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Beginner Triathlete Training: Preparing for a Great Race
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Beginner Triathlete Training: Preparing for a Great Race

A triathlon is a unique sport in that it is divided into three components: swimming, cycling and running – each requiring your body to perform in a different way. This can be daunting to the beginner triathlete. Beginner triathlete training should focus on learning how these three separate events influence one another, you will be prepared to tackle them on race day.

When choosing a beginner triathlete training program, look for one that sets goals for you to meet each calendar week. Try to recruit a friend or join a team in training. Your calendar and your training partner will help keep your chosen beginner triathlete training program on track.


Beginner Triathlete Training for the Swim

The swimming leg of triathlons is often the most intimidating for beginners because it is the event with which they are the most unfamiliar. Tailor your chosen beginner triathlete training program to making your swimming more efficient. By improving your technique, you will also improve your speed.

  • As much as possible, perform your beginner triathlete training in open water to mimic the conditions you will encounter at the race. Practice ducking below oncoming waves to avoid being pushed backwards. Use the time between waves to stroke.
  • You may notice that you tire quickly in the water. This is most likely due to your technique. Incorporate more arm work and less kick into your swim strokes. Not only will you glide twice the distance at half the effort, but you will save your legs for the cycle and the running portions.


Beginner Triathlete Training for the Cycle

The cycle leg of a triathlon is the longest distance portion of the race. It is also the perfect time to replenish your calories and store up your energy for the final run.

  • While the wind may cool you down during the cycle, don’t think this means your body is in appropriate condition to finish the race. Once you stop biking and begin the run, you will feel dehydration creep in as you begin to overheat. Eat and drink as much as you can while you cycle, and make sure you are consuming the same types of foods during your beginner triathlete training that you plan to on race day. To improve your speed on the bike, you may want to incorporate spinning classes into your beginner triathlete training. Not only will you develop camaraderie with the rest of the spinners, but spinning classes are filled with anaerobic exercises that will help maximize your ability and performance.
  • Prepare yourself for race day – learn how to change a punctured bike tire during your beginner triathlete training, and learn the rules of triathlons (such as those against drafting and all helmet requirements).


Beginner Triathlete Training for the Run

The best way to prepare for the running leg of a triathlon is to train the same way you do for the swimming leg: in conditions that mimic what you will be experiencing at the race. This means learning to run on already tired legs.

  • Incorporate “Brick” workouts into your beginner triathlete training. Bricks are back-to-back bike-run workouts that not only help your endurance, but help your muscles adjust to the unique transition from biking to running. Your legs will indeed feel like bricks during the first few minutes on your feet after a bike workout. Ease into running with smaller strides to warm up your muscles before moving on to longer, faster strides.


Beginner Triathlete Training for Transitions

Transitions are the often forgotten “fourth leg” of triathlons. There are two transitions in triathlons: T1 is the transition from water to bike, and T2 from bike to run. You can save valuable time on race day by learning how to transition efficiently and with foresight.

  • Prepare for transitions by practicing them. During your beginner triathlete training, don all your swim gear, then time how long it takes you to strip it off, change into your bike gear, mount your cycle and go. Find ways to cut this time by wearing a fuel belt underneath your wetsuit, taping foods and energy bars to your handlebars, investing in a tri-suit, or mounting your bike with your cleats already strapped into the pedals. The more you practice your transitions to find which tricks work best, the more time you will save yourself on race day.

The most important part of training is mimicking the conditions of race day. By preparing yourself mentally and physically for the reality of the triathlon, you can enjoy peak performance come race day.
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