Triathlons are some of the most physically intense athletic events that an athlete can participate in.
Building Your Triathlon Training Plan
The beginner triathlete needs to have a few things in mind before constructing a training plan to tackle their first triathlon.
First, how physically fit are you? Someone who is already in great athletic shape can likely spend less than two months of intensive training to develop the endurance necessary to complete a beginner’s triathlon.
However, if your current level of physical fitness is less than ideal, then your sprint triathlon training period may be much longer. If you are very out of shape, then it may be necessary instead to train for a less grueling event such as a super sprint triathlon, which is half the distance of a standard sprint triathlon.
Remember that, while triathlons may be races, they are primarily endurance oriented events. Speed is far less important than being able to maintain a sufficient pace that allows you to not only complete the event within a reasonable time frame but doesn’t tire you out to the point that you have to quit the race.
It is also necessary to identify which segment of the triathlon that will give you the most trouble. Shape.com contends that for most, this will be the swimming segment. This is because few people are used to swimming in open waters for extended periods of time. It may be a worthwhile investment to hire a personal swim coach or personal trainer who deals in swimming to train you for endurance swimming and build your confidence.
Start Your Training
From there, your training plan should mimic the structure of the triathlon itself. Practice each of the three triathlon sports at least once a week, if not more than once. Increase the distances week by week until you are approaching the distances that you will be doing in the triathlon itself.
Make sure to practice what is known as “bricking.” This is the practice of transitioning from bike riding to running. Many triathletes find this transition to be quite unpleasant. Going from biking for so long to running shocks the leg muscles as they are suddenly being used differently after a long period of endurance biking. Practicing bricking allows beginner triathletes to get used to the effects that this transition has upon the body.
Do not go absolutely crazy on the days leading up to the race. While you should continue training up to race day, overexerting yourself just before your triathlon is a recipe for leaving your muscles and joints sore on the day of the race.
Your peak training for the triathlon should be around two weeks before the day of the event. This gives you enough time to recover from the most intense segments of your workout plan. Continue training in the interim time, however. Just don’t push yourself to the point that you become too strained to actually participate in the race.
Adequate Nutrition for Training and the Triathlon
Eating right is just as important for triathlon preparation as the exercise itself. Food is fuel for the body, and you’re going to need lots of fuel to complete the race, in addition to all the necessary training.
Of particular importance is your attention to your macronutrients. These are your primary sources of calories: fat, carbohydrates, and protein.
Carbohydrates are an endurance athlete’s best friend. They provide you with quick and easy energy. Carbs are the easiest macronutrient for your body to turn into energy, so providing your body with a continuous flow of carbohydrates is important in order to maintain optimal performance levels in training.
A beginner triathlete may consider upping their protein intake once they start training, especially early on in their training regimen. Training will likely leave your muscles sore, and your body will need extra protein to repair damage that exercise inflicts upon your muscular tissue. Getting enough protein will maximize your endurance gains from your training regimen.
Limit fat intake, and try to make sure that any fats you get are healthy fats. Oils, avocados, and fatty fish are good examples of healthy fats to consume.
Watch Your Calories
Watch your overall caloric intake. As you train, you will likely find that your body begins to easily lose excess fat, assuming that you have any. Once your body has exhausted its extraneous fat stores, you will need to consume excess calories to fuel your training efforts. Calculate what your base metabolic rate and how many calories your physical activities consume, and make sure to eat that much during your training period.
This is necessary because if you burn more calories than you consume and you have no excess fat available to burn, your body will resort to turning protein into glucose. This means that the protein that would normally go towards repairing your muscles and improving your endurance instead is used up as energy in the training itself, defeating the point.
Besides adequate calories, sports drinks like Gatorade provide electrolytes and water necessary to maintain peak athletic performanc