The lowdown on race selection, and how to get from A to Z.

“If you can run or walk a mile, you can train to complete a sprint triathlon.” This statement, originally coined by Jim Boylan, the founder of the Atlanta Tri Club, has held true for almost all tri-hopefuls throughout the years.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy, nor does it sound simple when you’re first starting out. From choosing a race to embarking on the first daunting weeks of training, here are some of our top tips for beginners.

Picking the Right Race

It can be overwhelming to choose your first race. Let’s look at the most important factors to consider.

Distance: Target a short race, like a sprint or supersprint. Resist peer pressure to go too long too soon, and give yourself some time to get comfortable with the distances.

Timing: A good timeline to train for a sprint is about 12 to 16 weeks, allocating an average of 30 to 45 minutes most days of the week. Could you complete one sooner? Sure, if you can swim, you could finish one tomorrow. But give yourself a few months to prepare well. Conversely, if your timeline is too long (like six months away with no intermediate goal), you’re likely to get bored and burned out.

Camaraderie: Tri-ing is more fun with friends! In many tri clubs, there are special target races, so you know if you sign up for one you are guaranteed an after-party. If you’re not part of a tri club, try putting out an informal poll on Facebook about popular races.

Course Information: Check out the race website to see if the course fits your preferences and experience level. Is it a pool, lake, or ocean swim? Is the course hilly or flat? Do you have similar terrain on which to train?

Find a Plan

Beginners tend to underestimate the need for a plan, but structure helps all levels disperse time and energy over the disciplines. Also, tracking training is important so you or your coach can objectively assess your race readiness.

Note: Our plan (below) assumes you have previous experience in two of the three sports but haven’t yet put them together.

10-Week Countdown Plan

10 Weeks to Go

Monday
Swim: Warm-up; 3 x 100 w/30-second rest in between; 100 easy

Tuesday
Run: 5-minute walk; 8 x 2-minute run/ 1-minute walk; 5-minute walk

Wednesday
Bike: 60 minutes cycling

Thursday
Run: 5-minute walk; 2 x 8-minute run/ 2-minute walk; 5-minute walk Swim: Warm-up; 5-minute continuous swim; 100 easy

Friday
OFF day or easy cross-training

Saturday
Bike: 10 miles cycling, easy to moderate

Sunday
Run: 5-minute walk; 4 x 1⁄2-mile run/ 1-minute walk; 5-minute walk

9 Weeks to Go

Monday
Swim: Warm-up; 5 x 100 w/30-second rest in between; 100 easy

Tuesday
Run: 5-minute walk; 8 x 2-minute run/ 1-minute walk; 5-minute walk

Wednesday
Bike: 60 minutes cycling

Thursday
Run: 5-minute walk; 2 x 10-minute run/ 2-minute walk; 6-minute walk Swim: Warm-up; 10-minute continuous swim; 100 easy

Friday
OFF day or easy cross-training

Saturday
Bike: 15 miles cycling, easy to moderate

Sunday
Run: 5-minute walk; 1-mile run, 4 x 1⁄2-mile run/ 1-minute walk; 5-minute walk

8 Weeks to Go

Monday
Swim: Warm-up; 4 x 150 w/30-second rest in between; 100 easy

Tuesday
Run: 5-minute walk; 8 x 3-minute run/ 1-minute walk; 5-minute walk

Wednesday
Bike: 60 minutes cycling

Thursday
Run: 5-minute walk; 2 x 14-minute run/ 2-minute walk; 5-minute walk Swim: Warm-up; 15-minute continuous swim; 100 easy

Friday
OFF day or easy cross-training

Saturday
Bike: 20 miles cycling, easy to moderate, followed by a 10-minute transition run

Sunday
Run: 5-minute walk; 2 x 1-mile run, 4 x 1⁄2-mile run/ 1-minute walk; 5-minute walk

7 Weeks to Go

Monday
Swim: Warm-up; 6 x 100 w/30-second rest in between; descend 1–3 and 4–6; 100 easy

Tuesday
Run: 5-minute walk; 6 x 3-minute run/ 30-second walk; 5-minute walk

Wednesday
Bike: 60 minutes cycling

Thursday
Run: OFF
Swim: Warm-up; 5-minute continuous swim; 100 easy

Friday
OFF day or easy cross-training

Saturday
Bike: 10 miles cycling, easy to moderate, followed by a 10-minute transition run

