From Marathons to Triathlons: Making the Switch
Fitness & TrainingInjury Care & Prevention Jul 20, 2017
From Marathons to Triathlons: Making the Switch

Enjoy running but looking for a new challenge? If so, you may want to consider a triathlon. Making the transition from distance runner to triathlete is easier than you might think. You’ve already got the running portion of the race covered and you’re fit enough to tackle the swim and bike ride – all you need is a little practice.

If you’re ready to take on the challenge of a triathlon, here’s how to make it happen:

Pick Your Race

First decide what type of triathlon you want to do. For a sprint-distance triathlon, you’ll swim 750 meters, bike 12 miles and run 3.1 miles. If an Olympic-distance triathlon is what you have your sights set on, be ready to swim 1500 meters, ride 24 miles on your bike and run 6.2 miles. The shorter race will require at least 8 weeks of training, while you should schedule about 12 weeks or more to train for the latter. Ironman triathlons include a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run, but this shouldn’t be the option of choice for your first race.

Mastering the Swim

Many runners find the swim portion of the triathlon the most daunting. If you’re not an experienced swimmer, learn proper stroke mechanics by hiring a coach or taking private swim lessons.

Since you’ll likely be doing your training in a pool, try to get out at some point into open water to experience what it will be like to swim on race day. Being in open water can be a bit scary at first, with varying wave conditions, water temperature and wildlife, so diving into the open water for the first time at the race is not recommended. If you’re apprehensive about being in the water with so many people at the start, position yourself near the back or off to the side where it’s not so crowded and overwhelming.

Conquering the Bike

You can use just about any type of bike for a triathlon, as long as you’re not trying to beat a personal best. No need to invest a lot of money until you decide if triathlons are for you. Either grab a bicycle out of your garage or borrow one from a friend. Then just hop on and practice, practice, practice. Get your bike tuned up shortly before race day to make sure everything is working properly. The one place it’s worth investing some money is in a good helmet that fits properly to keep your noggin’ safe.

Putting the Pieces Together

Once you’ve worked on each aspect of the race separately, it’s time to see how it feels when you do it all together. It takes some time to get used to going from one activity to the next. Your legs may feel heavy at first when running after getting off the bike, but the more you practice, the easier it’ll become. Start off at short distances or slower speeds and then gradually increase mileage and speed as your body adapts.

At some point before race day, you should be able to complete all three components of the race at or near race-day distances. Aim for a run-through of at least 75% of race-day distance. That means for a sprint-distance race, swim 550 meters, bike 9 miles and run 2.25 miles. For an Olympic-distance race, shoot for an 1100 meter swim, 18 mile bike and 4.75 mile run. During this run-through, wear what you’re planning on wearing on race day and practice fueling and pacing strategies.