Now that we are entering the triathlon racing off-season, it’s a great time for people considering on doing their first triathlon to start building a fitness base and getting familiar with their new sport. This posting is an abbreviated version of one I posted last summer and it’s better suited to winter and spring off season training here in Southern California.
My personal philosophy for triathlon success is less “purchase” and more “practice”. It’s based on a daily practice of training one’s body within the rhythms of one’s daily life that includes work and family. During the late spring and summer racing season I call this the “Daily Practice of Triathlon Training”. By “daily” I mean that each day during the racing season has a fitness purpose. It is either a training day (making me stronger/faster) for a particular sport or a recovery (non-training) day (making me stronger/faster by letting my body re-build). During the Spring and Summer I train in one of the three sports six days a week. The seventh day is a recovery day for all three of the triathlon sports.
These tips are geared towards those who live in Ojai and Ventura, California but if you replace the triathlon store name and local triathlon club or running club name with one in your town, I think this list can be helpful for most people. Also, there are many excellent online resources for information and athletic inspiration for beginners, too.
If you are interested in more details on training and sports nutrition, please checkout RunnersWorld.com or Active.com/triathlon. Both of those sites have links to training schedules and performance tips for running road or trail races and racing triathlons.
Here is my advice for training for one’s first triathlon in 2010:
1. Research the sport.
- Talk to Triathletes The best information I ever got about doing triathlons was from people I met while training, buying gear and racing. You generally get un-biased information when speaking with people who don’t have anything to gain by you purchasing something.
- Go online
Social Media Sites Twitter.com and search “#triathletes” is a good way to find triathlon information from triathletes. Most are regular people just like you, online. It’s neat to pose a question (in 140 characters or less) on Twitter and have triathletes from all over reply back with a tip. I found online training schedules on these training social media web sites: dailymile.com, endurancejunkies.com , and buckeyeoutdoors.com (you can embed your training schedule in your blog–I haven’t tried this yet) and MapMyRun.com. I use dailymile.com.
- Books Get a good triathlon training book to get an overview of the basics the sport and time managing the multi-sport workouts. Here’s a good one that a friend found for me at a garage sale: Triathlete’s Training Bible. but, I’m sure there are others, too.
- Magazines Checkout Triathlete Magazine. There’s great training and nutrition articles and the race and athlete profiles inspire. Be aware that this magazine is product advertising-supported.
- Learn by doing. Now is the time to experiment with new shoes, try a friends bicycle and to have fun with triathlon training. During the off-season your goal is to buildup your base and find out what gear works best for you.
Training for a triathlon is a daily practice and you will learn how to do it best by trial and error. There are core principals about physiology and nutrition but every body is unique. What works for the Dude at the Triathlon Shop Who Has Done Ironman 18 times 😉 may not work for you. It’s necessary to get to know what YOUR body needs and how it performs by doing it and listening to it. Do your first Brick Workout (bike ride followed immediately by a short run) and find out what you can ingest to keep your energy consistent that doesn’t make you feel sick. Go for a bike ride on borrowed bike to test it out. Do a mini-triathlon on your own from your local pool. Just do it. The cool thing with triathlon training is that it is cross-training so as your individual running or swimming mileage may be less, you will have the additional benefit of training and getting stronger from the other two sports.
3. Daily Practice of Triathlon Training.
- Consistency is key. The off season is a good time to get used to training once a day, six days a week. Now is a good time to experiment with new gear. It’s also the time to build up one’s endurance base. Triathlon training is a Daily Practice that will take some getting used to.
- During the spring and summer each day will be a workout day. By Spring you should be used to training six days a week and fitting it into your work, school or family schedules if you can. The Daily Practice includes: your daily work out, your pre-workout food/beverage that is mostly carbs and easy to digest, your post-workout recovery food/beverage and sleeping more.
4. Become a member of a local triathlon, running or athletic club.
- This is a good and socially fun way find out about local road rides/open water swims and have better access to find other tri newbies. Plus, according to scientific research, you will get faster and stronger training with others than if training alone.* Being a member of a training club may translate into other benefits such as club discounts on gear and race entries. Some of the more experienced or long distance triathlon club members may seem a little arrogant or hardcore to a beginner. Just don’t take it personally. It takes a lot of mental and physical focus to be competitive in the Ironman triathlon distance these days and that can take a toll on one’s social skills. The qualifying times Ironman and Nationals has gotten a lot tougher than when I started doing triathlons in the free-wheeling late Eighties. It seemed more fun in those days. Though training was just as tough (and in some ways more difficult without all the energy supplements they have these days) there were less people to race against and the triathlon community was smaller and friendlier to each other as crazy kindred spirits. We were considered nuts by non-triathletes in the early days of the sport.
*See the article “Get Fitter with Friends”, The Economist Magazine, September 19, 2009, P. 92.
- Swim Training If you are new-ish to swimming, try to get in the water (lap pool, lake or ocean) at least 2-3x/week (30 minutes each) to build up your form & confidence. Do intervals if you can when in the pool. (I have some beginner swim workouts you can do to break up the monotony, too] Check out Active.com and look up swim stroke technique web videos and tips there or on youtube.com. Sometimes having a few pointers & practicing some swim drills can really make a difference in swim efficiency.
- Swim Suit For women, the two-piece swim suites with the draw string bottoms are good and one-piece suites are fine, too but can get hot when your running.
- Swimming Wet Suit If you don’t have a swim wetsuit, a surf wet suit can still work but won’t have the range of motion in it’s fit nor the sleeker
less-resistant material for is best for swimming. Great quality swim suits are at Inside Track Multisports in Ventura and Hazard Cycle Sports in Santa Barbara for new ones. Inside Track Multisports and GoForItSports.com offer used wetsuit rentals for sale for a fraction of their new retail price if you are on a budget. I’ve heard that retailer Play It Again Sports in Ventura has had swimming wetsuits, too. Craig’s List and Ebay have been used successfully by friends for getting good quality used wet suits and gear, also. Wetsuits are not cheap but a good one that fits can transform non-tropical open water swimming from cold misery to comfortable fun. Swim wetsuites add buoyancy and speed, too. That is always a plus for me. There are a lot of quality brands with slightly different fits for different body shapes such as 2xu, Blue Seventy, Quintana Roo and others. I wear a Woman’s Blue Seventy. When I open water swim in the ocean during the winter with my Blue Seventy wetsuit and matching swim booties and neoprene cap I may look ridiculous, but I am never cold. If you are new to open water swimming or swimming with faster people, it’s a good idea to invest in a pair of swim fins. I swim with