Be consistent – Consistency is the key to a successful approach to any sport, including triathlon. Fragmented training can prove to be less motivating and reduces the long term benefit of an otherwise consistent program.
Take Timeout – Rest, recovery, regeneration and relaxation are key elements of the training process. Recovery between sessions allows your body to adapt to a higher performance level and rebuild stronger.
Technique Training – Technique is one of the most critical components of triathlon. Core and hip stability for both the cycle and run leg are important to maintain efficiency and subsequently good technique. These techniques also help develop strength in your lower abdominals and hip flexes. Swimming technique is also vital however it is important to distinguish between pool technique and open water technique as the two are different with latter requiring more strength as opposed to technique. The best way to correct technique through each discipline is through coaching analysis.
Speed and Intensity Work – Speed and intensity training are vital components of successful endurance racing. However it is extremely important that training is not exercised at too high an intensity as this can cause excess stress and residual failure (i.e. fatigue in subsequent training).
Swim Leg – The majority of swimming training should be exercised in the pool however it is important to train in an open water environment to simulate outdoor races. The development of a strong kick is also important and can be practiced using a kick board in the pool. Other form strokes aside from freestyle such as butterfly, breast and back stroke help prevent injury as well as maintaining your aerobic fitness and feel for the water. Flippers can be useful in aiding speed work as it helps athletes concentrate on technique whilst at the same time developing their kick.
Bike Leg – Dependent on the your ability and the style of racing you are training for, cycle training can vary. When training for tight criterium racing which allows drafting, it is important to develop ‘pack riding’ skills along with a good rev range. That is, the ability to lift your heart rate above the aerobic threshold on numerous occasions. In non drafting races where strength is vital, the ability to hold a large gear for a long period of time whilst training will help you develop individual pace and discipline on the cycle.
Run Leg – Mileage is an integral component of training for running or triathlon. Long run sessions help athletes build their aerobic capacity and provide them with the base and strength needed for performing in triathlon. One long run session dependent on an individual’s ability is highly recommended. Speed work although not as vital is important in the weeks leading to an event for best performance. However, training at too high an intensity can prove detrimental to your entire training program. Technique and more specifically ‘core stability’ is crucial when running and training to prevent injury and to maintain an efficient style.
Get Motivated and Do it! – The hardest part of any training agenda is actually getting motivated. So remember stay focused, goal orientated and just get out there and do it!
The following are some tricks of the trade, and some simple do’s and don’ts for those who are new to the challenging sport of triathlon. Some of these hints may seem obvious – but it can be the little things that make the difference between a great day out and the dreaded “never again!!!” experience.
- Goggles. The time honoured tradition of licking the inside of your goggles to stop them fogging up does seem to work.
- It is worth having a quick swim prior to the swim start to warm up and practice sighting the first buoy – so you know where to look while you are in the washing machine that resembles the start.
- Race start position is important! If you are a confident swimmer, start at the front of the bunch so you won’t be hampered by slower swimmers. If you are nervous at the start, try focusing on your breathing – slowly in, more slowly out.
- Take your time, and count your strokes, try looking up to sight the buoy every 4 – 6 strokes. If someone knocks you, they probably didn’t mean it – so don’t feel inclined to belt them back!
- For the last 50 metres, try and kick a bit harder to start preparing the legs to run to transition.
Transition One – Swim to Bike
- While running from the water, pull your goggles and swim cap off. If you are wearing a wetsuit you will need to have it unzipped by the time you get to your bike.
- Bending down to put your shoes on can give you a head spin, so where possible, keep your head up.
- Your bike should be in the correct gear to start the ride. Take it easy till your breathing settles, then get into a rhythm.
- Hills. It is more efficient to use a small gear and spin up the hills, then change into a bigger gear and power down the hills than to power up and coast back down (much as the opportunity to stop pedaling is tempting!)
- Drink – while on the bike, this is a good way to prevent dehydration later in the run.
- In the last few kilometres, try and stretch out your calves, by dropping your heel on the down stroke. This helps warm the legs up for the transition.
Transition Two – Bike to Run
- Rack your bike carefully! There is nothing worse than someone who just chucks their bike back any old place, and there is rarely space for this type of carelessness.
- Don’t forget to take off your helmet before you start running– it has been done before and looks pretty silly.
- Putting baby powder in your runners seems to help them go on easily as do elastic show laces.
- Your legs will feel like lead for the first few hundred metres. Accept this, run slightly more slowly till you loosen up, then settle into your rhythm.
- Keep to a pace.
- If you get a stitch, try and focus on steady breaths.
- If your calves start to tighten up you are probably running too much on your toes. Focus on striking your heel and rolling through to the toes.
- If your back gets sore, try tightening your stomach muscles and running a little taller
- To drink while on the run, squash the cup so it is like a spout, and pour the water in.
- Don’t forget to hold your breath so it doesn’t go down the wrong way!
- To get your breath back after your sprint across the line, lean forward and brace your arms on something solid, using your chest muscles to control your breathing.
- Make sure you drink plenty, and try and eat something with simple sugar in it within 30 minutes of finishing. This can be sports drink, fruit etc. and helps speed recovery.
- If you can muster the energy, a gentle jog down and/or a stretch will help you to be less sore on the following day.