Seven tips to triathlon glory
Triathlon has become a very popular sport over the years and especially for middle-aged men and women who want to face the challenge of completing/competing in these tough events.
The biggest challenges for most triathletes are:
- Finding the time to fit all the necessary training in – especially when training for the full Ironman distance (3.8km swim, 180km bike, and 42.2km run).
- Staying healthy and injury-free
- Running Slow
- Keeping a good balance/atmosphere at home
- Learning to swim
- Dealing with the expenses involved
- Eating Right
Finding the time
Finding the time to train can be really tough, especially when you need to fit it in between work, commute, driving the kids to hockey practice and dance class, and still having some special time with your spouse. Manage your time wisely and do a run or a swim while your kids are at their activities, if you have very young kids, get a running baby buggy or even one you can pull behind the bike. If family members are involved, do some training together. You can handle running a little slower sometimes anyway (see point 4.)
Staying healthy and injury-free
Staving off injury is also tough, especially if you have been away from sports/fitness for a while. Training consistently, building up slowly (10% rule) and keeping a regiment of core/strength training in your program will help you do this. Not getting sick often can also be tricky for some and the best way to avoid sickness are the obvious things, getting enough sleep, eating well, washing your hands often, etc. The other one (also related to point 3.) is to train in the right zones.
Why use training zones?
Getting athletes to run in the right training zones is one of the hardest things I deal with as a coach. ‘But that pace feels like I might as well walk at the pace’ is a typical reply when I ask athletes to slow down.
If your best 10km time is, say 46 minutes, that doesn’t mean 5min/km is a good training pace. You should be at LEAST a minute slower per km then your 10km race pace for regular distance runs, if not 90-120s per km slower.
If you constantly run your distance runs at say 90% of your Threshold pace several things are happening:
- A. You are wearing down your immune system. Even if that pace ‘feels good’ it costs your body a lot of energy and will wear you down in the longer-term
- B. It will take the bite out of your quality runs, the ones you need to be fresh for, and the ones that will ACTUALLY MAKE YOU FASTER!!
- C. Increase your chance of injury for the same reasons as in A) and finally and probably more importantly
- D. you are NOT teaching your body to burn fat. When you run at 90% of your Threshold you burn a huge amount of carbohydrate compared to fat.
If you are training for an ironman and have not done long slow runs you have not trained your body to burn fat efficiently at a lower intensity and will have a very hard time taking in enough energy on race day to avoid bonking.
So slow down, believe it or not, it’s the best way to go faster!
Keeping a good balance/atmosphere at home
I go into detail in this one in another blog but it’s just as they say a happy wife makes for a happy life. Whether you have a family of your own or not you have people around you who are going to be affected by your need for MORE training. Make sure your family or the people are on board with your mission. Involve them as much as you can and accept that you will never be able to train truly optimally so sometimes you will have to cut sessions short or altogether to spend time doing what THEY like to do as well.
Learning to swim
Learning to swim is also one of the biggest fears of many newbie triathletes. This is so easy!! You don’t even have to become a great swimmer. Take a course you so learn the basics of front crawl and then get in the pool twice a week and do sets on start times. Don’t get complicated, find a rhythm, breathe on one side and get it done.
Dealing with the expenses involved
This topic also relates to number 4. This is an expensive sport and although for many triathletes gearing up is the best part, for many, it’s a deal-breaker. Spend the amount of money on bikes, wetsuits race entries that suit your financial situation. You can find plenty of bikes for 2000 euro if you look around enough so don’t spend 5000 if you can’t afford it.
You’d be amazed at the deals you can find on the internet or on buy/sell Facebook sites. If you’ve got tonnes of money and want all the best stuff that’s great! Good for the sport too because bigger companies get involved but if you are poor.
Take extra joy riding past athletes on bikes 4x the price of yours on race day.
Last but not least is nutrition. I believe that different people have different nutritional needs and I think science and evolution agree with me. So find the food that works best for you, that sustains you with good energy and makes you feel good.
Don’t get lured into the extreme ends of the nutrition spectrum by fanatics. If you want to test one direction or another say the direction of Paleo or the direction of veganism, do so in small increments.
If you want to make a simple improvement on your diet take out MOST of the simple sugars and replace them with more wholesome alternatives. If you train a lot you need to eat; fats, proteins, AND carbohydrates plus lots of vitamins and minerals. Don’t get too complicated – You know what healthy food and junk are, just make good choices.