and those closest to you can commit to it.
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    Olympic Triathlon Training for Beginners: The Swim

    The Showdown at Sundown in beautiful Henderson, NV Swimming 1500 meters sounds easy. It looks easy. That Phelps guy does it like it's nothing. You're not Michael Phelps. Here are some suggestions.

    1. Think safety. 1500 meters is a long way to swim. It takes an average swimmer about a half-hour in a lap pool. For someone without a lot of competitive swimming experience, it will take a lot longer. Are you capable of fully exerting yourself in the water for 30 minutes without drowning? That's why it's a good idea to start your training in a swimming pool; 25 to 50- meter lanes are ideal.
    2. Train in like-conditions. If the actual race is in a lake, you'll eventually have to swim in a lake. Bring a swimming buddy. Don't drown. If you plan on wearing a wetsuit during the race, wear a wetsuit when you train. Goggles look goofy, but not as goofy as a broken nose from swimming into someone's heel.
    3. Focus on technique. Quick gains can be made in the pool with proper technique.
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    Intermediate Triathlon Training for Beginners: The Bike

    This guy's riding a lot faster than me. 

    Biking 25 miles sounds easy. It looks easy. That Armstrong guy does it like it's nothing. You're not Lance Armstrong. Here are some suggestions.

    1. Get a road bike. Chances are if you're doing an intermediate distance triathlon, you already have a road bike. If you don't, get one or rent one for the race.
    2. Use proper equipment. Now would be a good time to get some extra padding for the seat (the bike's and yours). Riding 25 miles takes a toll on the gluteus maximus and other anatomical parts that come in contact with the seat and tend to go numb if not properly padded. Have at least two water bottle holders that contain water bottles filled with water.
    3. Train on windy days and on hills. It might be windy on race day. There's nothing like a 25-mile bike ride into a 40-mph wind to provoke cursing. You may want to practice cursing. It's important to be able to curse without your competitors thinking you're cursing at them. Ride up hills too, unless of course the race organizers for your triathlon are whimps and failed to incorporate hills into the race.
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    Intermediate Triathlon Training for Beginners: The Run

    You're near death and then this lady comes by, smiling like this is the most pleasant thing she's ever done. 

    Running 10 kilometers sounds easy. Actually, it doesn't. Kenyans make it look easy. You're not Kenyan. Here are some suggestions.

    1. Move one foot in front of the other. Repeat several thousand times. There's really no other way.
    2. It's imperative that your legs can transition from biking to running without you crumpling faster than Al Gore in a blizzard. After every bike ride, regardless of distance, jog. It doesn't have to be for long, although it can be.
    3. Run several 10-ks before race day. You need to be absolutely positive that you can run 10 kilometers regardless of how fatigued you are. The only way to be absolutely positive is to run, run, and run.
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    Photos courtesy of Sunset Racing.