Hear the word "Ironman" and you might cringe a bit—those people are intense, right? Well, sure...but triathlons come in all shapes and sizes, including "sprints," which consist of a .45-mile swim, 13.2-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run (way less intimidating than a full!). Training for a "mini" triathlon takes 12 to 13 weeks, so set up a schedule beforehand and be prepared for some intense training. But also get excited about swimming, running and biking benefits, like being trim and toned.
So how can you get started? Focus your workout schedule around the triathlon's three components, with weight training in between. Here's how each component breaks down.
Muscles worked: All of them—but especially shoulders, abs and leg muscles
Calories burned per hour: 500 to 600 depending on weight and speed
What you'll need: goggles, bathing suit, swim cap, wet suit
How to get started: Step one, of course, is to find a pool. Check out your local YMCA if your gym doesn't have one—membership is typically less expensive. Add swimming to your workout schedule twice a week, starting with 20-minute freestyle swims that gradually increase to 25 minutes and then 30 minutes.
Muscles worked: Thighs, quads, hamstrings, forearms
Calories burned per hour: 450 to 650 depending on weight and speed
What you'll need: A road bike, or a fitness bike with a cross bar and smooth tires. Also, be sure to get clipless or cage pedals so your feet stay in place.
How to get started: Start the second component the same week you start swimming, since it's important to train simultaneously. Biking benefits your leg muscles, which will help with your running and swimming exercises as well—so think if it as cross-training! During the first few weeks, you should add biking 35-45 minutes, twice a week, to your workout schedule. Biking workouts taper off earlier than swimming and running, so by weeks seven and eight, you can reduce the length of your bike rides to 25 to 30 minutes, then increase them again around weeks 10 and 11.
Muscles worked: Calves, hamstrings, abs (tip: wear light wrist weights to tone arms, too)
Calories burned per hour: 600 to 800 depending on weight and speed
What you'll need: Running shoes (head to a running specialty store to be fitted), breathable running clothes made with wicking fabrics (no cotton)
How to get started: Running helps strengthen muscles and build cardio endurance that will help in the other stages of your triathlon workout. Start by running 20-minutes, once a week, for the first week, and then increase your runs to 30-minutes twice a week. Get in at least two longer runs toward weeks 9 and 10, adding 45-minute endurance runs to your program. Taper off by running just 20 to 25 minutes in the week leading up to the race.