By Paul Johnson
If you are getting ready to do one of our triathlons, congratulations! We are excited to have you and are committed to making it a great experience. For many of you, there might be a certain level of angst – it might be your first triathlon, or your longest, or perhaps every race you do is a major event. If that is the case, we wanted to provide a few tips on how to conquer your race through great planning and thorough race day preparation.
As with anything, breaking down a triathlon training plan into steps is often the most efficient and effective way to build to your big day. Here is a three-step process for you to use as you prepare for your race, using some tried-and-true concepts from the world of triathlon.
Step 1: Baseline Your Current Fitness Level. The beauty of triathlon is that everyone can participate in it at their own pace and conditioning level, which means that two people who are preparing for our race may be doing so from vastly different starting points. If you are an old pro who is in great shape and simply adding another race to your repertoire, you can turn up the conditioning level pretty quickly and get to your “build” phase which can include more speed work and longer distances. If you are a beginner and aiming to do your very first triathlon, you may want to focus on a prolonged “base” period where you can get your body acclimated to all three sports and begin to build endurance conditioning. We are always excited to see those beginner triathletes, as they often see the most substantial health gains and we always welcome new people to the sport.
Step 2: Outfit Yourself With Good Equipment. You can use a wide array of gear for triathlon, largely depending on your personal budget as well as how seriously you want to get into the sport. For triathlon clothing, you can do a triathlon suit at the high-end, or simply a pair of triathlon shorts and a workout t-shirt at the entry level. We have seen many triathletes do very well competing with the mountain bike from their garage, but if you plan to make triathlon more of an ongoing hobby, you might want to invest in a good road bike or a tri bike. Tri bikes have more aggressive geography conducive to a time trial type of ride. As for the swim, water temps under 78 degree often make a triathlon wetsuit a good idea, and under 70 degrees they can be very useful. They key point to remember when it comes to all triathlon equipment is to align the gear with your goals and budget. If you simply want to train for and finish a triathlon, you don’t need to put down a lot of money on gear. But if this is the first of many triathlons, culminating with an Ironman distance, you might be better off investing in gear equipment today.
Step 3: Train Your Body and Your Brain. A great triathlon training plan should include getting your body in peak condition through a methodical training regimen, as well as preparing your mental race at the same time. For the physiological part, progress through the base, build, peak progression which creates good overall conditioning and then adds intensity and speed when your body is ready. Any number of online training programs can provide a good day-by-day summary of what to focus on with your workouts. As for the mental aspect of the race, think about getting all three of your sports to a point where you have confidence in your abilities. That means that if you have never swam in open water, and your race is in a lake, practice some open water swimming ahead of race day. It is also useful to practice transitions a few times before the event so you can mentally prepare for the activities that are so often done when you are tired and rushed during a race. Practice will make it second nature so you can essentially do it on autopilot.
With some planning, preparation, and focus, you can have a very successful race whether it is your first or your fiftieth!