Many beginner triathletes believe that training for a triathlon will take dozens of hours per week; after all, they might see pro triathletes training up to 35 hours per week during their race seasons. Fortunately, this is far from the case. Depending on the race distance you want to enter, your goals, and your athletic background, you may only need to train somewhere between three and twelve hours per week.
In this article and with the triathlon training calculator, we’re going to give you guidelines of how many hours per week age group triathletes should dedicate to their triathlon training and how many months it will take you to reach your goal based on your race distance and athletic background.
If you want to learn more about how to train properly, check out this training pace calculator. There, you will get the running paces for various types of training that will help you gain the best results.
How many weekly training hours will you need?
How many weekly hours you’ll need to train for your triathlon is much less than you think. We all see pro Ironman triathletes like Ben Hoffman, Jan Frodeno, and Sam Long putting in 35-hour training weeks, but what you don’t hear a lot about, because it’s not as shocking, are the pro triathletes like Katrina Matthews. She once said in a podcast that she only trains for an average of 11 hours per week to win Ironman and half Ironman races.
Pro triathletes can train more because they recover more than us — age group triathletes with jobs and busy family lives. They’ve also spent years, or sometimes even decades building up their tolerance for high training loads. In my experience, most triathletes can perform quite well on an average training week of 8-11 hours and still maintain a balance with real life.
Like everything though, the amount of training hours that’s best for you is unique to you. An excellent rule of thumb comes from the phrase, "More is more until it’s not." So when it comes to triathlon training, more weekly hours will likely lead to better performance, but only to the point of diminishing returns.
In your case, it’s best to gradually try to increase weekly training hours over several months or years until you find that you’re not making much progress, or you’re feeling stressed and/or beat down from training. This is the point at which you need to dial your weekly training hours back because you’re not really progressing much at this point; if anything, you’d probably benefit from less training and more recovery.
How long does it take to prepare for a triathlon?
The answer to this question depends on three questions:
- What distance race are you training for? A sprint triathlon will take the least amount of time, followed by an Olympic triathlon, then a half-Ironman, and finally, an Ironman will take the longest to prepare for.
What is your athletic background? If you’ve got no background in sports, it’ll take longer for you to prepare. If you have a modest background, it’ll take you less time to prepare for a triathlon. However, if you’ve already got an elite athletic background, it won’t take you much time at all to prepare for a race.
Finally, your goals for how you finish your triathlon make a difference in how long it’ll take you to prepare for a race. If you only want to finish and don’t care what the finish time is, that can happen pretty quickly. If you want to finish the race and feel fairly strong during the race, that’ll take more time. If you want to compete, it’ll take even more time.
Combining all these factors, it could take you as little as three months to train for a sprint triathlon and reach your goal or as many as four years to be able to set a competitive Ironman time starting from nothing.
Use our triathlon training calculator to get an idea of how long it’ll take you to prepare to reach your triathlon goals. We also created a triathlon nutrition calculator. Check it out to learn when and what to eat during your training or while completing a triathlon. 🏁