Triathlons are challenging but also obtainable by the everyday person given a bit of willpower. The hard part is deciding definitively that you will do one and having the discipline to see it through. Once you have done that, the rest is just training and the pleasant sense of satisfaction. When I talk about triathlons I usually get two reactions, and often from the same person: 1. I could never do that and 2. I have always wanted to do one.
To members of the first group: The choice is yours. Septuagenarians, people with ALS, no feet, legs, or sight have completed an Ironman (swim 2.4miles, bike 112miles, run a marathon). People who were over a hundred pounds overweight have trained for and completed long course triathlons. Type 1 and 2 diabetics have completed Race Across America (RAAM). In my opinion, if you don’t do one it is because you didn’t really want it badly enough. It is fine to not want this enough to complete it, BUT be sure you are doing something and that something is not lounging on your duff in front of the boob tube. As a rule we are capable of accomplishing much more than we think. A triathlon is possible, but the choice is yours. To quote some t-shirt smack: "One guy says he can, another says he can't. They both are right. Which one are you?"
To the second group: Carpe Diem! It’s time to stop watching others do cool stuff, get out of the stands, on the field and do it yourself. From personal experience I know that it is very scary, but awesome.
Steps: 1. Go join a Pilates class or get Pilates Workout for Dummies and do the program 3 times a week. Do not skip this step even though you want to, may think it is cheesy and it is not one of the three sports. It will help prevent injuries. Repeat. Do NOT skip this step. 2. Get a copy of Galloway's Book on Running. Read the section on the Walk/Run method. The concept is to start exercising at the level with which you are capable. If this is only walking, so be it. Get where you can walk for 30 min at a time. Then start running for various short periods of time during your walk. Say, run for 30 seconds every 5 minutes. When you can do this change the ratio, increase the run, shorten the walk. 3. Find a _sprint_ (or Super Sprint) triathlon several months out as a goal and send in your money. You weren’t really committed until you sent in your money. 4. Find Easy Freestyle Swimming by Terry Laughlin. Watch the DVD several times. Do not just jump in the pool and start swimming. Do the recommended series of drills and do not skip steps. Even if you feel silly doing the drills, swallow your ego, the will make you _much_ more comfortable in the water, make you more efficient and therefore leave you a lot more energy for the other two sports and give you confidence. Go to the pool to do these drills 2 times a week if possible. 5. Go to your local bike store and ask about group rides for beginners. Find a beginner group with which to ride and use whatever bike you have before you drop the huge amounts of cash they will want you to spend on a new bike. Ask them for advice to adjusting the bike to your body. Try to ride 2 times a week. Do not get on your bike without a helmet. 6. Go to a specialty running store and get fitted for a good pair of shoes. If the salespeople need a belt or don’t look like runners, you are in the wrong shoe store. They need to watch you running or otherwise analyze your stride and send you up and down the sidewalk with several pairs of shoes before you make your purchase. You will spend way more money at the doctor’s office if you buy your shoes off the discount rack. Do not "save" money here or think you know better. 7. Convince your buddies to join you. Alcohol and trash talking may help. Triathlon is an individual sport, but has a tremendous group camraderie. 8. Nike got this part right: Just Do It! Get off the couch, out the door and don't let the unconvinced from #7 drag you down. Let them eat their heart out when you show them your finisher's photo and whine things like "oh, I could never do that."
The weekly plan should include: One distance workout in each sport. They are sometimes called “long”, Long Slow Distance or LSD workouts. On this day you will not attempt to go fast, but a slow, steady pace which you can keep up the entire time. Focus on technique and form. This is your most important workout of the week in that sport. You should be able to carry on a conversation during these workouts.
A “speed” workout in each sport. These are _optional_ and are the ones which frequently cause injury in beginner athletes. Exchange these with a 20-30 min version of the Long day at the beginning or if you are worried about injury. For running, find a conquerable hill in your area and run up and down it a few times with a rest in between, or do a run which includes several times during the run where you run faster than your normal pace for several minutes. For swimming, do a warm up and then 6x50m hard intervals with a 60sec rest in between and then a cool down of backstroke. For biking, try increasing your pace for a few minutes or attacking a few hills during your ride. The concept is to increase your heart rate for a short time to something higher than what it is during your distance workouts and then allow it to come back down. Do _not_ do these at a sprint or go near your max heart rate. They should be short and hard, but not so hard you start getting dizzy.
Include 2-3 “core” workouts per week where you work your abdominal and back muscles. This should be the Pilates workouts from #1.
Rest. You _must_ have rest days. At least one, if not two days per week where you do not workout _at all_, and hopefully you can take a nap. Getting enough sleep is one of the best ways to go faster. If you do not schedule rest, your body _will_ make you rest by getting sick or injured. Your choice is how you want to rest -- sick, injured or feeling great. When you are excited about your new goal, it is easy to skip this step. About every 4th week, go easy that week and do not increase the time, distance or intensity of the workouts that week. Allow your body to consolidate its gains.
