Part two of our Get Fit and Do Good series brings you to the ultimate of all endurance races, the triathlon. Just as the marathon is not an undoable task, neither is the triathlon. And just like the marathon, consistency is the key. Without that, you have nothing.
The biggest difference between the marathon and triathlon training is that now you will be training in three sports (swimming, biking, and running) as opposed to just one. Since that’s the case, we have a lot to cover, so let’s get started right away.
If this is your first triathlon you are preparing for, you should shoot for doing one of the entry level triathlons, such as a .25 mile swim, 12 mile bike ride, and a 3 mile run. This is referred to as a “sprint” race. Once you feel comfortable with those distances, then you can start to explore lengthier races. With that said, let’s assume you are training for an entry level distance race. When you look at the numbers, it’s really not that long. It’s just that you are doing each discipline back-to-back. And that brings up one of the most important aspects to your triathlon training. It’s called the “brick” workout. This is where you ride your bike and then follow it immediately with a swim. You can do this at a gym with an exercise bike and a treadmill, but you should be doing it outside to get used to the real thing.
Just as with the marathon training you should set aside 16 weeks of training time to be optimally prepared for the race. First things first though—you need to develop an aerobic base in each discipline. This all depends on how much time you have for your training. Let’s assume that you are a person who has a full-time job and a family. Realistically you probably have time for 3 workouts a week. So, as you can guess, you should be doing one swim, one bike, and one run. First, build up your aerobic base so that you can swim .25 miles on your swim workout days, bike 12 miles on your biking days, and run 3 miles on your running days. Depending on your level of fitness, this might take you awhile or maybe you’ll get to that in only a few weeks, it’s all relative to the person. So, after the aerobic base is built up, start adding an extra workout each week. This is your “brick” workout. For example, you might swim on Monday, bike on Wednesday, run on Friday, and do your brick (bike and run) on Saturday or Sunday. In the beginning your brick might involve a 6 mile bike ride followed by a 2 mile run. If this feels easy then the next week you can bump it up a little and increase those distances.
Dealing with Weaknesses
Now let’s cover “weak” disciplines. Everyone’s got one. Maybe you’ve never swam before, or maybe you are not really a good biker, or maybe running has never been your thing. You can change this by spending more time during the weak discipline workout. There are a couple of ways of doing this. Let’s say that you are a weak swimmer. On your swim days, you might want to swim for 40 minutes instead of 30. The other way of doing this is to swim for 2 days instead of 1. This would mean to eliminate your “strongest” discipline for the week. Since you really should be doing at least one swim, bike, and run each week, swimming for a little longer on your swim day is preferable to taking away one of the other disciplines entirely.
Simply put, starting off your training you need to view each discipline as a separate thing. For example, on your swimming day you need to think of yourself as a swimmer, on your biking day think of yourself as a biker, and so on. Once you develop that aerobic base, that’s when the “brick” workouts become so important. You can even choose to throw in some swim/bike workouts. Maybe leisurely bike to the place that you are swimming and then after your swim you can bike home, assuming it’s not too far.
Another very important piece to the puzzle is to keep a training log. There are plenty of triathlon training logs that give you space to record each day’s workouts whether you are swimming, biking or running. It is very important that you write down each one of your workouts, including the time it took to complete them, the distances you went and most important how you felt after each workout. As you get further into your training you can see how you’ve improved and this will motivate you right to the starting line.
As you can see, training for a triathlon is not a daunting task. Just as with the marathon it takes time and a commitment to your plan. If you have these you will be ready to take on the “mighty” triathlon. And once you do a triathlon, there’s no telling what you can achieve, in sport and life!