If you’re of a generally fit and healthy nature, you might have one particular sport that you favour – but pushing yourself to do three disciplines is another ballgame altogether, and yes, even beginners can tackle a triathlon.
So where do you start? For many people, a triathlon holds one discipline that they don’t feel comfortable with out of the swim, cycle ride and run. And lots see triathlons as a huge event that needs years of training that only the elite athletes can compete.
The fact is there are many triathlons held all over the country all year round, and they can be low key – not necessarily all Ironman triathlons that are more widely publicised.
More often than not, if you’ve signed up for an event, you will move heaven and earth to get to a stage where you can complete it.
Start by choosing a small event that you feel comfortable with, knowing that there will still be an element of pushing yourself. Then you need to start a training plan, which takes into account all three disciplines. The swim for many participants is the most dreaded of the elements, as it often involves an open stretch of water such as a lake or the sea, whereby there is no let up. The other contestants will be swimming next to you and the water may be choppy so the fear of getting whacked in the head by a fellow swimmers arm is a very real threat.
The best way to train for this type of swimming is grab a few friends and hit your local pool. It helps if they’re a similar pace to you as then you can get used to the splashing and proximity that you’ll be exposed to in a triathlon. Trying to get a fast start will ensure you’re ahead of the pack and therefore miss out on too much of the bun fight.
The cycle gives you an opportunity to sit down, but this is where you can make up valuable minutes, as the bike ride is the longest part of the race. Make sure you have a bike that you’re comfortable on. You don’t want to be over-reaching to get to the handle bars, or struggling to reach the pedals. Get used to your bike and understand the gears. The more cycling work you put in, including at the gym, then you can really make improvements here. Remember though that on the bike the burn can really set in for your legs, and when you get off you’ll have what might seem like an absolutely gruelling run. The more cycling you can fit in before the race, then the more your legs will be ready.
The run is the part where you want to keep steady. If you go out too fast then you’ll lose pace towards the end and you’ll see other competitors flying past you. Be comfortable with running and train with distances longer than you’ll be running on the day – but keeping a steady pace. Incorporate fartlek work – like interval training, where you alternate the pace of your runs from sprint, to run, to jog. Triathlons are literally won or lost on the run. It’s the last bit so it’s really how your body has coped with the exhaustion. Take part in running competitions – 10K or half marathons so that you feel comfortable that you can finish the distance. Generally if you know you can run the distance then mentally it will be a far easier race.
Another important factor of triathlons is the clothing that you chose. Wetsuits for the swim can feel restrictive so it’s an idea to try one out and find one that suits you. Wearing something that feels comfortable on you means that you won’t be worrying about what you’re wearing during the competition – instead you can focus on your race. Practise the changeovers, where you need to change from your wetsuit into your cycling gear, and then from cycling gear into your running shoes, and be confident that you know your kit.
The idea of a triathlon can be daunting, but if you break it down into its individual components then actually it doesn’t seem half as bad. Split your week up into training for each specific discipline and with time at the gym and practice in the pool and on the open road, you’ll really surprise yourself at what you can achieve. Perhaps rather than focusing on what you can’t do, maybe make it a new year’s challenge to set yourself a triathlon schedule. It really isn’t a myth that anyone can do a triathlon – it’s really true. Just make sure you pick an event that’s right for you, start small and soon you too will be taking part in the Ironman along with the elites!
by Kath Webb
by Jessica Ward
by Laura Briggs
by Jessica Ward
by Jessica Ward