If you’re looking for a real challenge, then you’ll want to give a triathlon a go. It is a true test of not only physical strength and endurance, but mental toughness as well. Though the challenge may seem daunting, triathlons are not impossible to complete. Even for an average athlete, with the right training, anyone can complete one.
If this is going to be your first triathlon, then you’ll want to do a ‘sprint’ race. This is the shortest version of a triathlon and consists of, generally, a half-mile swim, a 10-mile bike ride, and a 5k. Triathlons have varying lengths, but all races include swimming, biking and running. Depending on the difficulty of the race, the distances will be adjusted accordingly.
All of those events are a tough workout on their own, but doing them together is going to be even tougher. Therefore, you’re going to need some training to adequately prepare yourself for race day. A lot of people like to join a triathlon club, so that they can prepare together with their fellow competitors. But if you don’t have one in your area, or just want to work on your own, we have the definitive guide for you to get started on your training.
Now that you’ve picked out your race, it’s time to get down to business!
Everyone’s training schedule will vary based on their experience level and how much they can dedicate to training. However, the bare minimum for training is three days a week. If you can’t dedicate at least three days a week then completing a triathlon is probably not going to be feasible.
Additionally, six days a week is the most you want to train. More training is not necessarily better, and resting is a crucial aspect of our training regimen.
As for creating your plan of action, a good technique is to devote each day to a different element of the triathlon. For example, one day swimming, another biking etc. It would look something like this:
Day 1: Swimming
Head to the pool and start out slow. Choose your target time for the distance you’re going to have to swim on race day, and stay slightly under that for your training. Practice your stroke and breathing technique, more so than trying to swim as fast as possible.
You can also choose to do a longer workout at a slower pace, or a shorter workout at a faster pace. You’ll do the opposite later in the week.
Day 2: Running
Time for a run. The sprint races consist of around a 3 mile run, so start out training for at least a mile. Then work up to close to the full amount. A 3-mile run is quite doable, but no need to beat up your joints too much leading up to the race.
You can also mix things up: one day do shorter sprints, other days do longer runs but at a slower pace. You can also run hills to keep things interesting.
Day 3: Biking
Time to grab your bike and hit the road. It can be harder to measure bike distances, but just start out doing a timed 30 minute session. Work your way up to 45 minutes.
Day 4: Rest
Perhaps do some light weight lifting, stretching or even yoga. Anything that helps encourage recovery and strengthening the body
Day 5: Swimming
Back to the pool. If you did shorter sprints on Monday, then do a longer duration workout today with less intensity- or vice-versa.
Day 6: Run or Bike and Run
Depending on your schedule, you may want to double up your workout today.
You can either run alone or do running and biking and take tomorrow off. This depends on your schedule and how much you want to train.
Day 7: Rest or Bike
If you biked yesterday, take the day off. If not, get a nice, long bike ride in.
We’ve already discussed the importance of being able to dedicate time to this endeavor. It’s really a must if you don’t want to embarrass yourself or let yourself down come race day. Additionally, there’s the mental aspect. If you haven’t been training regularly, you may back out of the race altogether.
Make a commitment and stick to it!
Since we’ve already discussed the days of the week to train, we need to discuss how far in advance to start. Some say the bare minimum is 12 weeks. This is definitely adequate if you’re just going to do a ‘sprint’, since it’s not overly demanding. But the earlier you start training the better!
The first few weeks will be slow. This will help your body acclimate to the new challenges. It also helps your body build up ligaments and tendons, as well as your endurance, to prepare for the race.
The next 6-8 weeks will be more intense. You will want to up the duration and intensity each and every workout, but only lightly. This helps you to get closer and closer to the actual distances you’ll experience on race day. And when the race is near, you want to actually roll back on our training. This is very important because you want to make sure your body is fresh and completely recovered for the race.
If you really want to take your success to the next level there are a number of tips to incorporate on race day, and also during your training period.
1.) Remember that swimming on race day will likely occur in open water. Most people, however, would think to train in a pool. That is fine to start, but its important to acclimate yourself and to be comfortable with how things will be on race day. Hopefully you live near a lake, ocean or some suitable body of water. Check around online to see where local triathletes swim.
2.) For most triathletes, swimming is often the most difficult part of the race. Swimming requires really good technique, and it’s something you must work on. Consider getting a coach, or even a training partner who can watch you and correct your form.
3.) Practice eating and drinking on the bike. Of course you’re not going to be enjoying a four-course meal while biking, but it’s important to consume some calories while on the bike. It will be a long stretch, one that you will need to refuel for.
Like many hobbies, the costs to get started can add up! Triathletes have to buy gear for three different sports, so you will have some shopping to do assuming you don’t have everything already. Don’t let this deter you though. If you buy quality gear, you won’t have to buy anything again for a very long time.
For swimming you’ll need a swimsuit/wetsuit, goggles and possibly a swim cap (depending on your hair length).
Biking is where the wallet gets hit. Bikes can be costly. You certainly don’t need a top of the line $10,000 bike, but don’t pinch pennies here and make sure to get a bike that won’t break down on you. You’ll also need cycling shorts and ideally cycling clothing to maximize performance. A water bottle will also be much needed.
For running, your shoes are a big factor. Check out a running store, instead of a generic shoe shop, as the salespeople will be much more knowledgeable and can really help you get correct shoe.
You now have a training schedule, a time-line to get started, and the proper gear. The only thing left to do is get to work. When starting out, if you’re not in the best shape you may be in for a surprise. That’s just part of the training, but also what makes it so much of a challenge.
You may also want to consider training early in the morning. When people save their workout for the evenings, they’re too tired from work and just want to hang out on the couch. Don’t let that happen!
Rise and shine an hour or so before you normally do so that you have plenty of time to get dressed, workout, shower etc.