Training for a triathlon


By Rachel Mulrenan

Once seen as an elite event, the triathlon is now one of the fastest growing sports in the UK. Brixton resident Colin Norris, 26, represented Great Britain in last year’s Triathlon World Championships in New Zealand and is hoping to compete in this year’s championships in London. He talked to the Weekender about how to get started.

Many people are put off the idea of triathlons because of the expense. However, Colin advises that beginners spend as little money as possible on equipment: “Borrow, beg and steal. Everyone will know someone with a bike, or ask a bike shop to rent you one. You can borrow a wetsuit, or it costs a tenner to hire one.”

However, the one item he recommends investing in is a good pair of running trainers, from a specialised running shop: “Get someone to look at your feet. You’re better off spending £80 on a good pair of running trainers and have someone look at your feet than spending £50 on a pair that are not good for you.”

When starting out, it’s important to build up training slowly, focusing on your weakest discipline first. For many people this is swimming. For the first month of training, Colin recommends focusing on technique in the pool and learning some basic drills such as one-armed swimming. In training for all three sports, the most important thing is to alternate between longer, easy intensity sessions to build endurance, and short, high intensity sessions for aerobic fitness, leaving a rest day in between sessions.

With cycling it’s important to get a good fit on your bike, so that you feel comfortable and safe. Colin suggests having a fitting at a local bike shop to see what size frame you need, and then scouting on Ebay or borrowing a bike from a friend.

For running, do as much training as possible on grass, avoiding tarmac: “Not only is it less impact but it’s also a bit tougher and good for your core because you’re constantly trying to keep your body upright.” Core is one area that many athletes neglect. Colin recommends doing core exercises, such as press-ups and sit-ups, once or twice a week after training: “Increasing core strength helps you put the power down on a bike, helps you in the pool and helps you running- it’s really important.”

Feeling inspired? Check out these local triathlon clubs:

Clapham Chasers (

Crystal Palace Triathletes (

Windrush Triathlon Club (

Herne Hill Harriers (


What distances?

Super-sprint triathlon- 400m swim, 10km bike, 2.5km run

Sprint triathlon- 750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run

Olympic triathlon- 1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run


As a keen swimmer and cyclist, the thought of doing a triathlon would have appealed to me were it not for my fear of running. Since Colin’s advice was to focus on your weakest of the three disciplines, he took me for a running session in Brockwell Park to (punish me) show me what sort of exercises help in triathlon training for a triathlon.

We began with a gentle jog to the park, at a pace where I could easily chat. We then did some ‘maximum intensity’ runs, to show how hard you should push yourself – if I could talk even a little, apparently it wasn’t  hard enough. Or maybe he just wanted me to be quiet.

Colin showed me some exercises for improving core stability, including sit-ups and the ‘plank’- holding a press-up position and lifting alternating arms and legs to increase the difficulty (after a few minutes of that, my core muscles were screaming at me to stop!) .

The combination of easy and intense running, plus core exercises, challenged me to push myself a little bit harder, and also broke up the monotony that dominates my usual work-out. Now, where can I sign up for my first event…?


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