I have written a few articles for advanced sprint triathlon training, but get a lot of questions about beginning run training for the sprint triathlon distance.
If you are doing your first triathlon, or running is not your strongest sport of the three you don’t need to necessarily go out and run advanced or complicated interval workouts. Simple working on endurance and frequency of running is sufficient.
So how far do you need to be able to run in training in order to complete a sprint triathlon? How far should you be running in training?
We can divide the type of training you could do into two distinct types. One type is to approach the 5 k portion of a sprint triathlon as a breakthrough event. In otherwords, the day of the race will be the longest and furthest you’ve gone, either at once, or in any of the three individual sports. The other way to approach training is overdistance training. Most of my questions have come from people who are brand new to running, so let’s just focus on the “breakthrough event” method of run training.
If you approached the 5k as a breakthrough event, you would be running 2 to 3 miles at a time at least once or twice during the week. But even if 3 miles still feels like a struggle to you, you can make up for your current lack of endurance (don’t worry, it will get better) and substitute frequency.
Let’s say you can only run 20 minutes at a time. Or not even that, say 10 minutes at a time. Here’s what I would do…
Set up your “long run” day to try and run continuously as long as you know you can. During that long run day, you can break up the effort with 1-2 minutes of walking, and consider adding 50 percent of your run time with frequent breaks. So your long run day might look like this…
Warmup with 5 minutes of walking
Jog 10 minutes
Walk 1 minute
Jog 10 minutes
Walk 2 minutes
Jog 10 minutes
Cool down & stretch
Can you see how even if you can only run 20 minutes continuously, the workout above should be easily doable? I say make this your long day, because the above workout will take about 45 minutes when you include warming up and stretching.
On a different day of the week, do your continuous run of 20 minutes (or 10 or whatever your current continuous run is).
These two days will make up the heart of your run training. But to be best prepared while still minimizing injury you should try to add at least one if not two additional days of running.
Those two additional days could be any of the following:
- Broken set #1: warmup, 10 min jog, 2 min walk, 10 min jog cool down
- Broken set #2: warmup, 5 min jog slightly faster than normal, walk 1 minute, repeat 3 times for total of 20 minutes jogging.
- Transition set: After your bike, walk briskly for 10 minutes, jog for 10 minutes back to your house. Cool down with another 2 minutes of walking and stretch
“Can you see how even if you can only run 20 minutes continuously, the workout above should be easily doable? I say make this your long day, because the above workout will take about 45 minutes when you include warming up and stretching.”
This is an AWEsome paragraph…when someone asks me “how much” I train each day, I say “about an hour.” With warm-up/cool-down, some stretching, etc.
Some days, shorter, some days longer…my completion/competition is based on that. About 5 hours of training one day at a time, and a long day on the weekend. (Yeah, I take a day off per week…Or so.)
Suzanne – I enjoy reading your coaching and look forward to your blogs. I’m very excited for my first sprint tri in October. I have been activetly running to loose weight (40 so far)and improve my health for the last three years (female/40/215). I’m a goal oriented person and I’ve completed 8 half marathons and numerous 5 and 10ks along the way. I’m training for my next half which is Labor Day so I’m building milage. I enjoy the endurance aspect of the event and think that the sprint tri will be a good next step. My swim skills are good but my biking needs focus so I’m using it as my xtraining during my half marathon training. My running pace is 12:15 – 12:30 with a goal of doing my next half at 12:00. Should I continue longer runs after my half? I feel that by keeping my running endurance high I will be able to perform in the sprint tri better. I’ve been following your schedule but with increased milage on the long runs. Do you have any thoughts or recommendations for me.
is there a way to read all your blogs without waiting to get email updates?
I am training with some other friends of mine for a sprint triathlon. Our biggest hurdle seems to be the swimming. The breathing is the hardest part to get a hold on. Do you have any advice or suggestions? Thanks!!
Breathing while swimming in a triathlon, or even just in the pool is one of the most challenging parts of the swim for most triathletes. Without seeing you in person (or a video), it’s hard to give tips…but for starters these should help.
1) Don’t hold your breath – slowly exhale underwater as if vocalizing an “ahhhhh” sound. This keeps your glottis open allowing air to escape as needed and preventing carbon dioxide buildup.
2) Exhale all your air before turning to breath – there is not enough time to inhale and exhale while your mouth is above water. Before you are ready to take a breath, be sure all your air is exhaled below water. This will make the effort of taking in air even easier.
3) Don’t turn your head to breath. huh? I’ll say it again…don’t turn your head. When you are ready to breath, your head stays still in relation to the shoulder that is rotating out of the water. If your body rotation is good (rotating to 40-70 degrees on your side) and you keep your chin aligned with the shoulder that is recovering, your face will naturally clear the water to take a breath. quickly rotate your head back into the water without disrupting your stroke rhythm.
