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12-Week Beginner Sprint Triathlon Training Plan

12-week sprint triathlon training plan

This sprint triathlon training plan was created by Carly Guggemos of Organic Coaching

You just signed up for your first sprint triathlon, and you’re so excited, but then it hits you. How do I train and get ready for my first triathlon? No need to worry, this plan will help you get ready.  

Did you know that research has shown that you have a much higher chance of reaching your goals if you train with a structured plan? It’s true! So why not give it a try and see the amazing results for yourself?

A sprint triathlon typically comprises a 750-meter swim, a 20K (12.4 miles) bike, and a 5K (3.1 miles) run. These distances may vary depending on the specific race. To get ready, you’ll want a well-designed training plan to follow that will increase your performance in all three areas, while also helping to keep you healthy and build your confidence.

This sprint triathlon training plan is ideal for beginners who are preparing for their first sprint triathlon. Before beginning you should be able to complete a 15-minute swim (with breaks as needed), a 30-minute bike, and run for 15 minutes. They do not all need to be done on the same day to get started.

You will find this sprint triathlon training plan easy to follow, and the workouts each week, to be fun and achievable even for athletes with busy work or family commitments. You will enjoy progressing through assorted training phases, such as ‘base’, ‘build,’ and ‘race,’ and as such will be able to notice an improvement in fitness throughout each 4-week training cycle.

Using This Sprint Triathlon Training Plan

12-week sprint triathlon training plan female athlete

For a beginner getting ready for their first Sprint triathlon, I recommend you give yourself at least 12 weeks to get fit and ready for race day. The sooner you start, the more time you have to build up your fitness gradually and safely. Fitness adaptions take weeks and months to occur, rather than days. It’s not an overnight success, just like learning any new skill it takes time and consistency.

Rate of Perceived Exertion

Do your best to follow the workouts below, ideally in their given order. To help you train at the right intensity levels, this beginner training plan uses rate of perceived exertion (RPE).

Rating of perceived exertion is the most basic and oftentimes overlooked method of measuring intensity, i.e. how hard does it feel? RPE is an excellent way of monitoring intensity because it’s always available to you and it takes into account a vast range of different variables, such as heat, wind, and humidity.

All these variables can have an impact on how you feel. With time, you will develop a feel for each intensity zone and use RPE as a very effective way to determine how hard you are working.

To become more efficient at using RPE  use the chart below and pay attention to how you feel when training and during your race.

RPE Chart for Sprint Triathlon Training Plan

Open Water

In the race-specific phase, you will be swimming in open water. The first time in open water use the session to get used to the environment.

Then practice sighting and swimming straight to prevent going off course and adding extra distance to your race. You can practice sighting by focusing on a fixed object on shore every time you sight.

Brick Runs

One of the most important training elements of a triathlon plan is the brick workout. The transition from biking directly to running. This quick transition can be very challenging and incredibly uncomfortable. To account for this, we introduce brick workouts starting in the build phase in the training plan.

Phase One: Base

sprint triathlon training plan swim

This phase is to establish your base-level fitness. This is a key stage that focuses on endurance and movement preparation that allows you to support the later, higher-intensity phases. Aim to be as consistent as possible with your training.

