Top 5 Tips for First Time Triathlon Competitors
Multi-sport enthusiasts revel at the first sign of decent weather, their thoughts turning to cycling, running and swimming competitions where they can show-off their athletic prowess. Training is the key to a successful first triathlon. As long as you’re healthy and you know how to swim and ride a bike, preparing for your first competition will take about three months. If you’re getting back into shape after a few years of loafing, talk to your doctor before training for a triathlon.
1. Swimming Tips
The swimming leg of a triathlon requires muscle endurance as well as aerobic endurance. Year-round access to swimming pools (even an in-ground or above ground pool will work in a pinch) is essential for the serious competitor. A twice-a-week freestyle lap swim for 45 minutes will hone your technique and keep your muscles in top shape. Six to eight weeks before the race, add a 30-minute fin workout. Hold a kickboard with both arms against your chest and flutter kick as quickly as possible, wearing fins, to increase leg strength and swimming speed. Good freestyle technique is important, so ask a swimming pro to watch you and offer tips on how you can improve your style.
2. Cycling Tips
Getting ready for the cycling section of the race requires endurance rides at least three times a week, for a minimum of 2-3 hours per ride. During inclement weather, use the gym’s stationary cycles, but whenever possible, ride outdoors to simulate an actual race. Stretch before every ride and chart your rides to include long climbs, alternating with flat stretches. Ride at a leisurely pace the last few miles to let your muscles cool down slowly.
3. Running Tips
Invest in a good pair of running shoes and run outdoors when you can. Run three times a week and focus on distance. When you can run between 4-8 miles at a comfortable pace start timing yourself to increase speed. Treadmills are better than not running at all, but running on a moving belt doesn’t increase gluteal strength, since the belt moves of its own accord. When training on a treadmill, run on an incline to build gluteal muscle.
4. Equipment Tips
Triathlons vary in length and difficulty and you’ll need the right equipment for the race. Wear professional swimming goggles that won’t leak or fog during competition and bring a spare pair. Your swimming suit should be snug but allow you to move freely. Service your bike before big day; check and replace frayed cables, oil and tighten the chain if necessary and replace rotted or worn tires. Keep a pump in your transition bag. Check the strap on your helmet and replace it if necessary. Fit your shoes with elastic laces that allow you to slip your shoes on quickly without stopping to tie regular laces.
5. Race Day Tips
Lay off training the day before the race to let your muscles recuperate and get a good night’s sleep. Pack your transition bag the night before and go over the course in your mind until you’ve memorized it. To reduce time at the first transition station from swimming to cycling (T1), tuck your shoes into your bike pedals and hang your sunglasses and helmet over the handlebars.
Give your legs some time to adjust to the transition from cycling to running (T2). Pace your running for the first five minutes and then increase your speed. Don’t neglect your race day nutritional needs. Sip water and electrolyte-replacement drinks as needed.
Enjoy your first race. Focus on having fun and completing the course. After the race, analyze your strengths and weaknesses and adapt your training schedule to increase your time in the next triathlon. Many triathletes are also using Reebok Exercise Bikes when the weather is not so good.