Once you’ve committed to a triathlon, here’s what you need to know for tackling your training for the big race. Always remember: nothing new on race day.
1. Train in the Conditions
Swimming in open-water makes a massive difference to speed and energy spent trying to fight even the slightest current. Suddenly finding yourself out of the safe confines of your local 25 metre pool can be pretty intimidating. Particularly when something in the water touches your leg. It’ll all be completely fine and harmless as soon as you take the plunge, so why not get over that fear before the actual race day and train in it.
2. Practice the transitions
Particularly if you’re looking to make a new PB, transition training is important. You don’t want to finish the swim on race day only to have a wrestle with your wetsuit. It’s often just about feeling that bit more confident of your transition routine — what to take off first, whether you’re going to eat, and how to race your bike to the cycle start-point the fastest. If you’ve never done a transition before, it’s worth practising beforehand just to steady your nerves. Twenty minutes of doing it a couple times will help, especially as you bustle in and around the elites.
3. Know your strengths
Not many people will be absolute experts in all three disciplines, but most people will have one or two legs they specialise in. It’s important to set out a good strategy so you know when to push and when to be conservative. So while you may lose out a bit on the swim, if biking is your thing you might be able to overtake some of the people ahead that way. Similarly, if running is your strongest suit, you don’t want to have emptied the tank before you get there.
4. Work on your weaknesses
Having said that, if you know that you’re already a very able runner, then try and avoid seeking easy training gains by focusing mainly on that. It’s easy to do your favourite training and then check out for the rest of the week. But if you can’t cycle or swim, you can make the ordeal a whole lot harder for yourself. So make sure you focus on all aspects of the triathlon, with specific focus on your weaker disciplines. That way your stronger suit will allow you to excel rather than make up for lost time.
5. Get to grips with the ‘bricks’
A brick is doing two disciplines back to back. So that’d be completing your swim and immediately biking with no break, or moving from swimming to running. Especially for your first brick session, you’ll find that moving upright after you’ve worked your whole body will be a dizzying struggle. And your legs will feel like bricks themselves as you get off your bike to start your run. But it’s better to work on that in training then feeling it for the first time in the race. Your triathlon training then of course will need to include practicing the transition moment, and the ability to keep going afterwards.
6. Practice eating on the go
The clock is always going and won’t stop just because you do. So if you’re going to eat (which you absolutely should) you want to be doing something at the same time. Whether it’s while you’re clipping your bicycle helmet on or mid way through your bike ride; make eating as efficient as possible. If it’s the latter you should train the same and check that you can actually eat comfortably while cycling. Work out when eating suits your stomach as well so that you don’t eat and then realise that it was a bad decision. Energy gels can do funny things to your gut, so make sure you know what you’re doing in advance.
7. Be flexible with your training
As with training for anything, you’ve got to get the right life balance that you want. No training plan is worth sticking to to the last letter, and so long as you’re committed to your triathlon and have some discipline then you will be fine if you miss the odd training. Listen to your body and take a day off if you need to recover. Getting bogged down will just create the triathlon guilt trip that takes the enjoyment out of it.