How to prepare for a triathlon- Introduction
Guest contribution by Deniz Gokce, CycleSimply
Are you interested in pushing yourself to the limit? You should try a triathlon, a multidisciplinary sport that involves swimming, cycling, and walking in the same race. With nearly 3 million competitors worldwide, triathlons focus more on personal goals instead of competing for competition’s sake.
If you are well prepared, you may have the most fulfilling time while also avoiding injuries. Here is a brief guide on how you could prepare for a triathlon, especially if it is your first!
Think of the type of triathlon you wish to participate in. There are four main triathlon types, described below:
Sprint: 750m swimming, 20 km cycling, 5 km running
Olympic: 1,500 m swimming, 40 km cycling, 10 km running
Half iron: 1.2 miles swimming, 56 miles cycling, 13.1 miles running
Ironman: 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles cycling, 26.2 miles running
Find a race
The second step is to find a triathlon that you can attend. Trifind.com or Active.com are two of the many resources you can utilize while looking for a race to attend. If you are not that fit, we suggest you give yourself at least three months to prepare for the competition. For the ones that work out frequently, 8 to 10 weeks should be sufficient.
Professionals advise beginners to avoid races that involve swimming in the ocean as the waves and rip currents can be dangerous. As a beginner, you should avoid cycling steep hills and running through the sand. Therefore, starting with a sprint triathlon should be better for beginners.
Experts suggest that triathlon trainers complete at least two swimming, cycling, and running sessions per week. Include at least one brick session that combines 2 of the three sports back-to-back (cycling and running, or swimming and cycling) to experience mini simulations of the triathlon. Increasing the distances by about 10% per week, such that you would hit a distance of about 10% above the total race distance, will set you up for success.
Make sure to include resistance training in your schedule to strengthen the muscles, and improve the stability and balance of body parts you will utilize. Below are the muscles you will need to focus on for each of the three sports.
Swimming: Strengthen back and arms. Create mobility in the trunk.
Cycling: Increase the strength of quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Focus on creating stability in the chest and back.
Running: Focus on increasing the stability of the shoulders and trunk and building strength in the legs and mobility of the hips.
Make sure to rest to recover. Resting is very important to avoid injuries. We suggest taking a rest day before or after your brick workout.
The price you would need to pay will change depending on the equipment you are looking for. You can use several pieces of equipment while training for a triathlon. Some of them will be provided by the triathlon organizers.
For your race, swim caps will be given. However, it is still beneficial to buy one of your own, to get used to the feeling of having a cap while swimming.
Goggles would be needed to protect your eyes and also be able to navigate quickly while swimming. Make sure that the goggle you buy fits well and has strong sealing.
You will need a towel to dry up after the swimming section is done and while getting ready for cycling. We suggest you get a towel that stands out so you can easily find it once you get out of the water.
You may want to get a full-body swimsuit as well. Most of the competitions do not require wet suits. Some of them may even disqualify you for swimming with a wetsuit. In the United States, if the water temperature is below 78 Fahrenheit (25.5 Celsius) , full-body swimsuits are legal. If the water temperature is between 78 and 84 Fahrenheit (25.5-29 C), swimsuits are legal, but people with swimsuits are not eligible for any awards. If the water temperature exceeds 84 Fahrenheit (29 C), swimsuits are not allowed as they may put competitors’ health at risk due to overheating. Overall, if the rules and temperatures allow, we suggest you compete with a wet suit to keep yourself warm and take advantage of extra flotation.
Usually, there is no specific bike requirement for triathlons, so if you want, you can use your fat tire bike during the race. To be competitive, though, road bikes are the way to go.
We recommend an affordable road bike, such as those listed here: Affordable Road Bikes. If you are looking for a bike that you are planning to use for triathlons and also for daily commutes, you could also consider a hybrid bike: Best Hybrid Bikes Under 500 and Best Hybrid Bikes Under 1000.
A bike helmet is an essential safety equipment needed when riding, not just during a triathlon. There is no specific requirement on what type of helmet you need. The lightweight and aerodynamic ones are advantageous, but more importantly, get one that is comfortable and secure.
A pair of sunglasses would also be useful while cycling and running. It can reduce the impact of UV light and wind.
Shoes are the most critical equipment you will need. Triathlon shoes should be comfortable and made out of material that dries fast. This will help you not only if it rains, but also after the swimming segment where your feet would be wet.
A water bottle is something that you will need while running and cycling. Make sure to buy a bottle that can be attached to your bike.
Preparing for a triathlon may seem intimidating if it is your first time. By breaking it down into steps, you could feel more assured and track your progress easily. Good luck with your preparations and have a fulfilling time!
Images: Unsplash/ Tony Pham and Markus Spiske
Deniz is the co-founder of Cycle Simply, a website dedicated to improving the lives of cyclists. Check out her posts on the best truck bed bike racks, the best bikes for wheelies, and the best vintage style bikes.