How Virgin Active helped me train for my triathlon

25 Sep 2023 15:35PM by Laura Ash


If you’d have told me at the start of this year that I would be competing in my first triathlon, I wouldn’t have believed you. I love getting active but I’m not particularly competitive or sporty. In fact, I spend most of my workouts at Yoga.  

But, thanks to a free member-only triathlon that took place at Virgin Active Clapham earlier this summer, I’ve got a new favourite workout to add to my list. Fast forward two months and I’ve just finished my second triathlon down in Brighton and I’m incredibly proud of myself – not to mention hooked on the feeling. 

While I did a lot of outdoor training (Sunday cycles, lake swims and running around London), my fitness would not have been where it is without Virgin Active. Turns out, my gym sessions were critical to getting me over the finish line.

What is a triathlon?

A triathlon is a series of exercises completed one after the other over varying distances. The aim is to get through and transition between these exercises as fast as possible. (Although, for me, my focus has always been about finishing and treating myself to an ice cream at the end!)

My triathlons have both been sprint distances where you swim 750 meters, cycle 20 kilometres and then run another 5 kilometres. 

My first triathlon

I am fan of a fitness challenge. I love surprising myself but doing a triathlon was never on my list. But for some reason, I thought I would give the Virgin Active Clapham triathlon a go. The worst that could happen was that I didn’t finish. The best that could happen was that I did – and I enjoyed it. 

For this triathlon, I had done absolutely no training. I hadn’t swam a pool length in about a year and I was going off my base fitness of a few runs a week on top of my Yoga classes.

I didn’t feel prepared and nearly pulled out but in a welcoming and highly supportive environment like Virgin Active, I knew I could just turn up and try my best. And that’s exactly what happened. First triathlon: done!


How I trained for my second triathlon

A lot of my first triathlon was based indoors: 44 laps of the pool and 20 kilometres on an indoor bike before we did the outdoor run around the common. 

Knowing that I could finish a triathlon (and enjoy doing it), I decided to take on another triathlon but this time completely out in the elements. My second triathlon was in Brighton and I knew, for this one, I would need a little bit more prep. 

I started focusing more on training with the triathlon disciplines in mind:

• I went to Tempo Cycle classes at lunch time. This was good for me because, rather than simply focusing on how far I was cycling, I could experiment with different intensities to build stronger legs and better stamina
• I also added a weekly 750 metre morning swim into my routine for my endurance. (Followed by the sauna, of course.)

Outdoor running continued to be a big part of my training but to support my weak knees and hips, I decided to prioritise my strength training. I booked in my Activate and then a few more sessions with a PT to work on building my overall strength, particularly my upper body which would help me with swimming. I also found the confidence to do my own gym sessions (rowing and free weight exercises which I had learned from my Strength and Conditioning classes.) 

Yoga continued to be a foundation of my training, although I do confess that I found the longer sessions harder to fit in. But with training it’s often quality over quantity. 

It was through this more thoughtful approach to training that I realised how important all parts of my fitness were. Not only did I need to train my disciplines but I also needed to strengthen my body as well as stretching it out for my training to be sustainable. 

I don’t think this will be my last triathlon and next year I’m hoping to train for an Olympic distance race. And this time, there’s definitely going to be lots of prep!

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