Indoor super-sprint triathlons, on a track?!

Indoor super-sprint triathlons, on a track?!

Hey TTL Nation! I am Olive the intern, the reason you've been getting those kickass newsletters and the editor of a few recent instagram reels. I've been a competitive age grouper for over a decade and just graduated from USC where I studied cinematic arts and raced collegiate club triathlon. 

I am beyond stoked for this opportunity to contribute a small part to TTL.

This is actually the coolest thing ever.

Check out the TTL Journal for deep dives into the details of triathlon and the triathlon lifestyle!

With good vibes only,

- Olive, the intern

Indoor super-sprint triathlons, on a track?! How the success of the indoor World Cup could signal the rise of a new triathlon format

On March 30th, star triathletes from around the world gathered in Lievin, France to compete in the first ever World Triathlon Indoor Cup. The race’s “brutal format" consisted of a super sprint with a 150m swim - 6 lengths of the pool with two athletes to a lane, followed by a 15-lap, 3km bike, finished with a 5-lap, 1km run (Cernuda). Over 72 notable triathletes such as Gwen Jorgensen (USA), Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR), Tim Hellwig (GER), and Vincent Luis (FRA) showcased blistering performances that ignited the crowd and cultivated a considerable amount of online traction.

The track proved to be a unique setting for a triathlon as the event delivered an energy comparable to a swim meet, crit race, and track meet all combined into one grand spectacle. Contrary to typical triathlons, spectators could view the athletes complete each leg of the race from their seats. This up-close and heightened race dynamic resulted in a fantastic display for the potential of indoor super sprint triathlons.

I interviewed former professional triathlete and current head coach of Wave1Performance, JT Rodgers to discuss this style of triathlon and its potential to sky rocket in popularity.

Me: Recently, Triathlete Magazine published an article titled Has Triathlon Broken Its Obsession With Iron-Distance Racing? The authors, Molinas and Heming, break down why long distance 140.6 triathlons are becoming less popular while the interest for 70.3s and middle distances races amplifies. 

While certainly less daunting due to its controlled indoor environment, a super sprint still proposes a level of ‘extreme’ demand in the form of speed as it’s  intended to elicit a true sprint from competitors. In addition, it demands a fair amount of racing technique. 

What do you think is the appeal of indoor super sprints (to both experienced and novice triathletes)? What difference would a controlled environment make in a triathlon?

JT: I believe indoor super sprints hold significant appeal for both novice and seasoned athletes alike. These events have a lot of potential if marketed correctly to draw interest from the forthcoming generations. 

Based on my coaching experience and interactions with youth, I’ve observed a strong inclination towards the thrill of competitive racing and speed as well as competition against others. By shortening distances and transitioning indoors, these races emulate a true competition against peers rather than a solitary battle.

Also, the difference of a controlled environment ensures enhanced safety, particularly for beginners in the sport. Compared to open water scenarios, pools offer a much safer setting and smaller barrier to entry. Additionally, the absence of navigational obstacles such as buoys changes the swim drastically. Furthermore, the elimination of external factors like rain, wind, extreme temperatures, provides an environment for optimal performance by athletes.

Me: Do you think this style of racing (indoor super sprint) has potential to occur at the collegiate level?

 I think it has a LOT of potential at the collegiate level. For NCAA Triathlon, I’m a big advocate of making the sport “unique” and spectator friendly. 

When we compare to NCAA Track & Field, Swimming, And XC (sports that are exploding in popularity), we notice that the full sprint distance is a very long distance from a time standpoint as it is usually around a hour long for the top athletes and upwards of 1:45-2 hours for the entry level athletes. 

I personally believe NCAA Triathlon is not capitalizing on bringing outdoor sprint distance races into their format. Races that can be in a pool or local lake / river, and also have the ride and run on campus ahead of fellow students. 

This also allows potential for heats and finals at Nationals, similar to NCAA Swimming. 

But I’ve been told that a majority of the coaches want to stay at the sprint distance format and do not want to consider adding the super sprint distance.

Me: Open water swimming vs competitive pool swimming are two very different games. Many triathletes don’t even flipturn or train underwater when preparing for an OWS. If an athlete were to train  for short course super sprints in a pool, would these skills (flips, underwaters, breath control) translate to better open water performances? 

JT: As a coach who swam in college and began my coaching journey in swimming, I heard all the jokes about “triathletes can’t flipturn”. I always encourage my swimmers to learn flip turns (even if pure triathletes) and the basic skills of swimming. They are actually quite easy to learn when taught properly. 

I personally believe learning to flipturn properly, bi-lateral breathing, strokes such a Fly, Back, and Breast, learning different kick variations (2-beat, 6-beat, etc) only do positive things for each individual swimmer. Because they are learning the basic skills of swimming, and very few fast swimmers haven’t mastered the basic skills. While technically good flip turns do not help open water, they train the mindset of being an elite swimmer and also allow your practice times and training data in the pool to be more of a consistent variable.

Broader scope: do you think training for super sprint short courses is advantageous for middle distance triathletes with a goal of increasing their overall performance ?

JT:  I think training for a super sprint is very advantageous for middle distance athletes looking to improve their performance.

Many coaches will argue on “how” to do this. But I’ve noticed a lot of middle distance triathletes, especially on the age group side, greatly lack speed (especially in the swim!). They often are pressed for time so they try to make up for that by training in what we call the “grey zone” where they are going way too hard to be in zone 2 but also not nearly hard enough to be at threshold. And they tend to do this almost every day because they psychologically want the feeling of “going fast” in their mind at every session and don’t trust the science behind a detailed plan and REST days. 

Now am I saying do all out sprints for super sprint? No. But finding some time to add the right amount of speed work would benefit a large majority of the triathlon population.

Me: I just want to elaborate on your point here about getting stuck in the 'gray zone'. It is extremely difficult to break the cycles that keep you stuck there. From my experience, I get caught there because I try to practice going at a race pace every time I run so it feels easier on race day. Suddenly, I am running hard every time. Every run becomes Zone 4/5 and the paces plateau or get incrementally slower, and you’re always trying to get back to where fast felt comfortable. I've had a lot of time to reflect on this after getting injured trying to BQ last Summer. 

However, I will say that going race pace often does psychologically make my actual race days feel easier.

JT: Yep, that’s super common. I call it more training the psychology vs physiology. 

It reminds me of “hiit” workouts or why CrossFit got so popular, people want to feel like they did something challenging every day. In tri, that’s ok short term, but long term you never recover and dig yourself into a huge hole, especially if life stress is difficult around that and the body further can’t absorb it (and then injuries usually occur a lot). About 75% of my athletes now came from a very injured path prior to using me and a more holistic approach that puts their body first.

JT is now the head coach at Wave1Performance where he trains primarily works with injury prone triathletes to stay healthy and crush their goals. For more info on his holistic coaching approach, check out his instagram @wave1performance !


Cover Photo Via TriMax Magazine on Facebook

Cernuda, Olalla. “Stellar Line up for the First-Ever Indoor World Cup in Lievin.” World Triathlon, World Triathlon, 28 Mar. 2024, 

Molinas, Alfredo, and Tim Heming. “Has Triathlon Broken Its Obsession with Iron-Distance Racing?” Triathlete Mag, 15 Mar. 2024,

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EVERY triathlete, no matter what distance they are into, should follow the principles laid out in this article. Thx U Olive, Eric, Paula, Flynn, and Nick for making TTL the most refreshing thing in endurance sports in a LONG time!!
Brad B.

Brad Bowerman

Great article!! :)

Lisa Ratz

This is a really well put together article! Loved reading it!

Tyler Clardy

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