A triathlon can be a fantastic event to train for and to take part in. Some of my favourites in the past have been the Race to the Stones/King/Tower events. With preparation and a willingness to really focus there’s no reason why someone who already has a reasonable level of fitness (and who can both swim and ride a bike proficiently) can’t do really well and most of all enjoy taking part in a triathlon.
What is a Triathlon?
Traditionally a triathlon is a combined event which features cycling, swimming and also running. Exact distances and times vary slightly from event to event however if you were entering an Olympic-standard triathlon you would expect to have to train for a 1500m swimming section, a 40k bike challenge and to top it off, a 10km run. Given that these three events all require the use of different skills and varying muscle groups it’s safe to say that plenty of advance preparation is essential.
Qualifying for a Triathlon
Each event has their own registration and qualifying criteria. Before starting your event-specific training regime speak to organisers or visit the event website to check requirements, fees and more in advance. Places tend to go very quickly so bear this in mind.
Half of the total time of the event is taken up with cycling, thirty percent approximately on the running portion and the remaining fifth is taken up with swimming. Bear these race rations in mind and match them in your training. Similarly, pay equal attention to each portion of the event during training, for example. if you undertake nine sessions a week make sure you split these fairly between the three events (i.e. three sessions each). Sessions may vary in length as previously mentioned however it doesn’t pay to leave one section out because you feel two others need more. You do need to concentrate on them all in order to succeed.
You could really splash out on training equipment, clothing and accessories and more in order to feel properly kitted out for your first triathlon however it is best to stick to these basics:
· A Bike: Find something half decent that is a good fit but don’t blow your savings on it. This is your first triathlon. You might decide afterwards that it’s your last. You might immediately sign up for another. Wait and see before making too high an investment. Make sure you maintain your bike and take advice from someone in the know/ a local bike shop on how to optimise the bike you have for this type of event.
· Cycling Gear: Essentials include a helmet, cycling glasses, cycling clothing, basic repair kit including a hex wrench for bolts, a spare tube and a pump.
· Swimming Gear: Look for a swimming racing suit, some goggles that fit properly (or will leak) and a swimming cap if you have long hair.
· Running Gear: As with any running event you need to ensure you have decent running shoes that are broken in somewhat, are supportive and good quality. Likewise, go for running clothing that will manage moisture but don’t feel like you have to break the bank to do it.
· You Could Consider Triathlon Specific Clothing: You might choose to look at a triathlon suit, the virtues of which the retailer you buy from and experienced triathlon athletes will be able to explain. If you go for one of these (they are great if you choose the right kind) make sure you don’t spend a fortune for your first event. As with the bike, try to resist the temptation to spend bundles of money on what might be your first and last triathlon. You won’t know if you’ve caught the bug until you’ve completed your first.
Your Training Regime
Your specific regime will depend entirely on your strengths, your weaknesses, your overall health and fitness levels and your experience. It is wise to speak to others who have or are training for triathlons to help you put together a training routine. If you want to a personalised triathlon training routine that will work for you from the beginning of your training and keep you going throughout the event it would be wise to speak to a personal trainer.
I have trained a number of clients in countless endurance events, obstacles races and more and the feedback has always been that they were so glad to have someone who had run these themselves to help with specialised training and with motivation (triathlon training can be a slog).
A triathlon can be a marvellous event and you’ll no doubt meet some other brilliant competitors (I always enjoy the camaraderie at these events). Just make sure that you prepare properly, both physically and mentally.