Everyone likes to think they can turn up to a race in the best shape. Some people don’t know how to prepare for triathlons because they are just starting out. They don’t know how much to train, what to train and why you do specific sessions/ workouts. I’ve done my fair bit of racing since my first triathlon at Eton Dorney back in 2013 and I hope that this article can help people prepare correctly whether they are doing their first triathlon or just looking for advice. Hopefully this article can provide people with information on how to create their training schedule and how to fit it around their other commitments (a triathlete’s life is very busy).
In general, swimming is the sport that most people struggle with the most and this is because they don’t train correctly for it. Let’s face it, you don’t just think to yourself “Yay, I’m going to wake up super early tomorrow and jump in a freezing cold pool and swim up and down for an hour staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool” You have to motivate yourself to wake up. This is how I do it: I think that I’m one of very few people who wake up at an ungodly hour and by the time I get to school, I’ve already done swum while other people are eating breakfast in registration. I think it’s definitely worth while to join your local swimming or triathlon club. There, you will have an expert who looks at you swim and points out things to improve. Speaking from experience, there is always something to be approved on. Another advantage to training with a club is you will socialize with people of similar interest. There are tons of triathletes in my swimming club who I talk with in the mornings and their tips and advice are very interesting.
Another thing to think about is consistency. Don’t sit down and write yourself a training program where you swim every morning or you will feel completely shattered and be less likely to want to go anyway. Instead, maybe swim every two days or if you need to do something on a Thursday morning one week, just simply rest, you don’t need to substitute in every session you miss. If you get the oportunity, swim open-water once weekly in a wetsuit once it gets warm enough. It’s a great change from the swimming pool and you will have to adjust your stroke a bit because it’s not as controlled an environment.
The cycle leg is the one I struggled with the most last year. Mainly because I only rode my bike at the races. It’s probably the easiest of the 3 disciplines to improve on if you start from scratch because you just have to cycle regularly. I would recommend cycling at least 3 times per week for half-olympic distance racing (20km bike leg) and at least 4 times for full olympic distance (40km bike leg). Aerodynamics are very important in cycling so make sure you tuck your elbows in and keep your head low.
Make sure to spin your legs instead of grinding. Take example from team SKY’s Chris Froome who won the Tour de France in 2013. His RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) is over 100. This means that with one leg (wither left or right) his leg spins around 100 times in a minute. You will find that this is much more easy and energy efficient than “grinding” where you do about 60 RPM. It is definitely worth training with other people (of similar ability) but make sure you do at least one ride a week by yourself because in non-drafting races where you are not allowed to cycle in a group, you will be doing the same.
Joining an athletics group or a triathlon club is, again very beneficial as you will have people giving you tips and pushing you. I would reccomend doing 3 runs a week. Do one interval session where you focus on running really fast. These sessions should be with a group of people and should be really high intensity but not too long. Another run should be moderate. This could be training at race pace but doing longer reps like 800m-1km focusing on form and efficiency. Another one should be a long run that you can do with another person that you can talk to. If you can’t talk during your long runs, run slower!
Transitions are the only part of a triathlon that is not physically demanding (Thank god!) but they are certainly mentally demanding. Make sure to know where your transition area is and how your equipment is layed out. What I do when I race is I lay my things out in the order that I will pick them up. It’s probably best to take your time a bit in the transition so you don’t muck something up and the only way to improve your transition like anything is practice, practice, practice.
Many of you will think, what is he talking about? Recovery is not training but it is one of the most important things. Make sure to have a day in the week where you do absolutely nothing. Make sure to go out with family, catch up with friends and enjoy yourself.
If you ask anyone I know, they will tell you that my mum’s cooking is absolutely fabulous. After coming back from a workout, I know that I will sit down at the table and eat something amazing. To be honest, I don’t find diet too much of an important thing. I think meals should be nutritious and tasty and involve a mix of vegetables, carbohydrates and protein but make sure to have a good dessert too to reward your hard work.
How many calories should you eat? If your looking to drop a few kilos, eat a lot in the morning, moderately for lunch and not too much for dinner. This is because you are more likely to burn the calories that you have in the morning throughout the day. Don’t starve yourself and always enjoy your food.
I would like to thank my sponsors:
Zone3 who provide me with my trisuit and wetsuit and who I am a young Ambassador for.
The Dave Aitchison Fund who financially support me with equipment, competition and training.
The Jeremy Wilson Charitable Trust who financially support me with equipment, competition and training.
I hope that many of you will have a good idea on how to make your training plan and be fit as a fiddle for your next triathlon. I will update the blog regularly and will write about racing tips, what equipment I use and a look into my weekly schedule. Good luck!
For more from Aurel be sure to check out his blog here.