Taking part in your first triathlon requires commitment and can be a leap of faith. Whether it is a sprint triathlon, an Olympic distance triathlon, or an Ironman triathlon, you should have the right mentality, the right workout plan, and the discipline, if you want to complete it. Here are some great pointers on how to start training for a triathlon.
Essential Gear for a Triathlon
The traditional notion of a triathlon is that it is an expensive sport. However, in reality, it is not. In fact, you do not need to have fancy bicycles, aerodynamic clothing, or elite-level running shoes. Your first triathlon goal should be to complete it; not to qualify for a world championship. The following basic gear will easily help you prepare for a triathlon:
- A swimsuit or swim trunks, goggles, and a swim cap are essential. You could also get some paddles, fins, a pull buoy, and a kickboard if you want to do some drills in the pool; but this is not mandatory.
- A mountain, road, or hybrid bicycle that fits you. There is no need to have triathlon specific bicycles since these are mainly used by professionals.
- A pair of cycling shorts, since wearing your usual workout clothing can lead to saddle sores and general discomfort when riding.
- A pair of shoes that fit you and are comfortable will be ideal. Again, there is no need to purchase elite shoes.
Balancing the Disciplines
If you have asked the question of how to train for a triathlon, the answer is balance. But, how do you, in fact, create balance? While there are several ways to do this, it mainly depends on your current fitness level and the time you are willing to dedicate.
To many first-time triathletes, this is often the most difficult step; since a majority of the races are done in open water. Moreover, swimming is heavily dependent on a good stroke technique. Even professionals continue to perfect their technique, since a small change could lead to marginal gains or losses.
In your case, the best thing to do is to enrol yourself in a master’s swim squad in your locality and consult with the coach. If you are a complete beginner, your coach might be willing to personally train you for a reasonable fee. If you can swim, consult the coach, and let him/her assess you. If you are good, then you might swim with the squad, or you might be given special swim workouts that lead up to the big day.
Getting the perfect cycling training can be tricky at times since you need to work on power, endurance, technique as well as hydration. But, with a little bit of trial and error, it is possible to find a balance that encompasses all these elements, while also finding the time to train for running and swimming.
Ideally, you should be able to schedule 3-5 cycling workouts that focus on power, endurance, and technique. Hydration is something you will eventually get the hang of - after a few workouts. For starters, it is best to start slowly with an easy 30-minute workout, then slowly increase the duration and the intensity. To make things easy and convenient, try using the Zwift app, as it provides great workouts for beginner triathletes. Your saddle time will increase your confidence and pedalling technique.
The run is the last segment of a triathlon and is considered to be the most gruelling as you are already exhausted. Beginners should ideally have 2-4 days of run workouts that include long runs, interval training, and brick runs. This too can be planned with the help of Zwift. Start off slow with a run-walk-run workout to get the body to adapt.
Brick runs will be new to a beginner triathlete because it incorporates cycling as well. Cycle for at least 30 minutes and run for around 5-10 minutes right after. This helps the legs get used to changing from one discipline to another.
Many professionals consider this to be the fourth discipline since the transition between activity can make or break your race. But since you are training for your first triathlon, just getting the hang of the basics is more than enough.
After a swim, time yourself changing from swim attire to your cycling attire, and try to reduce the time taken to get dressed. Transition practice from the cycling to running can be done when you are doing brick workouts.
Plan for Recovery
There is only so much training your body can take. Doing every workout at the same intensity and having inadequate nutrition can lead to fatigue and injury. Thus, the importance of a triathlon training recovery plan.
Stretching and Recovery Tools
Planning for this is done best while planning out the main workouts. A typical recovery plan would include a good set of stretch exercises after every workout to keep the muscles relaxed and flush out excess lactic acid.
You can complement a good stretch session with the use of recovery tools like SPRYNG. The pneumatic compression muscle recovery tool helps in increasing oxygenation of the leg muscles, improving blood circulation, and aiding the overall recovery. In other words, this is perfect for leg recovery after cycling, after running, and even after doing a good kick set in the pool.
This is equally important for recovery. It is as important as the food in-take during and after workouts to help in maintaining the body’s energy. Think of it as fuel. Without the right fuel, the body will perform poorly. But, with the right fuel, it will do wonders.
The general rule of thumb for recovery after sprint triathlon training or any other distance training, is to load on carbs and protein-rich food. Such foods replenish the body’s lost nutrients efficiently. This also helps in reducing calf cramps after running and leg problems.
Prepare a plan the day before the big day. Consider the material you want to take on each discipline; what you want to wear, nutrition and your equipment, if any. This will make you more confident and help you avoid race day nerves.
When you wake up for the big day, know that you have trained hard and prepared yourself to do it the best you can. All you have to do is execute the plan. Good Luck!