Question: I’m training for my first sprint. What are the most important workouts I should be doing for each sport?
Let’s break this answer down by discipline.
Swim: If there is any way for you to do open-water swim workouts during your training, they will pay big dividends on race day. The most important tool to have on race day is confidence, and practicing in conditions that simulate race day—people swimming close around you, murky water—will set you up for a strong, calm race. The next best workout: an endurance set in a pool that consists of a warm-up, main set with 6×50 fast on 15 seconds rest, a continuous swim the length of the sprint distance (usually 750 meters), then four more 50s fast and a cool-down.
Bike: Do you know the terrain of your race? If it is hilly, make sure that you have trained on hills. If there are a lot of turns on the course, are you comfortable with your handling skills? Make sure you have spent enough time in the saddle to feel confident on race day so that you can focus on your efforts. An outdoor ride twice the length of your sprint bike ride with 3×10 minutes at race intensity with at least 5 minutes at a recovery pace in between will help prepare you for race day.
Run: There are two run workouts that will make you race-day ready—transition runs and tempo runs. A transition run is a short run (1–2 miles) that you complete right after a bike ride. This type of run is important to get both your legs and brain used to the elephant-legs feeling of running off the bike. A tempo run is performed at a pace that is just beyond conversational. You should be able to say a couple of words but not hold a conversation. Performing a tempo run at least 1.5 times the distance of your sprint will make sure your legs are ready for race day.
Heather Gill is a triathlon coach at Energy Lab, a power cycling studio.