Week 1
Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday:
Run 15 mins
Steady run, RPE 2-4. This can be a run/walk.
Wednesday:
Swim 600 yards
Warm Up: 2 x 50 easy (30 sec rest), 4 x 25 kick (15 sec rest)
Main Set: 4 x 50 (30 sec rest), 4 x 25 swim (15 sec rest)
Cool Down: 2 x 50 easy (30 sec rest)
Thursday:
Bike 30 mins
Warm Up: 10 mins easy (RPE 2)
Main Set: 15 mins at your aerobic (RPE 4)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 2)
Friday:
Swim 600 yards
Warm Up: 100 easy, 4 x 25 swim (bilateral breathing)
Main Set: 6 x 50 swim (30 sec rest)
Cool Down: 100 easy swim
Saturday:
Run 20 mins
A nice steady run, RPE 3-4. This can be a run/walk.
Sunday:
Bike 30 mins
Ride at an easy/steady intensity, RPE 3-4. You should be able to chat at this intensity.
Week 2
Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday:
Run 20 mins
Steady run, RPE 2-4. This can be a run/walk.
Wednesday:
Swim 700 yards
Warm Up: 100 easy swim, 4 x 50 swim (bilateral breathing)
Main Set: 4 x 50 swim (30 sec rest), 4 x 25 kick (15 sec rest)
Cool Down: 100 easy swim
Thursday:
Bike 30 mins
Warm Up: 5 mins easy (RPE 2).
Main Set: 20 mins aerobic (RPE 4-5)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 2)
Friday:
Swim 700 yards
Warm Up: 100 easy swim, 4 x 25 sprint (RPE 7, 30 sec rest)
Main Set: 100 steady swim, 8 x 25 sprint (RPE 8, 30 sec rest), 100 steady swim
Cool Down: 100 easy swim
Saturday:
Run 20 mins
Steady run, RPE 2-4. This can be a run/walk.
Sunday:
Bike 35 mins
Ride at a steady effort, RPE 3-5.
Week 3
Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday:
Run 20 mins
Steady run, RPE 2-4. This can be a run/walk
Wednesday:
Swim 800 yards
Warm Up: 2 x 100 easy (20 sec rest), 4 x 25 sprints (RPE 7, 30 sec rest)
Main Set: 3 x 50 steady (15 sec rest), 4 x 25 sprints (RPE 8, 30 sec rest), 3 x 50 steady (15 sec rest)
Cool Down: 100 easy
Thursday:
Bike 30 mins
Warm Up: 5 mins easy (RPE 2), 5 x 10 secs (RPE 7, 50 secs recovery RPE 2)
Main Set: 3 x 3 mins (RPE 7, 2 mins recovery RPE 3)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 3)
Friday:
Swim 800 yards
Warm Up: 2 x 100 easy (30 sec rest), 4 x 25 kick (15 sec rest)
Main Set: 2 x 100 steady (30 sec rest), 8 x 25 (15 sec rest)
Cool Down: 100 easy
Saturday:
Run 25 mins
Warm Up: 5 mins easy (RPE 2)
Main Set: 15 mins aerobic (RPE 4-5)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 2)
Sunday:
Bike 40 mins
Warm Up: 10 mins easy (RPE 2)
Main Set: 20 mins (RPE 4-5)
Cool Down: 10 mins easy (RPE 2)
Week 4 – Recovery Week
Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday:
Run 15 mins
Steady run, mainly RPE 2-4. This can be a run/walk
Wednesday:
Swim 600 yards
Warm Up: 100 easy swim, 4 x 25 swim (bilateral breathing)
Main Set: 6 x 50 swim (30 sec rest)
Cool Down: 100 easy swim
Thursday:
Bike 30 mins
Warm Up: 5 mins easy (RPE 2), 5 x 10 secs (RPE 7, 50 secs recovery RPE 2)
Main Set: 8 x 1 min (RPE 8, 1 min recovery RPE 2-3)
Cool Down: 4 mins easy (RPE 3)
Friday:
Swim 700 yards
Warm Up: 100 easy swim, 4 x 25 sprints (RPE 7, 30 sec rest)
Main Set: 100 steady swim, 8 x 25 sprints (RPE 8, 30 sec rest), 100 steady swim
Cool Down: 100 easy swim
Saturday:
Run 20 mins
Steady run, RPE 2-4. This can be a run/walk
Sunday:
Bike 35 mins
Ride at a steady effort, RPE 3-5

Phase Two: Build

12 week sprint triathlon training plan bike

This phase builds on your Base phase. You will see progressing endurance that introduces more race-specific sessions. During some of these workouts, you are working at or above race intensity, focusing on weekly increases in volume, endurance, and growing intensity. The goal in the build phase is to apply stress to the body so it can adapt and grow.

