How Much Time Does it Take to Train for a Triathlon?

Before you hit the "register" button for that sprint, Olympic, 70.3 or Ironman triathlon, make sure you know how many hours of training you're signing up for.

Photo: Getty Images

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When you sign up for a triathlon, you’re not just committing to the event—you’re also committing to the training. And while I’m sure you’ve heard stories of someone completing a tri with minimal preparation, it does take time—possibly a lot of time, depending on your event distance—to train for a triathlon. Given that, it’s best to have a sense of how much training time you’re in for before you hit “enter.”

The time to train for a triathlon varies to some extent based on your training paces and race goals, but simultaneously falls into pretty standard ranges based on race distance. Those weekly training hours are summarized—both in total as well as by swim/bike/run hours—in the section below, and provide a starting point for general expectations about your time commitment.

RELATED: Tri 101: Your Complete Guide to Getting Started in Triathlon

What’s not included in the summary are all the “extra” hours—driving to and from your pool/gym/run or bike route, shopping for food or eating food or just dreaming about eating food, mixing recovery shakes or using your foam roller or just lying motionless on the floor, showers (lots of showers), doing load after load after load of laundry, and more conversations about triathlon than your spouse/family/friends usually care to have. For a sprint- or Olympic-distance race, you add just a few hours of “extra” time to the total hours described below; for a half-Iron (70.3) or Ironman distance race, the “extra” hours can be two to three times that.

Also not included in the summary below is time devoted to strength training. Every athlete, racing any distance triathlon, can benefit from including strength training as well as core and mobility exercises to their weekly routine. Depending on your approach to strength, core, and mobility work, and where you are in your season relative to race day, that could add between 30 minutes to two hours to your total weekly training hours, irrespective of race distance.

RELATED: Strength Training for Triathletes

A man spends hours training for triathlon by riding his bike.
(Photo: Getty Images)

Triathlon Training Hours Summary

The following weekly training hour ranges are appropriate for most athletes, but there will also be athletes whose paces, goals, or training strategies place their training hours outside of these ranges. For sprint- and Olympic-distance events, most weeks will fall into the ranges below. For half-Iron (70.3) and Ironman distance events, weekly training hours vary substantially as you move through a training season, so ranges are provided for both average weeks and also peak weeks.

Curious about how many training hours it would take to qualify for Kona or become a pro? Check out this analysis from coach Alan Couzens: How Many Training Hours Does it (Really) Take to Conquer Ironman?

Typical Total Weekly Training Hours by Race Distance

  • Sprint-distance training hours per week: 4-5 hours
  • Olympic-distance training hours: 6-7.5 hours
  • Half-Ironman / 70.3 training hours per week: 8.5-11 hours (average week) / 11-14 hours (peak week)
  • Ironman training hours per week: 10.5-14 hours (average week) / 14.5-18.5 hours (peak week)

RELATED: Triathlete’s Complete Guide to Training for a Half-Iron/70.3 Triathlon

Typical Swim/Bike/Run Weekly Training Hours by Race Distance

Race Distance Swim Bike Run Total
Sprint-Distance (750m / 20k / 5k) 1:00-1:30 (2 swims) 1:30-2:00 (2 bikes) 1:15-1:30 (2 runs plus a run off the long bike) 4:00-5:00
Olympic-Distance (1500m / 40k / 10k) 1:30-2:00 (2-3 swims) 2:30-3:00 (2 bikes) 2:00-2:30 (2 runs plus a run off the long bike) 6:00-7:30
Half-Ironman / 70.3 (1.2mi / 56mi / 13.1mi) : average week 1:30-2:00 (2-3 swims) 4:00-5:00 (3 bikes) 3:00-4:00 (3 runs plus a run off the long bike) 8:30-11:00
Half-Ironman / 70.3 (1.2mi / 56mi / 13.1mi) : peak week 1:30-2:30 (2-3 swims) 5:00-6:00 (3 bikes) 4:00-5:00 (3 runs plus a run off the long bike) 11:00-14:00
Ironman (2.4mi / 112mi / 26.2mi) : average week 2:00-3:00 (2-3 swims) 5:00-6:30 (3 bikes) 3:30-4:30 (3 runs plus a run off the long bike) 10:30-14:00
Ironman (2.4mi / 112mi / 26.2mi) : peak week 3:00-4:00 (2-3 swims) 7:00-9:00 (3 bikes) 4:30-5:30 (3 runs plus a run off the long bike) 14:30-18:30

RELATED: Triathlete’s Complete Guide on How to Train for an Ironman

Alison Freeman is a co-founder of NYX Endurance, a female-owned coaching group based in Boulder, Colorado, and San Diego, California. She is also a USAT Level II-certified and Ironman University-certified coach as well as a multiple iron-distance finisher.

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