What Is The Most Important Leg Of A Triathlon?

Even if you’re someone who’s into fitness and sport, the training and the preparation for a triathlon can take 2-3 months before you will feel ready to do the race.

There may be one or two of the legs of the races that you feel more confident in, but what is the most important leg of the triathlon and why is it this leg that is the one that impacts people's finish time and positioning of the race?

We’ll be informing you on the most important leg of the triathlon and the reasons why it is the most important.

What is the most important leg of a triathlon

What is the most important leg of a triathlon?

Most experts and experienced triathlons will say that the cycling part of a triathlon is the most important as it’s where you spend the majority of the race and doesn’t require as much energy as swimming or running do so you’ll be able to cycle faster without consuming so much of your energy. 

Cycling will allow athletes to make up more time whilst still being able to preserve their energy for the running discipline of the race

An improvement in your cycling speed will see a greater improvement in your finish time than improving your swimming or running speed, so it’s worth putting in the extra work as you’ll see better results in the end. 

However, some will argue that swimming is also the most important leg of a triathlon, and incorrect swimming technique can tire you out very quickly and leave you feeling drained for the other disciplines so may ramp up your time finishes for those.

So if you’re a really strong cyclist but a really weak swimmer, then it may be worth more of your effort to work on your swimming performance otherwise this could negatively diminish your finish time. 

The running leg of a triathlon is also critical as it’s the last leg and you’ll need to have the endurance to keep going even if you’re exhausted after completing the previous 2 legs of the race.

You’ll need to learn how to pace yourself so you can complete the whole running leg and without incurring an injury, so the correct training will be imperative to achieving this. 

Research shows that in most triathlons, the running leg has the most contribution to the final result and this is due to high levels of endurance, and more experienced runners will find themselves placing higher overall due to their running abilities. 

However, as running is a higher impact discipline compared to swimming and cycling, you’ll need to spend more time and care when training to avoid developing muscle fatigue or possible injuries which will affect your other disciplines.

Make sure you’re doing sprint and long-distance runs to build your endurance, but also do recovery sessions and body conditioning to help maintain your muscles.

Another way of looking at what is the most important leg of a triathlon is looking at the discipline you are worst at as that will be the one you need to train and focus on the most to improve your time and to give you better chances in the other disciplines.

However, if you’re considerably worse at one discipline than all of the others and overtraining may not see any vast improvements or time shaved off your finish time, then you shouldn’t focus too much on it. 

If swimming isn’t your strongest point then you can easily tire yourself out and leave yourself trying to catch up on the other legs, making your job a lot harder.

If you’re confident and happy with your performance and times in the other legs, then try to focus on improving your technique and performance in the water by training that discipline more than the others.

You’ll need to keep in mind what discipline has the greatest potential for improvement and therefore achieving great results.

For example, if you’re an experienced runner and have been running for years but can’t seem to improve your time no matter how hard you train, then it’ll probably be worth you training harder to improve one of the other disciplines and you may see more significant improvement in your time.

However, training one of these disciplines will also benefit the other two in terms of fitness and endurance, so as long as you try to balance out the training sessions for all your disciplines you will feel strong and fit enough to get through them without any problems.

As harsh as it sounds, you’ll need to be great within all 3 disciplines to achieve winning places in a triathlon.


So there is no definitive answer to what the most important leg of a triathlon is as it is subjective to the participant and their abilities to perform in each of the disciplines.

Whilst the consensus will say that biking is the most important part as it takes up the largest portion of the race, it also consumes the least energy whilst still being able to deliver good results. 

Efficient training for the running portion is essential as you’ll need to have the endurance to continue at a good pace despite being energy-depleted from your swim and bike ride.

By this point of the triathlon, you’ll also be dehydrated and will be starting to feel the full effects of your effort in the previous disciplines, it can be physically and mentally challenging. 

The swimming and the cycling portions of a triathlon can often be the most stressful, the mass start of everyone around you in the swim can be overwhelming and the hills and the quick speeds of the cycling discipline can be testing.

Make sure you feel confident with all obstacles and surroundings that you’ll encounter in these two disciplines which will allow you to feel relaxed and optimize your performance.

We recommend putting balanced training efforts into each of the disciplines and if there is one area that you are significantly worse in then try hiring a professional to help or follow a new training regime to try and improve your times in that discipline.