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Triathlon Specifics: How to Fit It All In
By Courtenay Schurman, MS, CSCS
With summer just around the corner, some of you are probably thinking seriously about competing in your first triathlon, whether that’s the women-only Danskin, a local YMCA test-event, or a sprint-distance qualifier for the Ironman. How can you go about your training to hit each of the three events and also make sure you are not overdoing it? Be sure to take a peek at the additional links we have on our Triathlon pages, including:
Determine Your Weakest Event
This may be perfectly obvious to you if you haven’t had a swim lesson since you were 9 years old or if you the last bicycle you owned only had 3 speeds. But if you already participate fairly regularly in each of the three events (swim, bike and run) it may be a simple matter to determine which is your weakest event—it’s usually the one that feels hardest! If you are training for your first triathlon, you will want to include each of the three types of events in your program at least once a week, and extra time on the event that is most difficult to you.
Your initial strategy should be to increase your endurance in that weak event so that you can complete the mileage necessary to do it in a single workout without adding either of the other two events. For example, if you will be doing a sprint-distance triathlon (i.e. ˝ mile swim, 10 mile bike ride, and 3 mile run) and running is your hardest event, concentrate on gradually building your endurance in the early months of training to be able to finish a non-stop 3-mile run before you link any of the swimming or biking pieces in front of it.
Scheduling Weekly Training
Your early training program might include 4 workouts a week consisting of one day of running, one pool workout, one bike ride and some strength training, and a longer workout on the weekend that allows you to focus on technique for your weak event. This might mean a weekend lesson with a swim instructor, some track work to get used to running, or joining a biking club that offers tune-up tips and group biking outings. The strength workout allows you to correct any muscle imbalances and strengthen those muscles you will need during your race, particularly the muscles in the legs, core (abdominals and lower back) and freestyle swimming muscles (lats, shoulders, and arms).
Once you have a solid foundation of at least 4-6 weeks, and can do each distance individually, you will want to increase the number of weekly workouts to two per event, which might look something like this:
Day 1 and 4 Run, one short focusing on speed, one race distance or slightly longer
Day 2 and 5 Swim and strength, one race distance or slightly longer
Day 3 and 6 Bike, one with hills (especially if the course will include hills) and one race distance or slightly longer
Day 7 recovery / OFF
Include Brick Training
When you start to combine the events, you will want to position them in your workouts in the same order in which you’ll do them in the event: swim/bike in one workout, bike/run in another. Typically this type of training falls a few months ahead of your event, though some people like to start earlier. A sample weekly program 4-6 weeks prior to your race might look something like this:
Day 1 Run, stretches
Day 2 Speed or technique work on weakest event
Day 3 Swim / strength
Day 4 Bike, stretches
Day 5 Swim or run (whichever is not going to be included in Day 6 brick training)
Day 6 alternate weeks of swim/bike and bike/run “bricks”
Day 7 OFF / recovery, including massage, hot tub, or other restoration (see www.bodyresults.com/e2restoration.asp for more on this)
Finally, if you’re serious about getting professional guidance on how to customize your training for your upcoming multi-sport events, Body Results outdoor conditioning coaches can provide all of that for you via their WebTrainer program at www.bodyresults.com/p1webt.asp.