Triathlons are some of the most intense and feared competitions. The most popular variation combines three strenuous activities — swimming, cycling, running — into one extreme event.
If you’re new to triathlons, the thought of competing in one can be daunting. But fear not, dear Wahooligans! We have quite a few triathletes at Wahoo, and we even sponsor an Olympic triathlete, Sarah True. Since we understand the process of competing in a triathlon, we have created a step-by-step training guide to help you begin the process and understand what to expect from the race. Let’s get down to it.
Go ahead. Ask around. Many triathletes will admit that one of the biggest challenges of triathlons is just signing up. But it’s the essential first step in more ways than the obvious. Once you sign up (and pay the necessary fees), it helps guarantee your training and participation in the race. For an additional safeguard to chickening out, start telling anyone that will listen that you signed up. Friends and family can be your biggest supporters.
Here are a few things to remember:
- Find a race at least three months away. This will give you ample time to train and prepare for your grueling task.
- If this is your first triathlon, go for a shorter race. Sprint triathlons are great options for first-timers.
- You can search for local triathlons on websites like TriFrind.com, BeginnerTriathlete.com or even SlowTwitch.com.
Grab Your Gear
Considering there are three different parts of this type of race, purchasing the necessary gear can get expensive. For your first triathlon, you don’t need a $5,000 bike or a specially made wetsuit (save those for your Ironman). Here’s the basic equipment you’ll need for the race as well as your training:
- Running shoes
- Swim cap, if you have longer hair
- Cycling shorts
- Heart Rate Monitor (TICKR)
- Smart Bike Trainer (KICKR)
While you can definitely train and complete your race with the first five items, you need all of them to have a comprehensive training regimen.
Train, Train, Train
Training for the race is going to be intense. But you are a Wahooligan! You are strong and fearless! Even if you’re not a swimming, running or cycling pro, you can still crush your training and in turn, crush that triathlon.
First, you need to set up goals for your race. Your goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-specific. These SMART goals will heavily factor into your training. We recommend breaking your training up similar to how it will be in the race. For instance, swimming will be the shortest section of your triathlon, so you should spend a smaller block of time training for it and reaching your SMART goals. Here are a few tips for each section of the race.
While the swim is the shortest part of the race, it’s also one of the scariest for most athletes, especially if you don’t have a background in competitive swimming. The most important part of your swim is staying calm and going at your own pace. It can be easy to push yourself too hard when you see frenzied splashing all around you. But remember that you have two more sections of your race left. You have to conserve your energy, not push beyond your limits. There will be time for that later.
- Look straight ahead when swimming, not all around you. The other swimmers can be distracting.
- Make each stroke efficient by lengthening your body and rotating on your sides.
- Try to decrease your kicking during the swim. Many inexperienced swimmers kick more to make up for their slower pace or lack of balance in the water. Decreasing your kick will help conserve that much-needed energy.
Usually, cycling is the second portion of the race. Here are a few training tips for your ride:
- Train in the gear you plan on biking the race in.
- Use smooth cadence, just like during the swim, when pedaling the bike. Try to pull the pedal upward rather than pushing it downward.
- Focus on proper form when cycling. This will help you be more comfortable and allow better performance throughout the remainder of the race.
- Ensure your bike is properly fitted for your body. You can visit a bike shop for a professional to help with this.
- Mix up your training. Use your KICKR as a controlled way to train your body for the cycling portion. You can focus on your cycling heart rate, intervals, and form on an indoor bike.
- Check out these KICKR training tips from a triathlon coach, too!
The final leg of the race. Take a deep breath, and remember that you are almost there. Training for the run is pretty straightforward. Here are a few key tips:
- Keep your head up and your shoulders back to help maintain a good form during your run. This allows the chest to open up which enables easier breathing.
- Ensure your shoes are properly fitted for your body and running style. A specialist at a local running store can help with this.
- Focus on form and hitting the right heart rate zones
Relax! Stressing out about the race will only lead to underperformance. You have prepared for this day. You’re going to kill it! Remember to focus on long smooth movements during your swim, pacing yourself for each new stage and staying calm and relaxed. It is also important to remember that even if you don’t reach your SMART goals, you can still enjoy the race, and you will know how to change up your training for the next triathlon! Be sure to treat yourself after your race. You accomplished something amazing, after all!
Now stop reading and start training! Good luck, #Wahooligan!