28 Aug 2016

How To Train For a Triathlon: A Beginner's Guide

Fitness and workout advice

Stop dreaming about ticking off the fabled triathlon and just do it.

How? Get started with our triathlon training tips for beginners.

The gear

We’ll be honest; a triathlon kit can set you back a car payment or two and then some. Between nabbing a new set of wheels (bike, not car), a wetsuit, shoes, jerseys, breathable cycling clothes and more, the bill can run away with your chances before you’ve stepped on pedals. Our advice? Work with what you have and borrow what you don’t until you’re sure triathlons are 100% for you.  So what are the basics?

  • Shoes – Invest in a solid pair of trainers and you’ll be set inside and outside the gym. Sports shoes are pretty versatile, so you’ll get your money’s worth before you’ve finished training.

  • Goggles – You can buy or borrow these. A decent brand won’t set you back too much and there are loads of features to choose from.

  • Bike & Helmet – Triathlons are generally BYO, so bike access is certainly essential. Even if you pick up a $200 bike from Gumtree (run a condition check before buying), you’ve satisfied this prerequisite and purchased a new way to exercise even if you don’t stay on the triathlon bandwagon. Be safe; no helmet, no race.

  • Swimmers – We don’t recommend board shorts for this category. Great for surfing, lounging, skating and general living, board shorts can be a bit cumbersome when it comes to the beach sprint and difficult to get out of. Ideally, the transition between stages should be fast and smooth.

The swim leg

You’ve entered the shortest leg. On the sand, you won’t be water-logged for long, but out there in the water, it may seem like you’re barely moving at all. You are. Keep in mind when you’re both racing and training, the swim is the first leg – it’s not about being fast and while being first out the water feels great, two legs still remain. Don’t tire yourself out early. The swim is your earliest opportunity to determine your personal pace; your first race isn’t going to be your best and it certainly won’t be your first victory. Focus on a clean, efficient leg and check-in with your body, ensuring you’re comfortable with your technique and surroundings. Ignore the splashes and gulps of air around you.

  • Find out the length of the swim leg and set yourself a weekly target. In the first week, you’ll swim 20% of the leg length every three days; and then 30%, 40%, 50% etc. until you’re conquering the distance comfortably.

  • Sloppy strokes lead to sloppy times. The key to an amazing race is great form and precise technique – a few long, powerful strokes will cover more distance than a slap-dash windmill of arms and legs.

The bike leg

Hot tip – the bikes in the gym or borrowed from your rabid triathlete buddy won’t have the same kick (or lack thereof) as the paddock basher you’re using the first time around. Just say no.  The bike leg is quite long – around 50% of race time – so you’ll be spending a decent amount of time in the saddle, spinning those pedals and making strides to move up.  Before race day rolls around, ride the course and adjust to any twists, turns and bumps – this foreknowledge may be the difference between a good time and a great one. Everybody wants to be great.

  • Every time you train, you should be wearing the kit you’ll be racing in. Wearing different clothing and shoes on the day is one-way ticket to discomfort city.

  • You’ve probably been riding bikes since you were a little kid, but very rarely did any of us concentrate on extension when riding down the road for a meat pie or some hot chips. When you’re training and racing, your leg should hit 90% extension for full power at the bottom of the stroke.

  • Form is important here too. Your back should retain a nice arch and your eyes need to stay forward focused, no matter how tempted you are to turn around. Keep your elbows bent without locking them out and your shoulders should be supporting your upper body weight without carrying it.

The run leg

Running. It’s either a beauty or a bane, depending on your history with humanity’s oldest sport. Some do it well, some do it poorly, others run themselves into injury and never hit the pavement again. Although we’d love to give you a running lesson, we don’t have that many words to work with (have a link instead), so we’ll cap this section off with a few tips and suggestions.

  • Strike the pavement, path or grass with the mid-foot instead of over-striding and landing on your heel. You’ll have to compensate and waste more energy, slowing you down.

  • Keep your shoulders back and run tall. Posture is everything, even when you’re running. Your eyes should be locked onto a point 15 metres in front of you, with your arms swinging back and forward beside you. Keep it natural and don’t exaggerate the movement.

  • Don’t go for maximum impact. Let your feet hit the ground naturally… what do we mean by naturally? If you’re feeling frustrated for any reason, take it out on a boxing bag. Hitting the ground forcefully increases your risk of injury and counteracts the good work you’re already doing. 

What started as a bucket list challenge has completely transformed how you perceive your body, your limits and the surging satisfaction of another personal best. It doesn’t matter how your race ends, you’ve already won.

Learn the most effective methods of training and technique with the Complete Personal Trainer^ Program and become a fully qualified Personal Trainer.  Call 1300 616 180 today. 

^The Complete Personal Trainer consists of the SIS40210 Certificate IV in Fitness + units of competency required for entry. Please contact us for further details on the course structure.

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