Welcome to the Third installment of a 5 part Beginners Series.
You’ve decided you want to do a Triathlon and you’ve picked out your first race. So now it’s time to start training. Just like all the variables in picking out a race, there are just as many variables in setting up a training plan for your race. What is your athletic background? Do you have a cardio base already? What distance race are you training for? How many weeks until your race? How many hours a week do you have available to train? These are just a few of the questions that a qualified Triathlon Coach will ask.
Obviously, I recommend you get a coach. There are so many things to learn about in the sport of triathlon. A coach will help teach you just the things you need to learn to get you trained for your first race. Then as you are ready, your coach will help you progress in the sport. A good coach will help keep you motivated, accountable, healthy, and get you prepared physically and mentally for your race.
Having a plan is one of the most important components of successfully training for your first Triathlon. By plan, I’m referring to a schedule of workouts written out for each week of your training. Do not expect to “make it up as you go along” and then have a successful race. A proper training schedule will include a Base, a Build, and a Taper phase. It will include workouts for swimming, biking, and running. Ideally, you’ll be working with a coach that will supply you with a weekly schedule that is designed specifically for you. It will take into account your current fitness level, work schedule, available hour to work out, etc. If you have chosen to train without a coach, you can find generic training plans online for various distance triathlons. Try to find a plan that best fits your life and triathlon goals.
Whether you decide to hire a coach or not, look around for a local Triathlon Club. Many clubs will offer group training for members. Clubs are generally very helpful to new triathletes. Club members can offer helpful insights into training and racing. If there are no local Triathlon Clubs available then reach out to friends or co-workers that have experience in Triathlon.
Remember you don’t need a bunch of new equipment for your first race. Many athletes get caught up in wanting new gear that they lose sight of the goal… which should be to have fun and complete their first Triathlon. So, make sure keep it simple for your first race. Concentrate on the training and not so much on the gear. That being said, try to train with what you plan on using for race day.
Make sure to train your weakness. Triathlon is 3 sports and many new (and veteran) triathletes make the mistake of neglecting the sport they like the least or aren’t the best at. Sure, if you’re a runner it’s easy to spend more time training for the run. But you will be better served by training for the sport that you are the weakest in. Most (not all) runners aren’t good swimmers and most (not all) swimmers aren’t good runners. Point is, it’s really hard to be great at swimming, biking, and running. So spend more time training for the sport you can make the most gains in.
Practice transitions. This is often over-looked in generic training plans. It doesn’t matter if you are competitive or not, transitions are an important part of Triathlons. Poorly executed transitions are a waste of time, energy, and can be stressful. Having to transition from swim to bike and then bike to run will be something completely new to the beginner triathlete. You can practice transitions just by setting up in your driveway, out of your car in a parking lot, or just about anywhere with a little open space.
I also recommend to all triathletes to train on the race course when possible. But new triathletes especially can gain a lot of confidence by swimming, biking, and/or running on the race course during training.
While training for any race isn’t (and shouldn’t be) easy, you should make sure to have some enjoyment and fun. Triathlon can be a very rewarding endeavor. Embrace the challenge and the journey. Good luck with your training! Stay tuned for the next installment, “First Triathlon - Race Day”, post 4 of this 5 part series.