Have you every thought about taking part in a triathlon? They are a great way to bring some variation into your exercise routine and to push your limits. Training for three sports is a lot more interesting than training for one and triathletes are known for being motivated and determined. Triathlons are also a bit addictive (so we’ve heard). Once you have experienced the taste and adrenaline of one – there is no turning back. It might also be that completing a triathlon is on your bucket list.
Whether you are taking on your first event, or want to avoid mistakes of previous races, injury prevention is an important part of triathlon training. We have put together a list of a few things to help you with your triathlon training and preparation.
Be realistic about choosing which triathlon to sign up for
There are a great range of triathlon distances available and it is very important that you pick the right level of triathlon to match your level of fitness. You can choose races from the sprint triathlon (where you swim 400m, cycle 10km and run 2.5km), all the way to an Ironman triathlon (where you swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles). If it is your first triathlon we recommend a sprint or super sprint distance, anything up to 750m swim/20km cycle/5km run. To see what triathlons are coming up and in your area search on the British Triathlon site.
Just as you plan out your training sessions, you should also plan out your meals and snacks. Picking foods and snacks randomly is a recipe for disaster, and usually leads to choosing high calorie foods that have very little nutritional benefit. It is also important to have your main post-workout meal within 90mins of training,
Training in a group
Although triathlons are individual sports and you do need to do the majority of your training solo – there is no reason why you can’t also train in a group. You can learn so much from other triathletes (their experiences and technique advice) that can benefit your performance. Training in a group can also improve your results as you are more likely to push yourself than when training solo (competitiveness or ‘friendly rivalry’ often sets in).
A great way to improve your triathlon technique is to do include strength training in your programme. This should include mobility exercises, weights and plyometrics. Strength training will also help with injury prevention. Have a look at this great guide from Scientific Triathlon that shows the benefits of strength training for triathletes and also includes programs and exercises you can use.
It is also important that your glute muscles are nice and strong as these play a big part in supporting your hips and knees in both running and cycling – and preventing injury. Have a look at our previous blog ‘All about the butt‘ which includes lots of exercises to improve your glute strength.
Listen to your body
As with training for any sport – you need to listen to your body! If your muscles or joints are fatigued or sore then your body is telling you to take a break. One sure way to increase the chance of injury is to train when your body is not ready. If athletes listen to their own symptoms during their training, they will have a greater chance of recovering and rehabilitating before the race date. If a niggling pain becomes more severe it is best to get medical advice and see a physio!
Another thing to note is that the repetitiveness of doing the same sport day-in, day-out can cause overuse injuries. Try and vary up your training program to avoid this. It is worth remembering that swimming and cycling offer good low impact exercise and can be an easier alternative to running – if your muscles needs a break.
Invest in a swimming coach
Swimming in a triathlon requires an athletes to adapt their swimming stroke for the open water, weather conditions, water current and surrounding athletes. We highly recommend that you look at investing in a swimming coach who can help you perfect your stroke, breathing and kicking technique. Ideally your aim is to lengthen your stroke in order to reduce your stroke count – without over-reaching. You also want to avoid excessive body rolling by not turning your head too soon in order to breathe. Try studying the technique of good long-distance swimmers which tends to be slow and easy but powerful and efficient.
Learn how to change a tyre
It seems obvious really! But you would be surprised by the large number of triathletes who can’t change a bike tyre. If you don’t know how, we suggest you learn :).
Back to back sessions
In a triathlon you transition from one sport to another. To get the best out of your training you need to replicate this by making sure some sessions are back to back. Go straight from cycling to running, or swimming to cycling – you get the picture.
Optimal bike settings
Cycling on a bike that is set up perfectly for you is such an easy thing to do, but it is so often over looked. The difference to your comfort, and often performance, from an optimally set up bike compared to one that is not can be huge! Here is a guide from Cycling Week on setting up your bike correctly.
Short stride run
During the race and at the start of the run section, your legs can often feel heavy after cycling. To compensate for this begin with a shorter stride than usual then gradually lengthen this as your body gets used to the new discipline. Practice this in your training.
Your transition technique, clothing changes, strategy and speed are all areas that you can improve upon with practice. Include transition training as part of your overall training program until you feel that you have perfected the transition art.
Triathletes wear lycra when competing for a reason – it helps to eliminate chaffing. To help you get used to wearing lycra on race day it is best to also wear it for some of your training sessions. You may feel silly but on race day you will be thankful!
Length of training
The optimum time period we recommend you allow yourself to prepare for a triathlon is about 14 weeks. You can prepare in 8-14 weeks if you have a background in any of the disciplines. If you have been training consistently for at least a year in at least one of the disciplines, or have a past sporting background then you could probably complete the training in 8 weeks minimum. For some advice on training plans see www.triradar.com/training-advice/sprint-triathlon-training-plans/
Follow the 10% rule
A great piece of the advice when starting out training is to increase the distance or time you are exercising for by 10 percent every week. By gradually increasing your training you won’t over stretch your body and are therefore much less likely to get injured.
There are many, many more areas of triathlon training that we haven’t covered but we hope that this is a good starting point for kick starting your triathlon competing career!