How to train for a duathlon for beginners

If you are thinking of trying out a duathlon we have put together some great tips for beginners. It can be hard moving from just running or bike events to combining both one after the other. Splitting your training up and slowly joining the disciplines together is a good way to get started

Running training

The sprints in a duathlon are normally not too big - many tend to top out about 10KM for the first leg, and most will halve the distance for the second leg after the cycle section. If you’re new to running, try smaller distances to begin with to build yourself up - 1KM, 2.5KM, 5KM etc. Start off small, and then move on when you are comfortable and confident you can complete that distance.

Despite the smaller sections of running, a duathlon is all about endurance - so there is no harm is being able to last longer than the challenge you’re doing. You should also get an idea of the terrain you’ll be running on, or even try and run the circuit beforehand if the event provider has a map of the run available. This will help you to learn about any uphill sections, and the type of ground you’ll have to make it across.

Bike training

Similar to above, it can help to know the type of cycling challenge you’ll be facing and start preparing for it. If you’ve already got your bike, get out on it and start riding. Cycling is easy to get into, but as the distances get longer or roads get steeper, you’ll find the challenge getting hard and harder.

If you don’t have a bike, or find it tricky to cycle locally, then try and looking for some spinning bikes at the gym - these allow you to adjust the seat and handlebars fully, unlike standard exercise bikes. Comfort is going to be important, as the biking sections can typically be 20-50KM, and you don’t want chafing or worse pain to ruin your time.

It’s important for you to get your bike - be it an indoor spinning one or a proper bike - adjusted to your height, stature, and your preferred riding position. You should make sure you can reach the handles easily, that you’re knees are above your feet, and the seat should be about hip height. Play around until everything is comfortable, and you’ll find your rides much more enjoyable.

Practice transitioning

So you’ve nailed down the running, and the biking - the last thing to do is make sure you can get between one and the other as fast and as safe as possible. You’ll want to make sure you can easily swap trainers, secure your helmet and jump on the bike in as quick a time as you can, and then dismount and swap back to your running shoes at the other end.

It is critical for you to practice transitioning between running and cycling in order to save time on the race day. This includes not just the physical change over from the run to the cycle and back – but also being able to change from your running to cycling shoes and gear as quickly as possible.

The Power of Two

The usual format for a duathlon is run-cycle-run - that is you start with running, switch to cycling, and then transition to running again. Training for duathlon requires a lot of dedication as you need to be prepared for both the running and cycling aspects of the challenge. You should set aside a few weeks to train for the event and start off your training program with running or cycling for 30 minutes every day in order to sharpen your fitness and increase your endurance.

It is important that you do not overexert yourself in the early days of training. Set yourself everyday running and cycling goals and then gradually increase them, depending on the length of the race. A typical duathlon can be 10KM run, 20KM cycle and then finish with a final 5KM run, so you need to be prepared to go long distance.

You should ensure that you can comfortably complete each of the distances on their own – you have no time rest in between the sections of the duathlon so ensuring you’re prepared for each one is the best start you can have.

Brick sessions

Brick workouts are an important component of a duathlon. They refer to combining the training of two distinct disciplines (in this case running and cycling) within the same workout, without any interruption in between. This means a run immediately followed by a cycle, or the other way round.

You should aim to include at least one brick session in your training program. You can, for example, start by cycling for five miles, and then switch to a one-mile run immediately. Brick sessions will help you with the transition from cycling to running and allow you to do this as smoothly and quickly as possible. A brick session helps with practicing race pace, developing aerobic endurance, and boosting your stamina.

Nutrition plan

Diet plays a key role in any training regime. It's important that you maintain a nutritious diet to stay energized and keep yourself healthy. Ensure you are getting enough calories - every individual’s calorie intake may vary depending on the number of kilometers they are running or cycling. As a general rule of thumb, men need 20 calories per pound of body weight and women need 17 calories per pound of body weight in order to maintain a healthy weight whilst competing or training.

Protein and healthy fats are important nutrients as to help with muscle building and keeping up energy levels. Eggs, lean meat, poultry, beans and low-fat dairy provide protein, while nuts, seeds, salmon, oils and avocados are the most common sources of fat. Equally important are carbs as they the body’s preferred source of quick release fuel.

Ready, set, go!

Wear high-quality, comfortable gear and shoes at the event. It is always better to start the race steadily in order to finish strong. Remember your training, keep hydrated and try to have as much fun as you can!


Want to get involved? Check out our Duathlon listings here