*Editors note: I would like to welcome Paul Duncan to the Loadout Room. He is an 11 year veteran of the US Army and bad ass triathlete. You can find more information about Paul, training, and coaching in his bio.

Triathlon may be one of the goofiest looking sports around. I mean, why would anyone want to swim bike and run every day in bright colored shoes and tight spandex? Goofy as it may seem, the sport is known by many as one of the greatest tests in human endurance. The popularity of the sport is dramatically growing year after year.

The IRONMAN (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run all within 17 hours) is not something that seems to be within human potential, but don’t let the distance scare you. The good news is that triathlon comes in many distances, with the IRONMAN being the pinnacle for most triathletes. My suggestion is starting with one of the shorter distances (olympic or sprint distance) then move up from there.

You will find different distances of triathlon depending on where you go, but here are the most commonly known distances.


  • 800 meter swim (approximate: can vary between 500m and 1400m)
  • 10-15 mile bike ride
  • 5k (3.1mile) run.

* These are typical distances. Sprints vary in distance. Some refer to a sprint triathlon as anything shorter than olympic distance.


  • 1.5k swim (.92mile)
  • 40k bike ride (25mile)
  • 10k run (6.2 mile)


  • 1.2 mile swim
  • 56 mile bike
  • 13.1 mile run


  • 2.4 mile swim
  • 112 mile bike
  • 26.2 mile run

Most people choose to start with the sprint or olympic distance. The shorter distances allow you to get a good idea as to what to expect in the sport and it also allows for less weekly training time for people with busy schedules.

Amateur athletes I coach train anywhere from 4-15 hours per week depending on their ability, durability, and life schedule. Elite athletes train on average anywhere from 18 to more hours per week, sometimes peaking at over 30 hours if they are training for the longer distances.

Test Your Endurance with Triathlon

Getting Started

Current Fitness:

Are you a stud? Or do you work at a desk then go home and lay on the couch all day. Triathlon is not for the weak hearted. It takes a lot of fitness even at the sprint level and as even a sprint takes typically between 1-3 hours. It is best start with some easy running and add on week to week. Start small and build into your fitness.

Triathlete explains triathlons

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You need a bike and a helmet. If you are just starting, any bike will do. You can worry about all the extra equipment after you decide how serious you want to get.


Do you have access to a swimming pool? Get a membership to a local YMCA or recreation center and take some swimming lessons. As far as equipment, all you really need are some goggles and a swim suit. If you have access to a clean lake, jump in and see how long you can swim. I suggest going with a partner.


All you need for now is some running shoes.

How far can you run now? Aim to run at a moderate pace every other day. Add a little bit of distance per week.

Coaching/Training Plans: 

If you really want to excel in the sport and be competitive, getting a coach, or a training plan at a minimum is key. If you are looking for more advice in this area, visit my website or stay tuned for more training tips through the Loadout Room.

The most important thing at the beginning is to not take yourself too seriously and leave your ego at the door. I promise, no matter how big of a stud you are in other sports, this sport is a whole new challenge and there is ALWAYS someone faster than you that can give you advice.

If you choose this sport as a physical test then good luck on your journey to becoming a triathlete!

If you are a professional or busting your tail at local and regional races, tell us about your experience in the comments below, on Facebook, or through the Comms Check.

*Stay tuned for more coverage of training, gear, and what to expect during your first race.