How to Train for a Triathlon?
The fact that a triathlon is divided into three components: swimming, cycling and running – each requiring your body to perform in a different way can be very daunting to the beginner triathlete.
Beginner triathlon training should focus on learning how these three separate events interact with one another, and how this affects your body.
When choosing a beginner triathlon training program, it should contain achievable goals for you to meet each calendar week, and should increase the load gradually. If you can, try to recruit a friend or join a team in training. Your calendar (and, if you can find one, your training partner) will help keep you on track and progressing along your training plan.
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Beginner Triathlete Training for the Swim
The swimming leg of a triathlon is often the most intimidating for beginner triathletes, because it is the event with which they are the most unfamiliar. Unless you were a childhood swimmer, you must overcome your initial fear during your training.
Tailor your training program to making your swimming more efficient. This will help reduce fatigue and by improving your technique, you will also improve your speed.
As much as possible, perform your swimming training in open water, to mimic the conditions you will encounter at the race. Practice ducking below oncoming waves to avoid being pushed backwards. You should also practice wearing your triathlon wetsuit as often as possible. As the common saying goes, “you should train like you race”.
You may notice that you tire quickly in the water, and this is likely a result of poor technique. Incorporate more arm work and less kick into your swim strokes. Not only will you glide twice the distance at half the effort, but you will save your legs for the cycle and the running portions.
Although in pure swimming races you will see the swimmers use their legs a great deal, different considerations are at work in a triathlon. The increased speed achieved by use of your legs in the water is not enough to warrant the fatigue your legs will suffer. You need them fresh for later in the race.
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Beginner Training for the Cycle
The cycle leg of a triathlon is the longest part of the race in terms of distance and, normally, time.
Ensure that an experienced bike expert fits you to your bike. It’s important to make use of the big muscle groups and a proper bike fit will help this become a reality and ultimately will make your triathlon bike training much more productive and enjoyable.
Try and bike 2 or 3 times a week. You can do 1 or 2 of those rides on a wind-trainer or at a gym on one of their exercise bikes. As your season progresses, try and plan for one longer ride of 2 or 3 hours once a week. Don’t worry about how many miles. Pay more attention to actual time on the bike and finding a cadence and speed that you’re comfortable with.
To improve your speed on the bike, you may want to incorporate spinning classes into your training. Not only will you develop camaraderie with the rest of the spinners, but spinning classes are filled with anaerobic exercises that will help maximize your ability and performance.
During your training rides, like during the race itself, you should eat and drink as much as you can while you cycle (while still remaining comfortable). You need to guard against dehydration – a common mistake for some beginner triathletes.
Prepare yourself for race day – learn how to change a punctured bike tire during your training, and learn the rules of triathlons (such as those against drafting and all helmet requirements).
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Beginner Training for the Run
The best way to prepare for the running leg of a triathlon is to train the same way you do for the swimming leg: in conditions that mimic what you will be experiencing at the race. This means learning to run on already tired legs.
Incorporate “Brick” workouts into your training. Bricks are back-to-back bike-run workouts that not only help your endurance, but help your muscles adjust to the unique transition from biking to running.
Your legs will indeed feel like bricks during the first few minutes on your feet after a bike workout. Ease into running with smaller strides to warm up your muscles before moving on to longer, faster strides.
Although you should try and work on your outdoors running, the treadmills you can use today are so sophisticated that they represent great alternative if you just cannot get outside to run very often for some reason.
Certainly you should try to work some outside running in with your triathlon treadmill training program, but there’s no reason that a big percentage of your triathlon run training can’t be done with treadmill training.
The electronic displays that most treadmills have are a great way to monitor your progress and ensure you are on track with your training.
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Training for Transitions
Transitions are the often forgotten “fourth leg” of triathlons. There are two transitions in triathlons: T1 is the transition from water to bike, and T2 from bike to run. You can save valuable time on race day by learning how to transition efficiently.
Prepare for transitions by practicing them. During your training after a swimming workout, put on all your swim gear, then time how long it takes you to strip it off, change into your bike gear, get on your bike and go.
Find ways to cut this time by wearing a fuel belt underneath your wetsuit, taping foods and energy bars to your handlebars, investing in a tri-suit, or mounting your bike with your cleats already strapped into the pedals.
The more you practice your transitions to find which tricks work best, the more time you will save yourself on race day.
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