Training for Triathlon – Top 5 Tips

Training for triathlon can be very demanding - of your time, money and energy. But, whether you're a serious athlete and want to further your potential, or you just want a new fitness challenge, the sport of triathlon can provide so much reward for effort, and I would highly recommend making the investment.

Making time to train for three sports can be exceptionally difficult, especially for those with family, working full time etc. However, training can also be a great way to ‘escape’ and get some time to yourself, without thinking about these everyday stressors.

The first steps are often the most difficult. But if you can make time and commit to taking the plunge or getting out the door, you will feel much better for it.

“I don’t regret the things I’ve done. I regret the things I didn’t do when I had the chance.”

I believe these five attitudes are important to successfully fitting triathlon training into your busy life. 


You have to want it. The real key to maintaining your desire and motivation, is enjoyment. Yes, if you’re a serious athlete you need to be driven and committed and focussed during your sessions, but everyone, regardless of ability must be able to say they enjoy their training and racing. If it’s not fun, then it becomes much easier to get distracted or start finding excuses to avoid training. If you’re struggling, find a training buddy or a group to help with motivation. Also make sure you change up your training and add some variety. Train somewhere different, do a different type of session. This change to routine might spark some renewed interest.


Again, you have to want it. Set a long-term goal. This will give your training a sense of purpose and give you a reason to get out the door and make time for training. You might want to complete your first enticer triathlon, or just learn to swim, or you might want to finish another Ironman and qualify for Kona. These bigger, long-term goals should provide positive motivation to keep you wanting more. Setting goals for your training can also help to stay motivated. These might be simple things like; swim 3x each week, or ride your first 100km, or complete a 12hr training week. Being committed to these goals will help you get through your training, and also provide a sense of achievement and positive reinforcement as you get through all your sessions.


Being organised is really important, particularly when you’re busy. If your work and life schedule is consistent, then it’s much easier to plan your training. You need to plan out your days/weeks. This way you can ensure you have enough time to focus on all three disciplines, and also enough time for recovery. Being organised will also help you with time management as you will be able to pack for your training sessions much more quickly, and therefore have more time available for family, work and relaxation. Sometimes athletes find it much easier to plan their training by being involved with a squad, or having a coach write their program. Having an individualised program can be very beneficial, particularly if you’re a more serious athlete or are targeting a substantial goal and really need help fitting training into your life. They will ensure you have the right amount and balance of training – hard vs easy sessions, plus time for recovery. Having your own program also gives an even greater sense of accountability and provides great motivation to be driven and committed.


Being organised and committed plays a big role in developing a routine. You don’t have to do the same thing every day, or even every week to have a routine. Yes, during certain training phases you will often wake up at the same time each day, and if you have regular work hours, then often your plans for any given day will not change that much. But routine isn’t just about timing. It’s more about developing and maintaining the right mindset and knowing that you are a triathlete. Being ready for those early starts, breakfast on the go, sometimes feeling a little fatigued and tired, but enjoying the process and being ready and committed to do it all again the next day. There are many variants, but ‘Train, Eat, Work, Eat, Train, Eat, Sleep… Repeat, comes to mind.


Even when you have the desire and commitment and are organised and have developed a great training routine, life can get in the way. Family gatherings or commitments, work travel, and injuries… they all affect the amount of time and motivation you have for training. If you are committed, then you will become adept to developing strategies for overcoming these interruptions. Training at home on the treadmill or windtrainer, getting up early, or having an arrangement with your partner for the before/after school routine are all methods of training around normal family life. Travel is a little challenging sometimes, with time often being the more restricting factor. So long as you can make time for training, then getting out for a run is a great way to relax and also explore new places. Often there is a gym and/or pool also accessible for a swim or some cross training. Injuries are a challenge. A benefit of being a triathlete and training for three different disciplines, is that injuries hardly ever restrict your ability to train in all three. Often it’s a good chance to focus more specifically on those which you can do, to work on your weaknesses, develop better strength by adding those sessions to your program, and rehabilitating your injury. 

Whether you’re a seasoned triathlete, or thinking about taking on your first triathlon event, I can’t recommend it enough. Yes, it takes a lot of drive, commitment, organisation and some compromise, but it’s well and truly worth it. Getting through the training is the greatest challenge of all. Make it to the start line, then really enjoy the experience of racing and the great sense of achievement and self-satisfaction that comes with it.  


Emily Donker

Triathlete & Runner

Level 2 Athletics Coach

Triathlon & Running Coach with intraining

Instagram: emdonker



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