This is the second blog in a series on ‘Training For Your First Triathlon’. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them. If you are looking for more information or a triathlon training program feel free to email: firstname.lastname@example.org
So here we go! You have picked a race, you have found a program. Now all you have to do is start training! Or so it seems. When I first started to train for triathlons I always hated that feeling that I was missing something. It seemed like everyone else knew exactly what they needed and how to follow their plan and here I was in the dark trying to swim, bike and run my way out of it. I understood that I needed to train, but other than that it all seemed a bit overwhelming. In this blog I’d like to cover a couple things that will hopefully make starting your program and the lead to race day seem less of a scramble in the dark. The two main pieces I will focus on today are the gear portion and the training portion of each discipline. There’s a lot too both of these aspects so its a bit of a longer blog- I tried to cover as much as I could, but as usual feel free to ask ANY questions!
This can get expensive fast if you start worrying about needing all the top of the line gear, or start asking advice from too many people. One thing I learned quickly is that everyone in triathlon (as most are type A’s) have a preference for everything being ‘the best’. The fact of the matter is, if this is your first stab at this type of race there is NO need to lose sleep over your gear. I’ll break it down for you below.
Each discipline requires some time, the biggest thing is to make sure that you have scheduled in your sessions accordingly so that you can give them the time that they need. I will give some extra tips below on extra things you can do to help with your confidence in each one.
This will mostly be all in the pool unless your chosen race happens to have an open water component- which I will cover next. Regardless the brunt of your training will be in the pool.
What you need to get started:
Most pools will have extra pieces of equipment such as boards, pull-buoys and sometimes even flippers. Depending on the distance you are training for, the most important thing is to just be comfortable in the water and with your distance, focus on smooth solid movements and not going as fast as you can, the speed will come. If you are super new to swimming- find some swimming lessons or a drop in swim group that you can join. There are also a lot of coaches that you can hire to watch you once a month and tweak your form.
What you need:
- Neoprene Cap
First things first with an open water swim- make sure you check a past race package, usually found on the race web site for their wet suit guidelines. Either that or email the race directly. Some open water races do not require a full wetsuit with sleeves, and in some the water is warm enough that you don’t even need one and/or that it would be illegal to wear one. The benefit of a wetsuit in an open water swim is that it makes you more buoyant, the downside is that it takes some getting used to. In some cases the water is cold enough that you may want a neoprene cap to keep your head warm, you can also just double up your swim cap as well.
To train for the open water swim, I suggest keeping an eye out for any clinics that the race may be putting on. If they aren’t no worries- just make sure that you make it a priority to get in the open water to practice. Always have someone there to keep an eye out for you whether on the beach or in the water. Take your time with it. The hardest part to the open water swim is going to be spotting, there are some great youtube videos that demo this as well. I’ll cover this more in a later blog- but for now just focus on that pool and getting comfortable with the swim in general.
What you need to get started:
- A bike
- An indoor bike trainer*
- A helmut
- Cycling Shoes*
- Triathlon Shorts
*I put a star beside these pieces because they aren’t always necessary, I’ll explain below.
A lot of the equipment for the bike will again depend on the distance of race you are doing. If you are doing a sprint, and I would argue even your first Olympic distance, you should be fine on ‘spin-style’ stationary bike for the majority of your training. For the half-iron distance and Ironman distance, you will want to get used to your bike because you are going to spend a lot of time on it during your race not to mention your training time so an indoor trainer is a good investment. There are different types, and I would suggest a Magnetic Trainer (it simulates an outdoor ride better). Fluid trainers a less expensive and also a really great option.
As for the actual bike you will use to race, find one that your are comfortable on. Don’t worry too much about shelling out major bucks, especially for a shorter race. Do take the time to make sure the bike you are riding fits you properly, many cycling stores offer bike ‘fit-sessions’, these are especially important for those doing anything longer than a sprint. A lot of cycling stores can get you set up relatively comfortable. A road bike is a great option to start out on, and you can add aero bars to it (the bars that stick straight out in front). That way if you decide triathlon isn’t your thing you’re not stuck with a Triathlon specific bike or ‘TT’ bike that you can’t use again. There are a lot of places that will rent bikes by the week, which is a good option if you just need it for a quick race.
Cycling shoes are to the bike what the wetsuit is to the open water swim. The advantage to them is that you are able to get a much more controlled and efficient pedal stroke, the downside is that if you are not used to wearing them they can be a bit awkward and even a bit scary when you first try them out on your bike on the open road. My advice in this case- for a sprint or Olympic distance- if you are not comfortable with them, and don’t feel like you’ve had enough practice don’t worry. For a half- Ironman or more- practice, practice, practice- you don’t want to ride 90Km+ without being clipped in, trust me.
A note about the triathlon shorts- these are different than cycling shorts- they tend to be a bit shorter and have less padding. The little bit of padding is definitely better than no padding and they take no time at all to slip over a swimsuit before you head out of the pool in a pool swim. And during an open water swim race they are necessary as you need to have something under your wetsuit when you take it off in transition- nakedness in transition is frowned upon 😉
Make sure for your actual training for the bike that you are taking the necessary time in the saddle, this is where you spend the majority of your time during a race and should be where you spend the majority of your time training. Not to mention your time on the bike will also help with your run training by building us different muscles in your legs and helping build power.
What you need:
I love running for its simplicity. Pop on your runners and just go! The biggest thing here is your main piece of equipment, your shoes. Take the time to have a gait analysis done at a local running store and find the pair of shoes that works for you. Test them out on a treadmill or track before taking them outside, be sure that these shoes are the ones that will work best for you.
Make sure that you don’t wuss out on those speed workouts, I say this because I have a tendency to do so once an awhile, even though I know better. Those focused speed workouts, hill repeats, fartleks, they are so important to helping you become a more efficient runner. Use your long runs as recovery, take them SLOW and just let your body get used to the distance.
These are workouts that we perform 2 or more of our training sessions back to back to simulate race day. The toughest being the transition from Bike to Run. Don’t underestimate the power of hopping off your bike and going for a 20min run, its so important for your body and your mind to feel what it is going to feel like to hop off with legs feeling like jello and start pounding them on the pavement- Yes, this is what I call fun.
Alright- we have covered a ton of information here, and yes there is still lots to come. But the biggest thing to keep in mind is to get started on that training. A couple half hour sessions here and there can make a huge difference, don’t wait to get the best bike, trainer, and coolest coloured runners. Get in the pool, get a feel for it- Hop on a bike at a spin class- go for a light jog. Just start. Tomorrow you will wish you had started today. It will all come together, just get going.
Still to come in future blogs in this series: Nutrition while training, electronics, prepping for race day, race day. If there is anything you would like me to include, send me an email email@example.com I’d love to hear from you and also help you navigate this awesome sport!