The jump from Olympic distance to half iron distance may seem a daunting one but have no fear, this transition is actually very achievable. The largest challenge for the majority of triathletes is the swim. When you analyse the transition from Olympic to half iron the swim is the smallest increase, a minor 400m to be exact. Now, if you have been training properly for the Olympic distance you have been doing this in training and more. Stick to your pacing and you'll be fine.

So, the question remains, how do you double, plus a little more, the bike and run. My advice to you, focus on the bike. You see from an injury management point of view the run is where the danger is. Many first timers make the mistake of focussing on the run as it is the last discipline and therefore you are tired and need to be ready for this. However, the run is where your body takes the most pounding, damage and trauma. If you minimise this impact you build up your fitness while your injury risk lessons significantly.

Another reason to focus on the bike in your build phase is that this is the largest part of the race, and the discipline where the time gains are the largest. If you can focus on a strong bike the run will come. Think of it like this. A 20 % improvement on a 4-hour bike split is 48 minutes! Could you achieve this on the swim or run? Moreover, the bike is non-impact so the injury risk is significantly less. Aim to do at least 3 bike sessions per week, with 1 long bike, 1 spin/high cadence bike and 1 strength bike (hills, single leg, high gearing turbo). Add in 2-3 runs and 1-2 swim sessions and you are there.

So, how do you manage the run? Focus on a low heart rate, focus on your run training. Run at the end of the day if you can so you can start to train in a slightly fatigued state. You will be running fatigued in the race so training this way will help you. Work on some pacing runs, some negative split runs and your run form. A few simple visual images while you run can really help. One of the most important is ‘run tall’. Many runners collapse their upper body as they fatigue, so keep tall, shoulders back, chest high and your form will improve. Drive the elbows back to push the body forward is another great tip for your run training. Whatever your style - forefoot strike, mid foot or heel strike, the two keys of run tall and elbows back will assist your training.

So, what can you do away from swim, bike run to help you?

3 simple exercises are essential for triathletes and will lead to a significant decrease in your injury risk.

1. Swimming – 3 x 20 reps per day

  • INHALE to prepare  
  • EXHALE and reach the left arm and right leg away from the body, allowing them to hover one inch off the mat
  • INHALE and lower the arm and leg to the mat
  • Repeat 6 - 8 times or for a set time period alternating the opposite arm and leg

2. Heels raise – 3 x 30 reps per day


  • Inhale to prepare
  • Exhale, peel the heels away from the floor and rise onto the balls of the feet
  • Inhale, slowly lower the heels to the floor
  • Repeat up to ten times

Progress by doing this on a step lowering below the step to help with eccentric load.                                              Then progress to single leg on or off the step.

3. Lunge walk – 3 x 10 steps per day 


  • Inhale to prepare
  • Exhale, lift and place the right foot forwards, then stride squat forwards keeping the knee in line with the foot, aiming to lower so you cannot see the front foot anymore. Roughly aiming for the knee to move in line with the second toe
  • Inhale, extend upwards from the squat and step the next leg through
  • Repeat up to ten times alternating legs


Stay focussed, listen to your body, seek help when you need it and know that the transition from Olympic to half iron is not that big a deal. Train well, train smart and you will race well!

Good luck.


Glenn Withers is a specialist physiotherapist who has worked in elite sport for over 20 years with such organisations as the English Institute of Sport, British Winter sports program, Manchester United, Tottenham and Brentford Football Clubs, English National Ballet and international and local triathlon clubs. Glenn is the co-creator of the world renowned APPI Rehabilitation program that is now taught in over 20 countries worldwide. Glenn is also world championship 70.3 qualifier and team GB Triathlon age group member. Glenn is a published author, international speaker and physiotherapist of the year nominee. For more information visit