Congratulations on trying your first Triathlon. This article will discuss triathlon training for beginners, with an overview of how the event runs as well as helpful advice for preparing for the race day.
Whether running, cycling, or swimming is your strength or your passion, a ‘tri’ combines the three sports into a multi-stage continuous event with areas set up for transitions between the segments that also used to store equipment such as bicycles, clothing, and other gear.
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Usually a tri starts with swimming, followed by cycling, and ends with running. Distances vary, but for a first attempt, a good combination is a 1/2-mile swim, a 10 mile bike ride, and a 5K (3.1 mile) run.
Similar to any competitive or endurance event, a tri often divides participants into sex and age and provides a separate start or beginning for novice (amateur) and Elite (professional) athletes.
Unique to a tri is the transitions, which is probably one of the toughest parts of the challenge. There are two designated transition zones, T1 – from swim to bike, and T2 – from bike to run and time spent in transition does add to overall event time.
A tri also has some specific rules that ensure accuracy and safety with time penalties added for violations.
Before you begin, make sure you read all the rules and regulations so you are not disqualified. Three examples are no personal music sources, no outside assistance, and no glass anywhere. The better understanding you have of tips for triathlons before you begin, the better your first race will be.
The swim portion of a tri may be the hardest because let’s face it not everyone is a good swimmer or comfortable in open water. The type of stroke is not regulated, goggles are permitted, but swim aids such as gloves or flippers are prohibited.
The freestyle is the most common stroke because it is efficient; however, it is more tiring. Remember there are no sides of a pool and sometimes the water is not shallow enough to touch bottom – so be prepared to stop and catch your breath if needed especially if there are waves.
In addition, you will be shoved, pushed, dunked, splashed, and kicked. Some tri swims may require wet suits, so learn to swim in one.
Therefore, starting your swim training well ahead of race day is recommended to build stamina, confidence, and to learn how to avoid panicking. Develop more than one stroke even if the second is the dog paddle; keep your head down, and your hips high. Hire a swim coach to fine tune your strokes. Try this high intensity HIIT swim workout.
Critical to a successful swim is making sure you can complete the distance in a pool, feel comfortable with dropping under the surface now and then, coming in contact with other swimmers, do some open water swims, and staying positive even if your technique falters.
On event day, start at the back of the pack and take advantage of a warm-up swim to help you adjust to the water temperature.
The cycling portion of a tri is the longest in terms of distance and time – taking up at least 50% of the event and for first time competitors a little intimidating.
Training for the cycling portion varies on the individual. Spend as much time in the saddle as you can, familiarize yourself with bike operations, get used to curves, sudden stops, and remove any excess gear such as kick stands.
There are rules you need to know such as how and where the bike should be stored and that your helmet must be on before you get on your bike and kept on until after you dismount.
Any type of bike is permitted and helmets are required. Drafting is not allowed and may result in a time penalty, so either pass or allow the rider in front to get ahead. Remember, if a bike becomes inoperable, all event progress stops.
Make sure your bike is in perfect operation before the tri and not that morning, but be sure to do a last-minute tire check.
Learning to use clips or toe cages is suggested to increase the efficiency of your pedal stroke and reduce fatigue. Starting with a high cadence (revolutions per minute) or a lower gear is also recommended.
Look at the entire bike course similar to a few shorter bursts of time or distance, which will conserve your energy for the last part.
Most first Tri enthusiasts have already participated in a road race, but after a swim and a ride, legs feel heavy and maybe even a little spastic. A strength training for triathletes regimen will help to prevent this spastic feeling.
Even well-seasoned tri athletes know that by the time you hit the run, you are tired, your legs are burning, yet this could be the time to make up for lost time. Prior to a tri, cutting back on distance or number of runs may be required in order to adjust or add some swimming and cycling training.
A triathlon is a challenge, so be patient, and remember to have fun.
Practice transitions from swim to bike or from bike to run a few times.
Know the course and transition areas.
Get there early enough to set up your equipment such as shoes, goggles, socks, sunglasses.
Bring a towel to wipe off sand.
Have your helmet in an obvious place.
Have your bike in the right gear.
Have a water bottle or sports drink ready in your bike.
Finally, remember that developing a proper diet is an important component to training, check out these nutrition tips for endurance athletes.