Triathlon races are mentally and physically challenging, but with the drive to properly train, your body can be sufficiently prepped to perform well in a matter of weeks.
To compete in a triathlon, you’ve got to be in peak condition for cycling, running and swimming.
If your exercise has been inconsistent, it’s best to give yourself roughly 12 weeks to get in shape for the race. During this time, the focus of your workouts should be to improve your endurance, integrating combination workouts to prepare for the race’s mixture of physical activities.
It’s important to remember that triathletes need to conserve their energy for subsequent legs of the race, so their workouts shouldn’t be the same as athletes exclusively conditioning for cycling, running or swimming.
While you shouldn’t allow yourself to get bogged down doing the same workouts as you train, you can take advantage of developing strengths beneficial to multiple parts of the race.
In preparation for your triathlon, develop specific conditioning and increase your performance in each of the areas of a triathlon.
Conditioning for Cycling
With cycling, work on developing a cadence to your pedaling during your workouts. Once you get more comfortable in a rhythm that works for you, your cycling movements will develop instinctively, propelling you toward greater success.
Practice in varying terrains with different gears to acclimate your body to numerous conditions. During your rides, be sure to also rehearse shifting gears, starting, stopping, turning and even drinking from your water bottle in the midst of cycling.
Develop a consistent cycling workout strategy, planning for two to three sessions on your bike each week while gradually building up your endurance so you can comfortably ride between 15 and 20 miles at once.
Conditioning for Running
One of the most difficult sections of a triathlon to tackle is the transition from cycling to running.
To account for this and prepare yourself, introduce combination workouts — also known as brick workouts — into your training. These sessions force you to complete your cycling and running workouts back-to-back.
Similar to cycling, for your running workouts, establish a stride cadence to settle into a relaxed, steady rhythm. Lean slightly forward and ease your hands, allowing your arms to comfortably swing.
Plan to run two to three times per week while training, with one of those runs following your longest bike ride as part of your brick workout. You can train to build on your speed with sprints, but only do so once you can complete at least three miles.
Conditioning for Swimming
Even if you consider yourself a good swimmer, you’ll likely have to adjust your techniques to more adequately suit swimming in a triathlon, as the skills necessary for excellence differ from those you’d use in a regular pool.
For triathletes, swimming outside in a generally uncontrolled environment poses a more considerable challenge, as they could encounter choppy waters and currents. In these conditions, triathletes tend to rely on the freestyle stroke to propel them through open waters.
Experienced swimmers who trained in pools are probably used to breathing close to the surface, but in a triathlon, this would give you a mouthful of water. Instead, triathletes need to develop a high-profile style of breathing where they don’t come up for air too close to the surface.
As for kicking, bearing in mind the cycling and running portions ahead, triathletes should conserve their stamina and aim to kick less frequently than swimmers would in a pool. Balancing and body position likewise play a huge role in sustaining energy, since your body needs to exert more effort to correct itself whenever it’s off balance.
Exercise Properly and Work on Crossover Benefits
Every stage in a triathlon requires a shared skillset. Whether you’re conditioning for cycling, running or swimming, you’re improving your aptitude to handle other legs of the race through transferable training. If there are particular areas you may be weaker in, strengthen your ability to manage them by making the most out of crossover benefits during your workouts.
With proper discipline and thorough training, it won’t take long for you to become a successful triathlete and thrive while competing.