Week 5
Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday:
Run 25 mins
Warm Up: 5 mins easy (RPE 2)
Main Set: 5 x 2 mins running (RPE 6), 1 min easy (RPE 3)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 3)
Wednesday:
Swim 900 yards
Warm Up: 2 x 100 easy (30 sec rest), 4 x 25 kick (15 sec rest)
Main Set: 2 x 100 steady (30 sec rest), 8 x 25 (15 sec rest)
Cool Down: 200 easy swim
Thursday:
Bike 35 mins
Warm Up: 10 mins easy (RPE 2-3)
Main Set: 3 x 2 mins (RPE 8), 1 min easy (RPE 3), 3 x 3 mins (RPE 8), 1 min easy (RPE 3)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 2-3)
Friday:
Swim 900 yards
Warm Up: 200 easy, 4 x 50 easy down/sprint back (15 sec rest)
Main Set: 4 x 100 steady swim, sprinting last 25 (RPE 8, 30 sec rest)
Cool Down: 100 easy swim
Saturday:
Run 25 mins
Warm Up: 5 mins easy (RPE 2)
Main Set: 15 mins aerobic (RPE 5)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 2)
Sunday:
Brick – Bike 40 mins, Run 5 mins
Bike: Warm Up: 10 mins easy (RPE 2-3)
Main set: 10 mins steady (RPE 7), 5 mins easy (RPE 3), 10 mins steady (RPE 7)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 3)
Run: 5 mins off the bike (RPE 4)
Week 6
Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday:
Run 30 mins
Warm Up: 10 mins easy (RPE 2)
Main Set: 4 x 3 mins running (RPE 6), 1 min easy (RPE 3)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 2)
Wednesday:
Swim 900 yards
Warm Up: 100 easy, 4 x 50 kick (15 sec rest)
Main Set: 8 x 50 swim (20 sec rest)
Cool Down: 2 x 50 kick (15 sec rest), 100 easy swim
Thursday:
Bike 40 mins
Warm Up: 12 mins easy (RPE 2-3)
Main Set: 1 min (RPE 8), 1 min recovery (RPE 2)
2 mins (RPE 8), 90 sec recovery (RPE 2)
3 mins (RPE 8), 2 min recovery (RPE 2)
4 mins (RPE 7), 2 min 30 sec recovery (RPE 2)
5 mins (RPE 7), 3 min recovery (RPE 2)
Cool Down: 3 mins easy (RPE 2)
Friday:
Swim 1000 yards
Warm Up: 200 easy swim, 4 x 50 swim (bilateral breathing, 15 sec rest)
Main Set: 200 swim steady, 4 x 50 swim (15 sec rest)
Cool Down: 200 easy swim
Saturday:
Run 30 mins
Warm Up: 5 mins easy (RPE 2)
Main Set: 20 mins aerobic (RPE 5)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 2)
Sunday:
Brick – Bike 44 mins, Run 8 mins
Bike: Warm Up: 10 mins easy (RPE 2-3)
Main set: 12 mins steady (RPE 7), 5 mins easy (RPE 3), 12 mins steady (RPE 7)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 3)
Run: 8 mins off the bike (RPE 4-5)
Week 7
Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday:
Run 30 mins
Warm Up: 10 mins easy (RPE 2)
Main Set: 3 x 4 mins running (RPE 6), 1 min easy (RPE 3)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 3)
Wednesday:
Swim 1000 yards
Warm Up: 200 easy
Main set: 200 continuous swim, 4 x 100 swim (15 sec rest), 2 x 50 swim (10 sec rest)
Cool down: 100 easy
Thursday:
Bike 40 mins
Warm Up: 10 mins easy (RPE 2)
Main Set: 10 x 30 secs (RPE 8), 30 secs (RPE 4), 5 mins recovery (RPE 2), 10 x 30 secs (RPE 8), 30 secs (RPE 4)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 2)
Friday:
Swim 1100 yards
Warm Up: 200 continuous easy swim, 4 x 25 sprints (RPE 7, 30 sec rest)
Main set: 3 x 200 swim (30 sec rest), 4 x 25 sprints (RPE 8, 30 sec rest)
Cool down: 100 easy swim
Saturday:
Brick – Bike 45 mins, Run 10 mins
Bike: Warm Up: 10 mins easy (RPE 2-3)
Main set: 30 mins steady (RPE 7)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 3)
Run: 10 mins off the bike (RPE 4-5)
Sunday:
Run 35 mins
Warm Up: 5 mins easy (RPE 2)
Main Set: 25 mins aerobic (RPE 5)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 2)
Week 8 – Recovery Week
Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday:
Run 20 mins
Steady run, mainly RPE 2-4. This can be a run/walk
Wednesday:
Swim 900 yards
Warm Up: 2 x 100 easy (20 sec rest), 4 x 25 sprints (RPE 7, 20 sec rest)
Main Set: 4 x 50 steady (15 sec rest), 4 x 25 sprints (RPE 8, 20 sec rest), 4 x 50 steady (15 sec rest)
Cool Down: 100 easy
Thursday:
Bike 30 mins
Warm Up: 5 mins easy (RPE 2)
Main Set: 20 mins aerobic (RPE 5)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 2)
Friday:
Swim 800 yards
Open water swim, RPE 3-6. Take as many rests as you need. This first swim is just to get used to the environment.
Saturday:
Bike 40 mins
Ride at an easy effort, RPE 3-4
Sunday:
Run 25 mins
Warm Up: 5 mins easy (RPE 2)
Main Set: 15 mins aerobic (RPE 5)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 2)