Sunday
Run: 5-minute walk; 2 x 1-mile run/1-minute walk; 5-minute walk

6 Weeks to Go

Monday
Swim: Warm-up; 3 x 100 moderate w/30 seconds rest in between; 2 x 200 moderate w/ 30 seconds rest in between; 100 easy

Tuesday
Run: 5-minute walk; 6 x 4-minute run/ 1-minute walk; 5-minute walk

Wednesday
Bike: 60 minutes cycling

Thursday
Run: 5-minute walk; 2 x 10-minute run/ 2-minute walk; 6-minute walk Swim: Warm-up; 15-minute continuous swim; 100 easy

Friday
OFF day or easy cross-training

Saturday
Bike: 20 miles cycling, easy to moderate, followed by a 15-minute transition run

Sunday
Run: 5-minute walk; 4 x 1 mile/ 1-minute walk; 5-minute walk

5 Weeks to Go

Monday
Swim: Warm-up; 3 x 200 w/30-second rest in between; 2 x 100 w/30- second rest in between; 100 easy

Tuesday
Run: 5-minute walk; 8 x 4-minute run/ 30-second walk; 4-minute walk

Wednesday
Bike: 60 minutes cycling

Thursday
Run: 4-minute walk; 3 x 10-minute run/ 1-minute walk; 3-minute walk Swim: Warm-up; 20-minute continuous swim; 100 easy

Friday
OFF day or easy cross-training

Saturday
Bike: 25 miles cycling, easy to moderate, followed by a 20-minute transition run

Sunday
Run: 5-minute walk; 2 x 2-mile run + 1-mile with optional 1-minute walk in between; 5-minute walk

4 Weeks to Go

Monday
Swim: Warm-up; 2 x 200 w/30-second rest in between; 2 x 300 w/30- second rest; 100 easy

Tuesday
Run: 5-minute walk; 6 x 4-minute run/ 30-second walk; 3-minute walk

Wednesday
Bike: 60 minutes cycling

Thursday
Run: OFF
Swim: Warm-up; 25-minute continuous swim; 100 easy

Friday
OFF day or easy cross-training

Saturday
Bike: 15 miles cycling, easy to moderate, followed by a 10-minute transition run

Sunday
Run: 5-minute walk; 3 miles continuous run; 5-minute walk

3 Weeks to Go

Monday
Swim: Warm-up; 4 x 250 w/30-second rest in between; 100 easy

Tuesday
Run: 5-minute walk; 6 x 5-minute run/ 1-minute walk; 4-minute walk

Wednesday
Bike: 60 minutes cycling

Thursday
Run: 6-minute walk; 3 x 12-minute run/ 1-minute walk; 5-minute walk Swim: Warm-up; 30-minute continuous swim; 100 easy

Friday
OFF day or easy cross-training

Saturday
Bike: 25–30 miles cycling, easy to moderate, followed by a 25-minute transition run

Sunday
Run: 5-minute walk; 2 x 2 1⁄2 miles continuous run with optional 1-minute walk in between; 5-minute walk

2 Weeks to Go

Monday
Swim: Warm-up; 3 x 400 w/30-second rest in between; 100 easy

Tuesday
Run: 5-minute walk; 4 x 5-minute run/ 30-second walk; 3-minute walk

Wednesday
Bike: 60 minutes cycling

Thursday
Run: 4-minute walk; 2 x 15-minute run/ 1-minute walk; 4-minute walk Swim: Warm-up; 15-minute continuous swim; 100 easy

Friday
OFF day or easy cross-training

Saturday
Bike: 12 miles cycling, easy to moderate

Sunday
Run: 5-minute walk; 3 miles continuous run; 5-minute walk

Race Week!

Monday
Swim: Warm-up; 3 x 100 w/30-second rest in between; 100 easy

Tuesday
Run: 4-minute walk; 3 x 5-minute run/ 1-minute walk; 3-minute walk

Wednesday
Bike: 60 minutes cycling

Thursday
Run: OFF Swim: Warm-up; 5-minute continuous swim; 100 easy

Friday
OFF day or easy cross-training

Saturday
Bike: 20-minutes cycling, easy to moderate, checking gears; 30-second to 10-minute transition run

Sunday
Race Day!