How to transition from marathons to triathlons

So you’ve spent the last few years enjoying the increase in your fitness from time on the treadmill and hitting the pavement, but now you’re ready for a new challenge.

One of the easiest transitions for most runners is the triathlon because it feeds the need for endorphins and sweat, but with the added benefit of built in cross training to reduce injury

Transition from running to triathlon

Following are six tips to help make the transition easier:

Stop focusing on just your running – As Meghan of Meals and Miles noted:
stop trying to fit the triathlon around your running races-  allow running to take a backseat to cycling and swimming”. The rule was I couldn’t train for any road races while I was training for my half ironman. Training for races was an error I made in the past and I always ended up favoring my training runs to cycling or swimming because that was the ‘important race’.

Learn to properly bike – As stated by Matt Frazier of No Meat Athlete:
When I went in for my first road bike fitting, I learned that most triathlete newbies (myself included) don’t know how to ride a bike. Rather than use proper cycling form, they instinctively mash the pedals or try to “run” on the bike – no wonder their legs are shot by the time they get to the run!

Instead, it’s important to learn proper form so you use one set of muscles on the bike and another set on the run. Additionally, most runners struggle with the bike leg because they don’t know how to shift, climb, or hold their line on a turn.

Open-Water Swimming – As explained by WalkJogRun
If the swim portion of your triathlon will be in a lake, river, or ocean, practice in that body of water. Swimming in a pool is very different from open water. Only training in a pool for a lake swim is akin to wearing a new model of running shoes on race day – it’s a big mistake.

Likewise, if your race is wetsuit legal, swim in your wetsuit a few times before race day. If possible, see if local triathlon clubs in your area host group open water swims so you can do a dress rehearsal for your first mass swim start.

Sprint before you go long –
Endurance junkies might be tempted to leap straight in to the longer distances, but there is a lot to be learned from doing a sprint.
 During a shorter race, you can practice the fine art of transitions, test out wet suits or other new to you gear without the physical and mental fatigue of a 70.3

Prepare your wallet – as RunLadyLike explains it’s not cheap, but worth it
 When it comes to running, technically you can throw on a pair of shoes and head out your front door to log your miles. With triathlon, there is a lot more equipment involved and many more dollar signs. At a minimum, you will need: a swim suit, goggles, swim cap, road or tri bike, bike helmet, bike gloves, bike shoes if you are using clip pedals, bike shorts, a race belt for your number, tieless shoelaces (such as Yanks), running shoes, Body Glide/TriGlide and a tri suit (top and bottom made for swimming, biking and running). There are so many other gadgets and gear you could have but these are the bare basics. To see my complete triathlon race day packing list, click here.

Learn from those with experiencePro Triathlete Sean Jefferson says
Swimming with more experienced people who can teach you about technique and can push you in the pool is really important. It’s so much easier swimming with other people doing the same workout. It just makes the workout easier and makes swimming more enjoyable. That goes for all three of the sports, actually. When you’re trying to learn and get into the sport, find group rides, group track practices and masters groups. Training with people that have done it before and have the experience that is the most beneficial.

Still not sure if triathlons are right for you?

Then you might be interested to hear that most runners have noted that triathlon training also improved their marathon finishing times by forcing them to develop strength in new areas, increased foot turn over from biking and of course more time training by reducing injury rates!

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Our Running Guru
Amanda Brooks
Amanda Brooks
Running Guru