Phase Three: Race-Specific and Taper

12 week sprint triathlon training plan run

The final few weeks leading up to your race. Now you have done the bulk of your training and the volume will start to slowly decrease. As volume decreases the intensity will increase. This is the time to practice pacing yourself as you will in your race and understand how to pace yourself properly. 

Week 9
Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday:
Run 30 mins
Warm Up: 10 mins easy (RPE 2)
Main Set: 4 x 3 mins running (RPE 6), 1 min easy (RPE 3)
Cool Down: 4 mins easy (RPE 2)
Wednesday:
Swim 1200 yards
Warm Up: 300 easy swim, 4 x 50 swim (15 sec rest, bilateral breathing)
Main Set: 200 steady and controlled, 4 x 50 swim (20 sec rest)
Cool Down: 300 easy swim
Thursday:
Bike 45 mins
Warm Up: 10 mins easy (RPE 3)
Main Set: 4 x 5 mins (RPE 8), 2 mins recovery (RPE 2)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 3)
Friday:
Swim 1000 yards
Open water swim, RPE 3-7. Take as many rests as you need. Practice sighting and swimming straight.
Saturday:
Run 35 mins
35 mins steady run (RPE 3-6)
Sunday:
Brick – Bike 45 mins, Run 15 mins
Bike: Warm Up: 15 mins (RPE 2-3)
Main Set: 25 mins (RPE 5-7)
Cool Down: 5 mins (RPE 2-3)
Run: 15 mins off the bike (RPE 5-6)
Week 10
Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday:
Run 30 mins
Warm Up: 10 mins easy (RPE 3)
Main Set: 4x 4 mins running (RPE 6), 1 min easy (RPE 3)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 3)
Wednesday:
Swim 1200 yards
Warm Up: 200 easy
Main Set: 200 swim, 6 x 100 swim (15 sec rest)
Cool Down: 200 easy swim
Thursday:
Bike 50 mins
Warm Up: 10 mins easy (RPE 3)
Main Set: 5 x 5 mins (RPE 8), 2 mins recovery (RPE 2)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 3)
Friday:
Swim 1000 yards
Open water swim, RPE 3-7. Take as many rests as you need. Practice sighting and swimming straight.
Saturday:
Run 40 mins
40 mins steady run (RPE 3-6)
Sunday:
Brick – Bike 50 mins, Run 20 mins
Bike: Warm Up: 10 mins easy (RPE 2-3)
Main set: 15 mins steady (RPE 7), 5 mins easy (RPE 3), 15 mins steady (RPE 7)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 3)
Run: 20 mins off the bike (RPE 5-6)
Week 11
Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday:
Run 30 mins
Warm Up: 8 mins easy (RPE 3)
Main Set: 6 x 2 mins running (RPE 6-7), 1 min easy (RPE 3)
Cool Down: 4 mins easy (RPE 3)
Wednesday:
Swim 1200 yards
Warm Up: 300 easy, 4 x 50 swim (15 sec rest, bilateral breathing)
Main Set: 2 x 200 swim (20 sec rest)
Cool Down: 300 easy
Thursday:
Bike 41 mins
Warm Up: 10 mins easy (RPE 2)
Main Set: 4 mins (RPE 8), 30 secs recovery (RPE 2)
5 mins (RPE 8), 30 secs recovery (RPE 2)
6 mins (RPE 8), 30 secs recovery (RPE 2)
5 mins (RPE 8), 30 secs recovery (RPE 2)
4 mins (RPE 8)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 2)
Friday:
Swim 1200 yards
Open water swim, RPE 3-7. Take as many rests as you need. Practice sighting and swimming straight.
Saturday:
