Health & Fitness - Triathlon Training Tips & Resources
A triathlon is a multi-stage athletic contest involving three endurance disciplines completed over various distances in immediate succession. The most typical components of a triathlon are swimming, cycling, and running, though in no certain order. Competitions accommodate various skill levels, and the distances of triathlon races vary in length. The International Triathlon Union is the highest governing body. On September 24, 1974, the first recorded triathlon was organized by the San Diego Track and Field Club at Mission Bay in California. The purpose of the competition was to provide an alternative to the rigors of athletic training for track racing. Triathlon is among the fastest growing sports in the world. It has been an Olympic sport since 2000 and has experienced monumental growth since that time. The first triathlon in the Paralympics, for athletes with a range of disabilities, will be held in the summer of 2016. There are many variations of triathlons, and people of every age and ability can participate.
Additional Background Resources:
- International Triathlon Union
- The American Triathlon Calendar
- Team USA Triathlon
- USA Triathlon Youth Guide
- Triathlon – History and Equipment
A great deal of preparation goes into the physical conditioning required to complete a triathlon. Eating right and staying physically fit builds a good foundation for getting started, but training is the cornerstone of ultimate success. Triathletes give time to training in each of the disciplines. There are numerous resources available for overall triathlon training.
- Triathlon Strength-Training Resource – Stanford.edu provides specific guidelines for 7 weeks of workouts to use in preparation for competing in a triathlon.
- Triathlon 8-week Training Program – MNSU.edu provides a program for runners participating in a sprint triathlon who want to stay fit using a variety of sports and exercises.
- Recovery in Triathlon Training – A recovery plan is an important part of achieving successful overall training and preparation.
- Fun on Foot – This resource page addresses many issues relevant to runners.
- TriKids – A site focused on helping ages 7+ train for triathlons.
Your body needs fuel to do the hard work required to train for a triathlon. Keeping your diet simple and consistent throughout the training process will help you avoid unwelcome surprises on race day. Foods that are easy to digest, keep your blood glucose level up, and that have carbs are ideal. Pure maple syrup, for instance, is a fast-absorbing sugar provided by nature. The syrup contains antioxidants, potassium, and other nutrients that fuel bodies on the go. Dates are rich in potassium and provide a supercharge of simple sugar and carb intake. In addition, bananas are proven to provide aid for triathletes equal to a sports drink, which is why bananas are often handed out to competitors at triathlon events.
- Nutrition Requirements for the Triathlete – A performance nutrition and weight management guide.
- 9 Nutrition Rules for Beginner Triathletes - Triathlete.competitor.com provides guidelines for eating when in training for a triathlon.
- 6 Nutrition Rules for Endurance Athletes – Ironman.com provides the basics of nutrition for triathletes.
Swimming is a sport best approached from a standpoint of technique. Reducing water resistance is the first priority. Swimming drills incorporated in workouts provide the following benefits:
- It helps to isolate and focus on specific stroke techniques.
- It helps to develop muscle memory while eliminating bad habits.
- It builds strength with less fatigue.
Five essential drills recommended by Ironman include: Single arm, side kick, Tarzan drill, side-to-side, and hyperkick.
More Information on Swimming:
- Swim Training 101: A Beginner’s Guide – Prepare for the discipline in a triathlon that is usually considered the most difficult.
- Open Water Swimming Tips – Fears about open water swimming are common, and this resource can help.
- Swimming Tips for Pool, Bay, and Ocean – Swim training for triathlons can be enhanced by transitioning from pool to bay or lake to ocean.
There’s a big difference between bicycling for leisure and cycling in a competition. To compete as a triathlete, it is recommended that you first ride more frequently. Vary the level of intensity of your rides, which can be achieved by riding on varied terrain. Another essential step is to develop your technique for such maneuvers as cornering , descending, and passing other cyclists with confidence. Of course, the bicycle you ride has a lot to do with how well you can compete.
Seat height should allow your legs to be almost completely extended when pedaling. Your back posture should be as flat as possible when riding; part of the benefit is that you create less wind resistance with a straight back.
The tires should maintain the maximum pressure recommended by the manufacturer. The bicycle chain should be cleaned and lubricated, and the brakes should be in good working order, not rubbing when not in use.
Beginners may do best with a road bike and advance to a triathlon bike, after competing a few times. Avoid such mistakes as riding without a flat kit and riding with low cadence.
Additiona Bicycling Resources:
- Tips on Cycling in Time Trials and Triathlons – A cycling resource from Stanford.edu provides detailed training tips.
- Elements of Good Biking Form – An expert provides helpful advice on proper biking form.
- 12-Mile Cycling Training Plan – Take all the guesswork out of a 12-mile cycling training plan, with this handy schedule.
- Frequently Asked Questions - The Duke Triathlon Club provides answers to frequently asked triathlon questions.
Running great distances during training doesn’t necessarily improve performance. With the right plan, endurance athletes can prepare for the triathlon run while avoiding unnecessary distance running. Effective running preparation for triathletes can consist of the following three workouts:
- Track and speed sessions. Build strength, speed, endurance, technique, and an aerobic foundation with various track sessions.
- Alternating tempo/hill sessions. Improve strength and speed by alternating tempo and hill workouts.
- The long run. Part of your triathlon training should include longer runs, during which capillaries grow and enhance the blood supply to the muscle fibers. The aerobic powerhouse of the cell is mitochondria, which increases in number and size with endurance training.
More information on triathlon runnin:
- How to Train for Marathon - Prepare for the physical challenge of the marathon portion of a triathlon.
- 3 Running Workouts for Triathletes - Learn details about running sessions designed to prepare triathletes for competition.
- Triathlon Training Tips for The Time Crunched Athlete - Another great training resource for triathletes.
Apps and Software
Participating in a triathlon involves some serious dedication, and there is plenty of help to be found in triathlon apps and software. Examples of available apps used by triathletes are GoSwim, BikeDoctor, MyFitnessPal, and TrainingPeaks mobile app. The following is information about a few of the resources available:
- Train like an Ironman with these apps for triathletes
- 7 Apps for Triathletes
- Top Smartphone Apps for Triathlon
- Swim, Bike, and Run iPhone Apps – Helpful and detailed overview of apps for triathletes.
Race Day Tips
Just as all of the preparation for a triathlon involves planning, it helps to plan ahead to ensure the best competition day possible. There are some proven ways to optimize race day, including the following:
- Make sure your head is in the game and your attitude will help you push through the challenges of the day.
- Have a strategy in place for how you’ll approach each segment of the competition.
- Be ready with the right hydration and nutrition for the day.
- Review the race packet.
- Give yourself plenty of time to get your gear set up.
- Stay flexible so that you’re prepared for factors beyond your control.
Race Day Resources:
- Race Tips: Do’s and Don’ts for Race Day (Video) – The Nation’s Triathlon
- 10 Essential Triathlon Race Day Tips – A detailed resource that can help triathletes enjoy greater success on race day.
- Race Day Tips – A helpful list of tips from Golden Gate Triathlon Club
- Triathlon Race Day Tips - from Leading Tri Coach Richard Laidlow
- Triathlon Transition Tips (PDF) – from Chico Triathlon Club