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Understanding triathlons and how to train for them

Triathlon is a test of spirit more than actual athletic ability. Most triathletes freely admit to feeling despondent and tired at some point in the race, they all experience the pain of pushing their body to the limit yet they fight through to the end and complete the race. In this article, we’ll cover some important questions about training for the first triathlon or about how to improve performance in the next one.

How to train for a triathlon

Professionals train over the whole year to prepare for the race, but most triathlon coaches believe that physical training for 8 - 12 weeks is enough preparation for most competitions. This training period is not just aimed at improving performance but also on conditioning and strengthening the body to withstand the rigors of running, cycling, and swimming to exhaustion. The training schedule during this time doesn’t have to be burdensome, you could become a triathlete with just 4 hours of training time every week.

It is important to focus on your weakness when preparing, for instance, if you’ve done competitive swimming at some point, you should spend more time improving cycling and running. You should prioritize sports according to how much you need them in the race, since cycling covers nearly half the distance, it is a crucial cog in the training regimen. Running is another priority because it makes up about a third of the distance. Essentially, you can prepare well with four hours of training over 12 weeks with a clear understanding of how much time to devote to each sport.

There are a lot of internet resources that provide a detailed training plan for beginner triathletes that are customized for the different types of triathlons. These plans are an excellent reference for creating your custom training plan that suits your needs and physical ability.

How to improve your triathlon time

Completing a triathlon is quite an accomplishment, but finishing it with a competitive time is a remarkable feat. To truly make a difference to your race time, you need to make improvements in both training and nutrition. These changes can be transformative but their effect is always gradual and occurs over a long time. However, there are many small changes that you can make immediately that would create a marked improvement in your time.

One of the most effective ways to reducing time is by improving cycling efficiency. This can be brought about by working on a form, and by having the cycle fitted by a professional. Something as mundane as seat height can make a great difference in how well you transfer power to the cycle. You can also make a significant difference to your time by using a wetsuit during swimming. Remarkably, these wetsuits have shown to save 10-20 seconds per 100 meters of swimming!

What gear do I need for a triathlon race?

It is a common misconception that you need to break the bank to buy the fastest road racer and the most expensive running shoes to compete in these races. Most triathletes start with a minuscule budget and only ever invest significant capital into the sport after years of practicing it. You don’t need to buy a road racer to participate in the race, you can use the mountain bike you have lying in the garage but it would be a good idea to change those knobby tires for slicker ones.

There are other things that you definitely must have to compete at your best, but they are never expensive and are readily available.

  • Running shoes (complementary to foot pronation)
  • Cycling helmet
  • Wetsuit
  • Swimming goggles
  • Close-fitting synthetic shirt
  • Towel
  • Water bottle

You should also have a swimming cap, but they are mostly provided by the competition nowadays, be sure to check before you decide not to buy one.

Triathlons celebrate the perseverance of the human spirit and the power of the mind over the body. You don’t need to be a seasoned athlete to win the race, and you certainly don’t need to be a professional to finish a triathlon. Everyone who completes a triathlon is by default a winner.

Safe training and happy racing, triathletes!

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