It’s all easier to demonstrate in person. Consider taking a few lessons from a qualified coach near you, or post a video for me on youtube.
I really love your matter-of-fact posts – lots of great advice. I am 54 and have been running for the last 6 years – did my first half-marathon this spring in 1:50:09. 🙂 I swim once a week and have been biking since the spring. I also have done two Give-it-a-Tri’s in the last two years, and decided this year to up it to a sprint tri distance to challenge myself. I was looking online for a training schedule and found yours, but I think I need a bit more of a challenge than your beginner workouts. I’m already used to working out 6 times per week, for at least half an hour at a time. Any suggestions for a schedule?
I have been training to do my first sprint triathlon to be held on July 31. I have just received an email stating that they have to move the date to September 19!! Here I am, in the last month of training and they move the date. (beyond their control….updating college aquatic facilities…grant just came through) I understand, but how do I regroup? I know this gives me more time to train, but I teach school and the summer has been my best time to train. Help!
Hey Coach Suzanne — Thanks for the great info! I was wondering if you could talk a little about overdistance training or point me to a previous post that discusses it? I run quite a bit and would like to keep my mileage up during the week at least somewhat despite adding in the elements of cycling and swimming.
Hi Ramsey. If you are well conditioned with running, than doing more than the plan calls for is no problem as long as it is within your current training abilities for the run. So if you are used to running say 30 miles perweek and add in swimming and cycling, I’d suggest cutting back your run volume by maybe 20 % or so, keep your long run distance and see how you feel. If you are really fatigued, cut back a bit more the next week, but keep the long run the same and try to keep the frequency up.
Great advice. I’m 56yrs. old and ran my first marathon this past year. I’d never been a runner and wanted a challenge as well as maintaining a good fitness level. I also completed my first sprint triathlon. This next July I want to do another sprint, but want to place in my age division. The swimming has been the most challenging, but am giving myself plenty of time to improve. Is the a way I can improve the speed of my flip turns? I seem to really drag when I come out of them. Thanks for your help!
Hi Coach Suzanne,
I just signed up for my first race ever, the sprint tri in early May. I swam in high school and college, so I’ve been doing some swimming in the mornings (about 1000 to 1500 yards). I never thought I was capable of running. But I started a little bit with my family in the summer. And have been running occasionally since then. Then I signed up for this race and started “training” (getting serious, at least) a couple weeks ago. I’ve been throwing the kids in a stroller and, with the encouragement of my husband, did 3 miles last weekend. I’ll continue to swim to keep up those muscles (but probably only once or twice a week). I’ll bike when I can (also probably once or twice a week… I’ve done a little mountain biking and, though I hear there is a big hill in the race, I’m not overly worried about the bike portion). I am, however, worried about the running (My hips and knees often hurt… thanks for the trait, mom!). I’d feel 100x more comfortable if I overdistance in the run training. What do you suggest? (Thanks!)
I am a lifelond swimmer and found you because I started TI. Unbelievable the difference and thank you!!! I also have a long cycling background as I have always wanted to do a tri since grade school. Over 40 and my first id october!!! Thank you so much, your methods for running have helped me dramatically. Do you have tips on nausea while swimming and training through severe allergies? my ears are constantly clogged with pressure and I get sore throats, even on nasal steroids and claritin D.
thank you so much for all of your fantastic training information/ it has helped me improve dramatically. I am a life long competitive swimmer and also have a long cycling history. I used to run while in high school but an injury forced me to stop and I gave up on my tri dream, until recently. Now over 40, I’m gonna do my first in October!!!!
your advice has helped me in both swimming and running. After 35 years of traditional pull, kick, I tried TI. That’s how I found you. I could only do timed intervals of 2 to 3 minutes, rest 2 minutes freestyle. Now I can consistently swim 1500m.
In a matter of 1 day. Running, I could barely get past that initial need to stop and rest phase. Now I can run 45 minutes in a fat burn speed of 4.5, For me that run is pretty good. My weakest sport.
I have a couple questions. I recently developed severe allergies in the fall. do you have tips on training through this. I take nasal steroids, nasonex, Claritin d, but still always have fluid in my inner ear with constant pressure. I get seasick in the pool now and have to take Dramamine to swim. Now the pnd is starting and I am getting sore throats. I am sure you cant diagnose anything, but tips on how to train through this will help greatly.
Also I have 1 child still at home from school. I do open road cycling when possible and can easily do a 15 20 mile ride. My average speed on the flat can be 18 to 20mph. I live in the mountains so hills are no issue. Will a stationary trainer be sufficient? in between long weekend rides? I miss a lot of opportunity to ride during the week.
So glad I found you!!! Thank you for any information you can provide.