To recap: a "long day" in each sport; if possible, a shorter but faster workout in each sport; several Pilates workouts; 1-2 days with no workouts at all.
Each week increase the time of your long workout by approximately 10% until you are comfortably over your race distance. For a sprint the run is a 5km; make your longest run 7-8km a week or two before the event, with 10% increments between your starting point and the 7km distance.
Try not to do the same sport on back to back days. If you swim on Monday, try to arrange your schedule to not swim until at least Wednesday. The good thing about triathlon is that you can work on another discipline while you body recovers.
Examples Here is an example running plan: If your starting point is being able to run/walk one mile, run one mile twice the first week, 1.1 miles twice the second week, 1.25 the third, 1.4 the fourth, 1.4 the fifth (rest), etc. When you get up to about 20 minutes of time, keep the second run at around 20 minutes, but try to increase your speed by putting several 1-2 minute bursts of a faster cadence pace (not sprint) during those 20 minutes. The rule of 72 indicates that it should take about 14 weeks to get to 4 miles, add 4 “rest” weeks where you do not increase your mileage and you should be quite comfortable with 4+ miles in 18 weeks. Apply the same concept to biking and swimming.
An example week in the middle of your training: Monday: 10 min swiss ball workout interspersed with week 1 day 1 of onehunredpushups.com before work 20 min of Total Immersion drills in pool
Tuesday: 25 Minutes of Pilates Made Easy before work. 30 minute bike ride with local bike group on some hills.
Wednesday: 10 min swiss ball workout interspersed with week 1 day 1 of twohunredsquats.com before work 20 min Total Immersion drills in pool
Thursday: 25 minutes of Pilates Made Easy 26 minutes running around neighboorhood (or hills alternate weeks) (5 min warm up, (2 min harder, 2 walk)x4, 5 min cool down
Friday: 10 min swiss ball workout (or rest) 30 min easy run
Saturday: 45 min bike ride with local group followed by 5 minute run.
Hydration: It is important to train your body to absorb fluids during your workouts. At this point I recommend staying away from sport drinks with carbohydrates or even electrolytes. Your workouts are not long enough yet for you to need or to receive benefit from them. Stick with plain water or unsweetened Bigelow Organic Green Tea, 40-Count Boxes (Pack of 6). While on the bike, learn to safely drink a few ounces and during your runs train your body to accept several swallows (not gulps) of water. If you find that your are really tired and sluggish several hours after a workout, try drinking a _few_ ounces of fruit juice or something like V8 V-Fusion Acai Mixed Berry 100% Juice, 46-Fl Oz Bottles (Pack of 8) immediately after finishing the workout and a small piece of beef jerky. Continue drinking water after the workout, you need to drink about 20-30 oz of water per hour of workout.
Food: Eat Less, Move More. You need to take in the recommended number of calories for your gender and age. If you eat your recommended number of fruits, vegetables, protein, etc. you will feel better and your body will be provided with the resources necessary to keep you from injury. Every unnecessary pound you lose is one less pound you don’t have to carry around all day and over your triathlon course.
Actively work on: limit refined sugars (candy, soda, desserts), increase fruit, vegetables and protein intake.
Injury: I bet you skipped step #1 or #6, didn't you? Checklist: Did you do Pilates? Take at least one rest day per week? Get enough sleep? Get shoe advice from knowledgeable staff? Increase less than 10% per week? Didn’t do the same sport on back to back days?
Ask a doctor if it is bad enough, but frequently the advice is Rest, Ice and Ibuprofen.
It probably would be a good thing to look up a good _sport_ chiropractor in your area. A coach will evaluate your technique and help you correct it therefore reducing injury. A good sport chiropractor will evaluate your structure and muscles and help you strengthen and stretch your weak areas.
IMHO the criteria for sport medical advice are: 1. Evaluate your structure, watch you bend, stretch, run, move, etc. 2. If he just cracks your back or wants to give you a shot, find another one. 3. Soft tissue treatment, something like ART. 4. Within a few visits you should leave with a list of exercises and stretches for your issues. 5. He should seek to minimize your visits by helping _you_ work on the root causes at home.
It would be nice to avoid a lot of pain and frustration by finding your personal weak areas before they stop your training, but if you can't, seek good advice early on. Don't hobble around with an IT band, lower back issues or foot pain when the right advice could eliminate it. It may sound cool to brag about your sport injuries, but it is not. More than half the battle in sport is showing up to the starting line uninjured.
