Considering Getting into Triathlons from a Running Background | 80/20 Endurance

Considering Getting into Triathlons from a Running Background

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  • #13878

    Hey all,

    I’m hoping to get some advice on getting into triathlons from a solely running background. I’d love to hear from coaches or other athletes who are/have been in similar situations.

    I’m currently training for a marathon this fall, which is going great so far on the level 1 80/20 plan. I’m starting to think ahead to what goals I’d like to pursue once I finish this training plan. Triathlons have always had a certain appeal to me, but the thought of picking up two new disciplines is fairly daunting. Nearly all of my endurance training as an adult has been in running, so swimming and cycling would be new. A brief background on my history for each area:

    -Run: Intermittently doing races since my undergrad years (10+ years), lots of 5ks and 10ks, 4 half marathons, currently training for a full marathon

    -Bike: I biked to commute a lot in college, but have only done rare recreational riding since then. The bike I have is a hybrid bike (and old now), so I’m assuming I would need to get a new bike. Never done any sort of race with cycling involved.

    -Swim: Minimal adult experience. Took lessons growing up, so I know how to freestyle/backstroke/breaststroke, but the only time I ever did this in any sort of race capacity was in high school where we did a required 500m swim/1mi run biathlon event. Nothing recent. I don’t have pool access, but can easily start paying for access to a lap pool through my work.

    In my imagined timeline, I would see myself doing some event next year (specifics would depend on what’s available nearby). I’m assuming a sprint triathlon would make the most sense as a starting point? Obviously, I would need substantial training to get biking and swimming up to speed. I realize I’m not going to be amazing, but I would also like to not be the last one finishing either.

    To sum things up, my questions are:
    -What would you recommend to help me build a base in biking and swimming? The running plan currently takes a majority of my workout time, but I could probably add easy swimming or biking on weekends. After my mid-October marathon, my training flexibility will greatly increase.
    -Is sprint distance the best “starter” event given my (lack of) experience?
    -Any advice you would give to someone in my position?

    Thanks for any help!


    • This topic was modified 1 year ago by bensmith91.
    Matt Fitzgerald

    Hi Ben,

    Come on in, the water’s warm! Seriously, don’t be daunted. You can read about my first triathlon in LIFE IS A MARATHON. If I could make the leap, you can make the leap, trust me. It won’t take you long at all to build up enough competence and confidence in the water and on the bike to acquit yourself well in a sprint triathlon. You can start either by adding a bit of easy cycling and running to your schedule as you suggest or by replacing one or more easy runs with swimming and/or cycling. Getting some swim technique instruction will greatly accelerate your improvement in that discipline.

    Coach Matt


    Hi Ben – great to hear about your ambitions. I too started from a purely run background and it’s been a fun journey!

    I think swimming is the discipline that puts most people off, but as Matt says, getting some lessons, reading a few books or attending a Masters swim session at your local pool will see you improve no end. I personally had a fear of open water swimming, and gradually got over this. If swimming is the discipline that scares most people, biking is the most accessible, especially now – it’s so much fun!

    Go for it, and try a few rides and a visit to the pool. If you already have a bike that’s probably good enough for now (don’t go out and spend a fortune on a new bike until you’re really sure!).

    I started with a few sprint triathlons, then did Olympic distance for a few years before stepping up to the longer events.


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