How to Train for a Triathalon

How to Train for a Triathalon
When people hear "triathlon," they frequently equate it with the Ironman triathlon--a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a full 26.2-mile marathon--and assume that only athletes with superhuman endurance can participate in this sporting event. In fact, the triathlon comes in a wide variety of lengths so that athletes with varying levels of endurance can participate.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • Running shoes Running socks Bike Bike shorts Bike helmet Swimsuit Swim goggles Water bottle
  • Running shoes
  • Running socks
  • Bike
  • Bike shorts
  • Bike helmet
  • Swimsuit
  • Swim goggles
  • Water bottle
Step 1
Volunteer at a triathlon. Handing out water on the frontlines is the best way to see if this endeavor is right for you. Ask questions of those who seem to have finished with gas in their tank, and ask questions of those who tanked.
Step 2
Find a triathlon that will provide a challenge for you and yet not be beyond your grasp. Possibilities include the aforementioned Ironman, to Half Ironman (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run), to Olympic or classic triathlons (0.6214-mile swim, a 24.8-mile bike ride and a 6.2-miles run), to "sprints" (the concept being that elite competitors could sprint these distances--a 1/2-mile swim, a 12- to 15-mile bike ride and a three- to five-mile run). There are even shorter triathlons--a 500 yard swim, an eight-mile bike ride and a two- to three-mile run.
Step 3
Get out your calendar to figure out your training schedule. For a short one, give yourself two months of training. For a Half Ironman, give yourself five to six months--and alter the training for triathlons in between those two extremes. This is assuming you are already proficient at one of the sports and you have a good base of cardiovascular training. Most athletes who go into a triathlon already have a passion for one (or two) of the events, so adding on the second or third isn't a huge stretch. If you're not in good shape in at least one of the sports, do a different kind of event first--like a run or a bike ride to see if you even like it.
Step 4
Schedule your swims for two or three days a week. If swimming isn't your strong suit (and often for beginning triathlon participants, it's not), make it three days. For a shorter triathlon, work up to where you can do at least eight lengths of a standard 25-yard pool continuously. That would add up to 200 yards--and if the swim is longer, add more laps to your schedule.
Step 5
Schedule your bike rides for two days a week. The only way to get over "saddle soreness" and tight shoulders is to put in seat time. If the course you'll be pedaling in the triathlon has hills on it, find a place to get in some hill work. Work your way up each week until you can do the distance you'll be riding in the triathlon without a break and at a steady clip--12 mph is a solid speed for an average rider.
Step 6
Schedule your runs for two days a week. If the triathlon has a 3.1-mile run, you should be able run three miles comfortably before the big day. If it's going to be a longer distance, then build up your mileage over the weeks and alternate short runs with longer runs, speed work with slower jogs.
Step 7
Alternate the activities so that you are doing something different each day to give your muscles time to recover from the other sport. Be sure to take one day off a week.
Step 8
Plot your training so you reach the maximum distances a few days before the triathlon, then taper off your training the last couple of workout days. Schedule no training the day before the triathlon, so that you are raring to go and not wiped out when the starting gun goes off. It's not a test you can cram for--if you're not ready, a big workout the day before won't help.

Tips & Warnings

 
When the starting gun goes off, go at your own pace and try not to get swept up in the pack mentality. If swimming in the ocean scares you, try finding a triathlon that uses a pool for the swim part. If you are doing an event with an ocean swim, go out and practice there-getting out beyond the breaking waves is a challenge and can be scary. Practice transitions--getting out of your wetsuit and into your bike shorts, getting dried off and into your bike shoes. Drink water when you're on the bike ride. Don't wait until the run, as you'll be dehydrated. Set up your bike equipment and running items in the transition area separately and neatly so you can easily find things during the transitions. Practice in all kinds of weather. You don't know what the day of the race will be like and you want to be ready for it. Cumulative training counts. Once you have been training for a year for events, it's easier to step it up to the next level and try a harder triathlon. There is a school of thought that you can train to within about three-fourths of the distance you'll be covering and then adrenalin or the crowd cheering will carry you the last few miles. After doing a few events, you'll know if this works for you--it may...it may not. For a beginner, make sure that you can go the whole distance. Consider getting a wetsuit for ocean or lake swims. For women, try finding an women-only triathlon if you're new to this--the energy can be more supportive and less competitive.
 
When the starting gun goes off, go at your own pace and try not to get swept up in the pack mentality.
 
If swimming in the ocean scares you, try finding a triathlon that uses a pool for the swim part. If you are doing an event with an ocean swim, go out and practice there-getting out beyond the breaking waves is a challenge and can be scary.
 
Practice transitions--getting out of your wetsuit and into your bike shorts, getting dried off and into your bike shoes.
 
Drink water when you're on the bike ride. Don't wait until the run, as you'll be dehydrated.
 
Set up your bike equipment and running items in the transition area separately and neatly so you can easily find things during the transitions.
 
Practice in all kinds of weather. You don't know what the day of the race will be like and you want to be ready for it.
 
Cumulative training counts. Once you have been training for a year for events, it's easier to step it up to the next level and try a harder triathlon. There is a school of thought that you can train to within about three-fourths of the distance you'll be covering and then adrenalin or the crowd cheering will carry you the last few miles. After doing a few events, you'll know if this works for you--it may...it may not. For a beginner, make sure that you can go the whole distance.
 
Consider getting a wetsuit for ocean or lake swims.
 
For women, try finding an women-only triathlon if you're new to this--the energy can be more supportive and less competitive.
 
The sun's glare on an ocean or lake can be blinding. You may end up swimming in the wrong direction, so check to make sure that you are on course. If you're overpowered by other swimmers (including taking on water due to their wake or getting kicked in the face), let them have the middle of the course and stay to the outside. If you're feeling panicky in the water, switch to an easier stroke like the sidestroke until you have caught your breath. Don't buy new equipment just before the big event. Make sure that your bike, shoes and swimsuit all fit you perfectly well before triathlon day.
 
The sun's glare on an ocean or lake can be blinding. You may end up swimming in the wrong direction, so check to make sure that you are on course.
 
If you're overpowered by other swimmers (including taking on water due to their wake or getting kicked in the face), let them have the middle of the course and stay to the outside.
 
If you're feeling panicky in the water, switch to an easier stroke like the sidestroke until you have caught your breath.
 
Don't buy new equipment just before the big event. Make sure that your bike, shoes and swimsuit all fit you perfectly well before triathlon day.

Article Written By Nancy Beverly

Nancy Beverly has been a writer for over 30 years. Her work has ranged from plays performed at the world-reknown Actors Theatre of Louisville to scripts on network television. As a freelance journalist, she writes for the Sierra Club newspaper "TRACKS" and has over 60 articles on eHow.com.

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