Useful to have: FuelBelt Slim Pocket Race Number Belt. This allows you to quickly put on your bib number after the swim without having to mess with pins. Bodyglide Anti-chafe Balm .45 Oz Apply this to chafe prone or sensitive areas of your body. Nipple burn is real and although it can evoke a giggle from non-participants, it is unpleasant. Sunscreen. You want something with Avobenzone, zinc or titanium dioxide and Mexoryl. It should be waterproof and not burn your eyes. A good sport spray will do. You need sunlight, but not a burn. Ultimate Buy a new pair of goggles for the race of the same type you have been training. Do not rub your fingers in them. Unfogged goggles are a huge asset. Tinted goggles are helpful in open water. A thin coating of baby shampoo allowed to dry helps a lot with fogging in old goggles. Speedo Rubber Ear Plugs, White Ear plugs reduce the probability of getting ear infections from your swimming and lower the chance of getting seasick on the swim. RoadID: (google it) I recommend the ankle version because it has a reflective band. Hi-vis Bike Helmet Orange This is a high visibility helment with reflective patches. Put the odds in your favor and be as visible as you can. Ride with Planet Bike Blinky Superflash Turbo 1W Tail Light and Planet Bike Blaze 2Watt LED Headlight in strobe mode at ALL times.
The week before: The week of your event, keep the same frequency of workouts, but reduce the intensity and duration of the workout. Get lots of sleep. This is called a “taper”.
Pre-race “cocktail”. About 30 minutes before the swim start drink this concoction. A cup of ginger and caffeinated green tea. Ginger takes quite a bit longer to steep and green tea does better with cooler water so it works out well. A few complex carbohydrates can also be useful, 10-20g. Add enough electrolytes to provide for rapid absorption; so part of a Nuun tablet for the no carb version or a half scoop of Heed for the carb version. Fruit juices tend to give stomach problems during hard efforts. And lastly, a pinch of Bat Wing and Horn of Rhino may be added while muttering “I will be an Ironman”. The magic behind the cocktail is that ginger is good for preventing seasickness and settling nausea, green tea has caffeine and antioxidants, enough electrolytes to optimize absorption, a small amount of carbohydrate fuel and a few ounces of fluid for the swim. You could brew up a double batch and drink the other half in T1. Try it out on a run before the race.
The big day! Bring your Fan Club. You can’t win the event in the swim, but you can lose everything. Your only goal is to not end up on the Did Not Finish (DNF) list, nothing else. Find the beginner wave if one exists. Do not get in the front of the line! It is considered highly rude to other racers and is dangerous because you can get run over, literally. After the gun goes off, wait several seconds before starting to swim. Give yourself some space from the other swimmers, use a comfortable steady stroke, calm down. When you come out of the water, take a few seconds and for future reference observe what others are doing in transition (T1), head out on your bike with a comfortable steady pace. You may not “draft” in triathlon, so you need to give other cyclists space when you are near them. Again, observe what others do in transition (T2), slip on your shoes, get a cup of water and head out with a steady comfortable pace. If walking is part of your plan, time the walks to be on the uphill portions and through aid stations. Enjoy the accolades from your Fan Club and smile big with your eyes open for your picture as you cross the finish line! Do not stop moving, keep walking, drink some diluted fruit juice or sport drink. Brag to all the naysayers and get them to join you on your next one.
Plan your next one. Why stop when you are on a roll? The goal this time is an Olympic distance (1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run) or roughly twice the distance of a sprint. This distance is more challenging and requires more attention to detail. If possible get your family and friends involved. You will have a higher probability of success and much more enjoyment if they join you.
Get your kids involved. There are many kids only triathlons, from Ironkids to small local events. To a kid, a triathlon is simply a good day of summer vacation. Remember when you spent your summers swimming, running and riding your bike? and you did it for hours?
You can also combine workouts in an extended workout that includes a swim workout and then a bike or run not long after, or run a few miles easy after getting off the bike. These are called “bricks”.
It is also useful to focus on a specific area of one sport for a period of time. For example drop the second swim workout (keep at least one) for two weeks and have two running hill interval workouts each week in addition to the long one and include some gnarly hills on this one also. Take a more restful week and then do the same for swimming and cycling. Rest and recovery is very important during this kind of training.
Running: I recommend including some trail running in your workouts for several reasons: 1. Trails are softer than roads and therefore easier on your body. 2. Uneven trails provide more of a full body workout. Various muscles of your legs, core and arms get used. Strengthening these muscles help provide stability for your joints and reduce injury. 3. Being out in nature renews your joie de vivre.
Include some barefoot running. Either find a nice grassy area to do some strides or go whole hog and invest in a pair of FiveFingers. Running barefoot is simply fun; it also forces you to run differently and consequently works the muscles and ligaments in your feet and legs, making them stronger. Start VERY SHORT, like 100 feet and work up. Run on the balls of your feet with a quick cadence. Buy a jump rope and challenge your kids.
