Make your triathlon training more productive

By Beth Homan, MAC Personal Trainer, B.S. Physical Education & Exercise Science, Michigan State University, CPT, American Council on Exercise

The thought of doing a triathlon (swim, bike, run event) appeals to many endurance-minded individuals. It’s both challenging and fun and can really have a positive impact on cardiovascular health and overall fitness. Training for one either to “just finish” or to compete at a faster level requires a lot of self-discipline and commitment to prepare for the distances, weather conditions and course layout well before race day. As a former professional triathlete, I’ve completed over 100 triathlons, duathlons and running races all over the country from Olympic distance on up to the full Ironman in Hawaii and came up with my top five things to consider for a successful and satisfying experience:

  1. Know your strengths and weaknesses….if you’re a great swimmer but dread the run at the end, it’s going to be a long day out there. Devote some extra time to building your run fitness.
  2. Choose a REALISTIC distance for the triathlon you wish to compete in. For example, if you have less than 6 hours a week to train with work, family and other commitments, you might not want to take on a half Ironman. It might sound exciting but do the shorter one first.
  3. Seek advice (training partners, a coach etc.) to both increase your skills as well as to boost your commitment to working out when the going gets tough. Longer endurance events involve more issues with equipment, workout variables, hydration and other factors that influence performance and avoiding injuries.
  4. Eat well! You’ve heard it before and I tell the triathletes that I work with that “you can’t out-train a poor diet”. The 4th element of training is a smart nutritional approach and if you have a lousy diet, you won’t have the energy it takes to swim, ride and run very well, let alone recover well between training sessions.
  5. Know how to gauge your fitness level and progress many weeks before your target event. This means that you can predict how long it takes you to swim a half mile or to run three….periodic time trials are essential so that you can take on each segment of the race with confidence in your preparation.