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How does a triathlon work?

Are you a person used to training but want to have a clear goal for that effort you make every day?

In the following article we will explain how a triathlon works and why it is an surprising sporting challenge that requires optimal training of all physical qualities.

A triathlon in an endurance sport that consists of the integration of three disciplines: swimming, cycling and running.

It is a sporting challenge that requires a lot of training, discipline, courage and an important mental strength to achieve the goal.

How many stages are there in a triathlon?

Triathlon is consisting of three consecutive sports: wimming, cycling and running.

The space between them is known as transition. T1 is the transition between swimming and cycling; T2, between cycling and running.

Each segment of the triathlon is fundamental, for this reason we must train each one of them in a conscious way and focusing on that physical quality that we need to develop.

Remember that being three different sports, different muscle groups are in use. It is essential to adapt to this change quickly to avoid injury and abandonment of the race.

Swimming: the first and most exciting part of the triathlon

The swim segment is by far the most respected by coaches and triathletes. This is because it is the segment that takes place in a different environment than usual. For this reason it requires much more training and demands than the other two disciplines.

You can use all swimming styles in triathlon but the most used is the crawl because it is the fastest technique and allows the greatest resistance.

Generally, it is performed in open water. It requires the ability to cope with all types of winds and tides. You also need certain elements for a successful race: good goggles, appropriate and tailored clothing.

Goggles can be chosen according to comfort. Smoked or mirrored goggles are recommended because they will protect from sun glare.

The use of items such as frog legs, snorkel, mittens are prohibited. Limit their use to training.


It is the segment where the cardiac activity decreases. Take the opportunity to nourish yourself and eat something a little more solid such as bananas and nutritional bars.

It is necessary to avoid techniques that are penalized such as drafting in long distance triathlons such as ironman or adopting positions that take advantage of the other competitors.

There are participants who prefer to save time by not wearing shoes and pedaling barefoot. It is a matter of practice and comfort.

The bike must be previously approved by the triathlon organizers.


The last segment of the triathlon is the run. Here it is necessary to wear good running shoes and socks to avoid annoying rubbing, blisters and to feel as comfortable as possible.

During this run there will be volunteers and assistants who will provide food and nutritional gels that should be used with caution to avoid dizziness and stomach aches. If you are not used to so much sugar, it is best to bring your own nutrients such as energy bars.

The transitions between each discipline of the triathlon

Definitely the most stressful moments for triathletes are the transitions from one discipline to another. They vary according to the length of the competition and can be a headache if you haven’t prepared for them beforehand.

These are the times to change shoes, organize what you will discard and what you will wear in the next race.

The transition from swimming to cycling is called T1; and from cycling to running, T2. Speed in each transition is key to saving as much time as possible and being able to continue to the next stage of the race as soon as possible. Every second counts.

T1 can be uncomfortable because you come out soaking wet and dizzy from the effort. So it’s time to get rid of the salt water and stay cool. BodyFresh is designed just for that moment when you need a quick and effective cleanup. It is best to have the wipes along with your change items.

After getting out of the water you have to do several steps simultaneously: take off your wetsuit; run to the pit area; locate your bike; clean and dry yourself; put on your cycling shoes; put on your helmet; take the bike to the start mark and continue the race. Uff, everything as fast as possible.

There are usually assistants to help you with the process. For example, people designated to help participants take off their wetsuits.

The protective helmet must be properly fitted and fastened before even touching the bike. All of these details must be taken into account because the transitions are where the most warnings tend to occur.

It seems more difficult than it really is. The idea is to enjoy the process and if the training was conscious, the participation in the triathlon will be successful.

In T2 there is no need to slow down. Just as in T1, everything should be done as quickly as possible. The bike should be left in its place, clothes and accessories in the designated bag.

How long is each part of a triathlon?

The three parts of a triathlon have a specific distance. The variation in course time will vary according to the endurance and training of each athlete.

Triathlons are divided into supersprint, sprint, Olympic, half ironman and ironman. Supersprint and sprint are usually competitions for beginners or challenges to train the athletes’ anaerobic capacities.

As the distances are shorter, the time is reduced and the ability to switch from one sport to another must be trained so as not to damage the different muscle sets.

The distances of the different types of triathlons are:

  • Supersprint: 350m swimming/5km cycling/2.5km running.
  • Sprint: 750m/20km/5km
  • Olympic: 1.5km/40km/10km
  • Half ironman: 1,9km/90km/21,1km
  • Ironman: 3.8km/180km/42.2km
  • Ultraman: 10km/415km/85km/85km
  • How many hours is a triathlon?

A triathlon can last 30 minutes to 12 hours or more, depending on the type of triathlon. A sprint usually lasts less than 40 minutes and an Ironman can last up to 12 hours or more. It all depends on the time each athlete will have in each discipline.

Elite triathletes will compete to improve their time and reach the first places. Amateur and amateur athletes usually participate for a personal goal. The important thing is not how long it takes to complete the race, the important thing is the effort that is made in all that time.

For this reason, training should not be focused on the time it takes to finish the race, but on the effort made. And the most important thing: to go all the way to the end.

Training for a triathlon

Training is one of the key points to consider when participating in a triathlon.

Since triathlon is an endurance sport, training should be done in a way that alternates light to moderate exercise for a longer amount of time. It is also important to plan a progressive training that stimulates the capacity of physical and mental adaptation to such a great sporting challenge.

Triathlon is a sport that will require preparation beyond the physical. Making time for training, work, family and recreation is essential for proper mental health. It will not be easy but every challenge comes with effort.

Maintaining consistency is key in the planning you have created to achieve your goal.

What to consider in preparing for a triathlon beyond training.

Everyone is different and needs vary for everyone. Set realistic goals based on your time and abilities. If you are a beginner, it is best to start with a short triathlon.

If you are used to training and feel you have the capacity to face a bigger challenge, go for a longer triathlon, but don’t be confident and train hard.

Training should be progressive. Always try to improve your times to avoid getting stuck on a single distance or a single training load. Of course, never overtrain.

Always respect the recovery process of each workout and no matter how motivated you feel, don’t speed up or overexert yourself in light training intervals.

Overtraining can have detrimental consequences on your daily life such as insomnia, stress, frustration and inability to keep up with injuries and soreness.

Always remember to maintain a balance between training, nutrition and recovery. They complement each other and none is more important than the other.

A balanced nutrition rich in carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats and plenty of hydration ensures the good health of the athlete and good performance in the race.

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