You’ve thought about it, and now that it’s the end of March and Springtime weather just can’t be that far off, at least in the northeast,-we hope! You’ve made up your mind to get yourself in shape to take on your first triathlon. You’ve done some quick internet checking and are frankly pretty amazed at just how many triathlons there are in the northeastern part of the U.S. and with a little help, your shooting for the month of June, which is about 12 weeks out. So, 3 months is not a lot of time to prepare for this “Bucket-List” goal, but it is achievable. Like we said above, with a little help.
And the training just might be a bit easier than you think, even if you're currently not in the best of shape, after spending most of the winter watching “Netflix” while sitting on the couch. But, we are here to help and listed below are a few of what we feel are the must-haves to help you compete in your first triathlon. And these recommendations, won’t cost you, your bank savings, or take all of your time away from those episodes of your favorite shows, well maybe a little time away, but you’ve got “TiVo” right??
The Essential Gear
You do need some basic equipment for your first triathlon. This equipment doesn't have to be expensive and it can be borrowed to save money:
Swimsuit, goggles, and I recommend a cap if you have long hair. Now, this depends on the course that you're signing up for. The earlier in the year, a swimsuit is a great idea. It will help to keep the cold at bay. However, if you're participating at a time of the year when the waters are already getting warm, you can probably skip this item. But I would recommend using the goggles to keep the water out of your eyes to be able to see where you’re going as your swimming the allotted course. This should also help you with your time in the water!
A bicycle that fits you and is in good working order. This can be a road bike, a mountain bike or a hybrid, really the sky's the limit, along with the size of your wallet. You can use a time trial bike if you have one, or have access to one, but a special triathlon or time trial bicycle is not necessary. Again, I have found it worthwhile to work with the local shops. First, they appreciate your business, and also, the staff working in these home-grown businesses, usually use what they sell. You should be able to get some good advice on how to properly fit you for the bike for your body structure. And you never know, they might offer you a discount if you wear one of their custom jerseys during the event to help market their shop!
Cycling shorts for training. A decent pair of cycling shorts, worn sans underwear, can make riding more comfortable, and they help prevent saddle sores.
You can use clipless pedals and cycling shoes, but these are not a "must have" item.
You also want to keep in mind how often you’re going to undertake these races. If your going to be doing a couple of them a year, then invest in the clipless pedals and shoes, in the long run, they can help you shave some time off your race.
A water bottle for use on your long bike rides. But regardless, it’s a good idea to have one with you, and filled with either water or for longer and tougher endurance triathlons one with an energy booster like Nuun Active Electrolyte Tablets These energy laced tablets are loaded with electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals to help you stay properly hydrated throughout your race day, while your training or just going out to explore new trails!
Running Shoes, a good, fitted pair. You don't have to spend $200 to get a great pair of shoes, but you do need a pair of shoes that are made for running and that fit your feet. The best resource for shoes is a local running store. Make sure their staff is knowledgeable and can not only fit your foot for the proper size but have the ability to analyze your pressure points, preferably with an "In-Store" treadmill. You may pay a bit more for this kind of specialized fitting, but in the long run (get the pun here?) it will be worth it!
How Much Time??
If your fitness has been dormant for quite a while, it's good to give yourself those 12 weeks to get in shape and minimize the chances of injury, this is really the minimum. These triathlon events really do take a lot out of you and you need to be back in condition to be able to tackle these events. In 12 weeks you can condition tendons, ligaments and your endurance so that you can enjoy the race. If you can commit to training five days per week—two and a half to four hours per week—that's plenty of time to get in shape.
Yes, that's right, no more than around four hours in the biggest training week.
Weekday workouts need only be 30 to 45 minutes and weekends can be used to build your endurance. Your longest workout, a bike ride, only needs to be between one and a half to two hours. Now again, these are really the minimums in order to get you to perform in a way that you’re not going to end up short come race day. That’s the last thing you want to have happened.
Out of the five weekly workouts, make two of them swim workouts. Now, this takes for granted that you’ve been in a pool before and have access to one to get you through your training for this event. If you haven’t been “Wet” for a while it’s a good idea to pace yourself through this 12-week course to get yourself built up to where you can, at the end of the 3 months be able to swim (10) 50 yards/meters, laps in the pool and be taking 20-30 second windbreaks in between each 50 yd. leg. In the beginning, you may need to rest for a full minute between each 50, and that’s ok, you’re going to be building yourself up so you can build up your endurance.
Make two more of the workouts run-to-bike combination workouts to build endurance and minimize injury risk.
Sample combination workouts
Combo Workout #1: (Run 1 minute, Walk 1 minute) x 5, then ride a bike for 30 minutes at an easy, conversational intensity. (Zone 1 to 2 for those with a heart rate monitor.) You can even do this workout at the gym.
And if you do have or are looking to get yourself a good Activity/Training watch. One with a “Heart Rate Monitor”. The one I like is the Garmin Forerunner 920XT Multisport GPS Watch
This watch is water friendly, GPS to track your distance accurately and let you know where you are in relation to the course you’re on. It offers a high-resolution color display, with a flexible band that is easy to wear, and the activity tracking feature measures your steps, and even your sleep, when the training ends and you hit the sheets. This is a great Tri-Athletic training watch, as it will provide you with real-time data as you go about getting yourself ready for the big race day! Did I mention that it also provides a standard “Watch” mode so you can wear it all day long as well?
Plan to Rest
When learning how to train for a triathlon, it's tempting to add more and more circuits of training, but the body makes advances in fitness with a balance of stress and rest.
If you're planning your own training schedule, be sure to add recovery days and reduced volume rest weeks to allow your body to rebuild and get stronger. Remember, even a farmer left his plow-horse rest on Sundays, so they could benefit from a day of rest before they started their workload all over again!
Nutrition also plays a big part in providing the right combination of fuels to power your body through the vigorous demands you're going to be putting it through. For now, we’re going to leave that topic for another blog post, but eating the right balance of protein, good carbs and drinking enough fluids is important as you go through this training regimen of preparing your body for your first triathlon.
Get ready, Get Set, Train!