Core For the sprint level we focused on Pilates. We can expand that now. Purchase a Swiss ball or The Firm Stability Ball 65cm and spend a few weeks learning the routines included. After a few weeks with the ball, check out the
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suspension trainer and use it for strength training. It includes sport specific exercises, but more importantly it uses your abdominal and back muscles while doing the workout. Completing a few crunchs or situps does not do the job. Ignore this step to your own detriment.
Strength or resistance training is also quite useful and can be done on a cycle basis. The recommended books mention a short list of sport specific exercises. Prepare the body with a few weeks of light weight and high reps then a few weeks of heavy weight and few reps, then back off to lighter weight, more reps and fewer sessions. Stay off the machines if possible.
Nutrition and Fuel: The better you eat, the better your training will go. I have found that I naturally tend to choose better foods when I am fit than when I am not. Don’t pig out on the carbs or completely cut out fat. Eat balanced meals.
As your workouts become longer than an hour, drinks with electrolytes and carbohydrates can become useful. For workouts over an hour, you must drink at least water. No exceptions. During the race you will feel a lot better if you take in carbohydrates, so you must get your body used to them beforehand. Hammer Nutrition HEED Sports Energy Drink for 32-Serving, Mandarin Orange is an excellent sport drink with complex carbohydrates and electrolytes. Take electrolytes for the purpose of absorbing fluids, not to replace electrolytes. You will generally not be losing enough to worry about electrolyte depletion. The appropriate amount of electrolytes will keep you from having the “slosh” effect or nausea. Nuun Active Hydration, Electrolyte Enhanced Drink Tablets, Tri-Berry (8 Tubes/12 Tabs Per Tube) is a good electrolyte drink. It is important that you follow the directions on the bottle when you mix it up. There is an optimum concentration of carbohydrates which is between 6 and 10% depending upon the type of carbohydrates. If you make it too concentrated, your stomach will reject it. For more information check out: Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes.
After a long workout, drink a cup of chocolate milk and an equal amount of water within 30 minutes. It will provide what your body needs to rebuild and refuel and help keep you from being sluggish the rest of the day. Since you are training for three sports, the after workout chocolate milk is important to ready your body for the demands of tomorrow's workout. You will be able to train harder, be less tired and therefore have a more enjoyable race day.
I do not recommend gels or advanced sport drinks until your workouts get over 2 hours, except to teach your body to accept them during a race. You generally are not burning up enough calories to approach The Wall. Always take 8-10 oz of water with each gel, if you neglect this step your stomach will cramp, you will probably blow chunks and feel pretty miserable.
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, , Clif Shot Dietary Supplement, Recovery Protein Enhanced Drink, French Vanilla, 2.13-Pound Plastic Jar are good options.
Transition: Put some thought into what you will do in transition and the order in which you will do these steps. Be methodical and not rushed in transition. Practice beforehand with someone timing you.
Enjoy the race! Bring your Fan Club. Pretend to not notice when they check out the new fit and trim you. The six pack abs (you didn't skip the core workouts did you?), erect shoulders, defined legs. Find out what sport drink will be used on race day and train with it or provide your own, especially on the bike. Do not try something new on race day, this includes wetsuits! Do not use any other wetsuit other than a swimming wetsuit; do not use a scuba or surfing wetsuit. Only use equipment, clothing and nutrition you have used at least once before and at that concentration. Be steady and remember your pace. Smile for your finisher’s photo!
Come in to my parlor, said the Spider to the Fly... has a the thought ever crossed your mind of doing something crazy like, completing a Marathon or hearing "Jane Doe from Ourtown, USA, YOU ARE an IRONMAN!" or do an Adventure Race? Check out my Endurance Sports guide. But first, take some time off, enjoy other sports and for the three specific sports do some easy, enjoyable distance in the off season. Enjoy a few truly decadent days. Revel in your new fitness level and enjoy not being exhausted while playing a sport. Try something like P90X DVD Workout - Base Kit or better yet Crossfit and some sport specific strength training. This allows you to rest, recharge, strengthen stabilizing muscles, allow your body to heal, work on technique and solidify your base. Wander around YouTube with an "Ironman triathlon" search. During the off season you want to work on whole body fitness and sport specific weaknesses while giving your body and mind a break from the stress of goal oriented training. The time off is just as important as your rest day, ignore at your own risk.
A potential progression: Now plan your next season. Choose several key events you would like to do and start designing your workouts around those events. 5k > Sprint Tri > 10k> 40 mile Bike event > Olympic Tri > Metric Century >Half marathon > Half Marathon Trail Run > Century > Half iron distance > Marathon > Ultra -50k > Ironman > something crazy