11 Key Beginner Triathlon Tips by Nick White/Jeana Miller
With swimming, cycling, running combined into one competition, there’s a lot for beginner triathletes to learn. Each discipline within a triathlon is not the same as swimming, cycling, or running on their own. Not only are there some rule differences, but your cycling leg is affected by the swim before it, and the run is always impacted by the fatigue from the swin and run. Then there are transitions, often referred to as a sporting discipline all their own. You can gain or lose a ton of time based on your skills and efficiency in transitions. To help you shorten the learning curve, several CTS Coaches put together some great beginner triathlon tips to help you conquer your next triathlon and continue to improve your performance in later races.
- Keep Your Training Schedule Practical
Don’t try to fit your life into a training schedule, build a training schedule that fits your life. Be realistic about how much time you can dedicate to training instead of setting yourself up for failure by trying to maintain an unsustainable workload. You will see much larger gains in fitness if you maintain a moderate but consistent training plan.
- Include Social Training Sessions
Find meet-up groups to swim, bike, and run with that are around or just above your fitness level. It is more fun to suffer with others and it can also help keep you accountable and on track with your goals. You will also meet fellow triathletes who can help you out and give you advice based on their own experiences.
- Focus on Improving Your Performance, Not Equipment
With so much high-end performance gear to buy for three disciplines, it is easy to want the best of everything. As a beginner you should place more value on solid gear that is reliable and durable. As you improve fitness, the benefits of lighter and slicker gear will have more significant impact on your performance. When you’re starting out, the improvement you make in fitness – with standard gear – will impact your performance way more than slicker/lighter gear.
- Prioritize Your Key Workouts First
When you have multiple workouts scheduled for one day, it’s best to complete the more difficult or important workout first when you’re fresh. If you save your key workout for after you’ve already done an endurance workout that same day, you are much less likely to be able to maintain the proper intensity to successfully complete your important workout. This is why it’s important to understand the purpose behind every workout so you can prioritize accordingly.
- Cut Workouts Short When Necessary
Hitting the proper intensity for your workout and staying consistent with your training is much more important than perfectly finishing every workout as scheduled. It’s critical to recognize when you are too fatigued to complete a workout, or that by struggling to finish your intervals you risk compromising the quality of future key workouts.
- Include Brick Workouts
It’s important to experience how your body will react to transitioning from swimming to cycling to running on race day. To simulate how you’ll feel, incorporate brick workouts: complete a swim+bike workout or bike+run workout back-to-back.
- Practice Organizing Your Transition Area
Spend some time figuring out how you are going to set up your transition area so on race day you are quick and efficient. Only include absolute essentials – a cluttered transition area will cause unnecessary stress and slow you down.
- Practice Your Transitions
Go through the entire process of taking off your wetsuit, getting into cycling gear, getting into your running gear. You can include transition practice during your brick workouts, when you are a little fatigued, to better simulate race day conditions.
- Include Open Water Swims in Your Training
Open water pack swims are not always readily available, but they are essential to increasing your comfort level and triathlon performance. Take advantage of any opportunities you have to experience open water pack swimming and practice how to properly sight – stroke, breath, then bring your head to face forward and lift it just so your eyes are out of the water.
- Learn How to Make a U-Turn on Your Triathlon Bike
Make sure you can safely and efficiently make a u-turn at the middle of a course. Try this at the end of your training rides by putting a cone out in your driveway or a safe, traffic-free area and practice entering the turn wide, hitting the apex of the turn by the cone, and exiting the turn wide while maintaining your momentum.
- Train Your Digestive System for Race Day
Train your digestive system to be able to take in energy on the bike and run. You should aim to replenish 25%-35% of calorie expenditure and 20-40 oz of fluids per hour. You will likely need to dial your fluid and fuel intake during the run, so make sure to experiment to determine how much you are able to handle on the run.