10 Top Tips for Training for a Triathlon
Triathlons are one of the most demanding races out there – a grueling test of resolve. The combination of swimming, running, and cycling form a multi-disciplined gauntlet of endurance, testing athletes beyond the capabilities needed for most sports. The diversity of the Olympic Games might feature games like no other, but the triathlon event stands out as one of the toughest on offer.
Although triathlons are enough of a challenge on their own, training can also be quite demanding to get through. Ideally training should start at least 12 weeks in advance. If you’re aiming to compete in a race, below you’ll find our list of the top 10 tips to help you train for any triathlon.
1. Know the race
All official triathlons base their order of events on safety. Swimming is the most dangerous event and therefore comes first. This decision makes sense if you think about it, getting exhausted on dry land might lead to harm, but it probably won’t cause a drowning hazard.
After swimming comes cycling, with running usually being the last round (in most triathlons). Remember your race distances too, they differ depending on which race you’re in. You can use this knowledge to help set a training schedule, or adapt it for a combination workout you prefer.
2. Pace yourself
Use time and energy efficiently. Train at an intensity that you can keep up – or better yet, build on – over a prolonged period. Aim for steady strokes when swimming, and regulate your breathing to conserve energy. Cycle at a pace you can maintain without too much strain. Slow down to a jog if running drains your stamina at first. The aim is to cross the finish in good time but, more importantly, with as little risk of injury as possible.
3. Be smart
Prepare your mind as well as your body. Don’t underestimate the power of will and determination. In the same way that we stretch our muscles and warm up before exercise, our brains need to get used to the idea of pushing the body. Once you start getting tired your body will naturally want to stop, and you have to decide how far you’re able to push yourself without going over the edge.
4. Don’t be Achilles
Focus your training on what you’re the least good at. Not as graceful as you’d like to be in the water? Practice will help to smooth things out. If a muscle group isn’t performing to your liking, why not try some strength or endurance training? Prioritising weak areas of your performance will improve your overall condition efficiently. Use your training schedule to plan a balance emphasising your weakest link.
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5. Bricks are your friend
A common term for experienced runners, brick training combines two consecutive stages of the three triathlon sections. Most triathlon contestants will likely focus on swimming and cycling, but it’s a good idea to combine cycling and running too. Keep in mind that the time it takes for you to transition between stages is also a part of the race, so it’s a good idea to practice getting your transitions as smooth as possible as well.
6. Gear up
Equip yourself with comfortable gear. If you’re just starting out, it’s advisable to focus on function and worry about the latest tri suit later. It certainly won’t hurt to learn the ins and outs of each triathlon stage. Maybe you can learn about water currents, do a route check, or find out how to fix a puncture. Knowing your gear and surroundings means you’ll know what to do if something unforeseen happens.
7. Team up
Though triathlons are competitions between individuals, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a team in your corner. Maybe ask some family to join you on a morning run, or get a group of friends to work out with you at the gym. An experienced trainer can assist with routines and exercise, and a dietician could advise you on the best fuel for your body. There’s nothing wrong with training alone, but you never know where your next improvement will come from.
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8. Stay nourished
The average triathlon runner burns through 10,000 calories in an Ironman race. Diet is as important as drinking water, or maintaining core muscle groups. Manage your fluid levels by learning about your ideal water intake, and eat food that will keep you energised without leaving you bloated.
9. Stay fresh
The faster your body learns to adapt to each triathlon stage, the better your performance will get. Although a steady pace is ideally what you want to achieve, that doesn’t mean you have to stick to a strict training routine. Daily and weekly exercise routines don’t always have to be in the same order. If you’re feeling a bit of repetition setting in, switch up your workouts and that should help with maintaining motivation levels.
10. Plan ahead
Incorporate a workout schedule that slots in well with the rest of your life. Don’t try to do too much at once or you might get overwhelmed. Workouts shouldn’t impact other priorities, and you can have a flexible schedule as long as you try to plan ahead. Know what your capabilities are; when to give that extra push for the finish, and when you should ease up on the throttle instead.
A bonus tip to keep in mind; aim to hit peak energy levels during the actual triathlon event. You’re training to make sure you reach that peak, but sometimes it’s easy to get carried away. Keep the aforementioned tips in mind when you’re deciding to test your limits.
Hopefully our list helped you with some ideas or a bit of insight. After putting in the time and effort to compete in a triathlon, know that once you cross that finish line, you join one percent of the world’s population – the champions of human endurance.