Run 35 mins
35 mins steady run (RPE 3-6)
Sunday:
Brick – Bike 45 mins, Run 15 mins
Bike: Warm Up: 15 mins easy (RPE 2-3)
Main set: 10 mins steady (RPE 7-8), 5 mins easy (RPE 3), 10 mins steady (RPE 7-8)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 3)
Run: 15 mins off the bike (RPE 5-7)
Week 12
Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday:
Run 20 mins
Warm Up: 5 mins easy (RPE 3)
Main Set: 5 x 1 min running (RPE 7), 1 min easy (RPE 3)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 3) to let the HR come back down.
Wednesday:
Swim 600 yards
Warm Up: 2 x 100 easy swim
Main Set: 6 x 50 swim (15 sec rest)
Cool Down: 100 easy swim
Thursday:
Bike 25 mins
Warm Up: 12 mins easy (RPE 3)
Main Set: 2 x 1 min build ups (RPE 8) with 3 mins recovery (RPE 5)
Cool Down: 5 mins easy (RPE 3)
Friday:
Run 15 mins
Steady run, mainly RPE 2-4
Saturday: Rest Day
Sunday
Race Day – Good Luck!

Race Day Tips

12 week sprint triathlon training plan race day line-up

You have been diligently training for your race over the last 12 weeks, now it is time for the final touches as you are preparing for your first triathlon. Race morning be sure to arrive at the race early with plenty of time to spare. If transition spots are not pre-assigned, the earlier you get there the better choice you’ll have in selecting a spot. Plus, it can be fun talking with other athletes.

As you head to the swim start survey the swim course. Will it go clockwise or counter-clockwise? Will the turn be left or right? Are there multiple buoys? Also use this time to look for landmarks around the buoys—trees, a large house, a dock, flags, etc. —to help you sight better during the swim.

On the bike remember to ride single file except when passing. Don’t draft behind other riders. It is best etiquette to warn “on your left” when you are about to pass, then pass quickly and get in front of that cyclist.

Starting the run try to relax and settle into a pace. One of the best pacing techniques is to try and negatively split the run. Start slower and get faster as the distance increases and as you loosen up from the ride. Don’t forget to have fun, smile, and prepare yourself for the finish line picture!

Looking for a more in-depth Sprint or Olympic distance training plan, complete with a guide that includes strength training, nutrition and hydration guidance, and recovery techniques? Check out the Beginners Guide to Triathlon Training, designed with the beginner in mind!

Carly Guggemos Triathlon Coach Michigan
Carly Guggemos
Triathlon Coach at Organic Coaching | Website

Co-founder of Organic Coaching, Carly Guggemos is a triathlon coach with an extensive background in 70.3 and full-Ironman events. Carly is an age group winner at both long-course distances and has competed at the Kona Ironman World Championships in 2014 and 2015. With nearly a decade of coaching experience, Carly has expertise supporting athletes with busy or non-traditional schedules.