Perfect 10: Essential Tri Training Tips

Following out beginners' triathlon training schedule? Follow these training tips to get the best results.

Posted: 9 May 2011
by Ralph Hydes

Weeks 1-3

Focus on building up the distances of each discipline and preparing your body for the demands of the race.  
➊ You should aim to be able to cover the distances you will be racing. Build up the distances slowly, especially if you're slightly out of condition.  
➋ I suggest about a 10 per cent increase in duration per week.  Increasing by more than this leaves you more susceptible to injury and illness. Keep the sessions slow at this stage; this will help build your overall strength and confidence in your ability. Once you have done two to three weeks of building up the distances you should be able to focus more on speed and become more specific with the training.
➌ While you are doing this you should work on developing your technique in all three disciplines
to reduce the chances of becoming injured and to improve your speed and efficiency.  
➍ If possible, work with a coach.  
➎ Begin using energy drinks and energy gels to help boost your energy levels while you train and to become used to using them.

For the swim

In your training sessions try to swim the distance that you are going to complete. For a sprint distance this is 750m. Don't worry if you can't do it just yet. Make a note of how far you can swim and the time it takes you.
The next time you swim, aim to swim a little further and longer.
By doing this regularly you will find that your swimming improves. The secret to swimming is to relax and not to rush your stroke.

For the bike

Make sure your bike has had a recent service and is in good working order. Something simple, such
as the gears working properly, can make a huge difference to your enjoyment and speed. You must wear a helmet on race day so make sure that yours fits well and feels comfortable.
It is not essential to have proper cycle shoes, but they will improve your speed. If you have not used them before they can seem tricky at first. If this is your first triathlon it is a good idea to get toe cages for your pedals and to cycle in trainers. This way you will be able to get your feet in and out with ease and go harder up any hills.

For the run

This is the easiest discipline but after a swim and a bike the run becomes a little trickier. Your legs may feel like jelly and not want to work. It is important that you develop leg strength. Long, steady runs at a pace at which you can talk are very good for this. Try energy gels to see if they work for you.

Weeks 4-7

The focus now changes to the race. You should have conditioned your body to withstand the demands of the distances. It is time to introduce speed into your sessions.  
➊ Interval training is very effective for developing your fitness and speed. Begin to increase the speed for short intervals, eg 1-5 minutes.  Depending on your aim you could have a short recovery (to help your aerobic fitness) or a long recovery between each hard interval (to develop your speed). The longer your interval effort the more it will develop your speed endurance.
➋ These sessions require a lot of energy so taking in energy gels and drinks will come in useful. They will also help your recovery and your training on days that follow.  
➌ Make sure you are fully warmed up, and stretch after every session to help your muscles stay loose.  
➍ Hill training is another way to develop speed, because of the resistance when running uphill. For cycling you can develop strength through cycling up hills, too. Either stay seated with your body still (this concentrates power in your legs) or stand every other minute to change the areas of the muscles that are working.  
➎ With swimming you should still focus on technique but if you feel you can do the distances and your technique is good, then short, hard efforts with long recoveries will help develop your speed.

For the swim

Introduce some speed sessions into your routine. By doing short intervals with long rest periods you will help develop speed.  Continue to build up the distances.

For the bike

This month you should focus on your body position on the bike; try to stay as low as possible. The lower your body, the less frontal area there is so you are more aerodynamic. Practise drinking while you are cycling - every 10 minutes take one or two mouthfuls of water or energy drink.

For the run

Using interval sessions will develop your fitness and speed. Concentrate on your technique, running tall and leading with your knee, not your foot. This will mean that your foot lands underneath, not in front of, your body. You will be far more efficient because you won't be braking with each stride. Aim to maintain a short stride length.

Weeks 8 - 10

Your race is fast approaching, so this month is crucial.  
➊ In terms of distance you should start tapering by reducing the volume (distance) of your training sessions in the two weeks leading up to the race. This will ensure you are fresh on the start line. However, the intensity of the training sessions can still be fairly high if you are doing short distances.   
➋ Practise running off the bike to get your legs used to the sensation, and focus on quick turnover of the legs for the first five minutes before settling down into your normal running pace.
➌ Have your bike serviced or do a thorough check to make sure it's in good working order. Keep the tyres pumped up to at least 100psi and make sure the brakes and gears work. Tighten all screws and bolts.
➍ Practise running short distances at your intended race pace to teach your body how fast you want to run - be realistic about your speed.  
➎ Practise your transitions (quick changes between swim and bike or bike and run) and if possible do some open-water swim sessions before the race to get used to swimming in open water.
➏ Enjoy the race.

For the swim

Try to incorporate sighting into your swimming sessions - lift your head out of the water and look forwards while still swimming so that you can see where you are going and aim for visual targets such as the finish line or the turning buoys.
Most open-water triathlons in Great Britain require you to wear a wetsuit. This may feel strange but it can help your swim. Wetsuits help buoyancy and can boost your confidence. Try the wetsuit before the day of the event - at first it may feel tight and restrict your breathing but you will become used to it. Swim as often as possible in your weekly training schedule. Get out of the water as fast as you can so that you become used to the blood leaving your upper-body muscles. This will help you to deal with the dizziness that can occur as you exit the swim.

For the bike

Check your tyres and make sure they are rock hard. The higher the pressure in your tyres, the more likely you are to avoid punctures and the faster you will go because of less rolling resistance. Make sure that the brakes work well.  Practise running immediately after you finish cycling, to prepare your legs for the race.

For the run

The focus should be on tempo running. This means aiming to run at your race pace for the majority of the run session so your body becomes used to that pace and the demands it will place on you. Continue  concentrating on technique, leading with the knee.

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