TRAINING PLAN BASICS
A triathlon specific training plan will set you on the path to tri success.
If you are coming to triathlon from a running or cycling background (most
common) or even a swimming past (less common!), with a decent level of
fitness, you will be able to get through a sprint tri. However the biggest
gains in tri training are seen through consistency. Following a triathlon
training plan for as little as 8 weeks leading up to a race will bring you to
the start line far better prepared than random workouts will.
Things to look for in a tri training plan:
- A plan that fits your life – no-one can follow their plan 100% but it’s
best to start with a realistic schedule to give yourself a chance!
Think about how many days a week you have some time to train,
how many hours on those days – work out a weekly total and go
from there. Be honest!
- A plan that incorporates recovery and rest periods. Your body
needs recovery time to rebuild the muscles you are stressing – if
every day has a hard workout your performance will diminish.
- A plan that pays special attention to your personal limiters.
- A plan that includes BRICK workouts. A brick is two consecutive
workouts, most often bike to run.
- A plan created by a person! You may have to pay a little extra but
having someone to check in with is a great tool. If you encounter
difficulties a coach can help you through them.
A few other things that can help your training along:
– A training buddy can be a great source of encouragement and
support. Rope a friend (with a similar life schedule) into entering your
tri, training together can push you further than you may go alone.
– Good time management! Life is busy and incorporating three sports
into an already crammed schedule can be a challenge. Look at each
week and decide what time of day you are going to fit in each
workout. Ask your family for support and let your workmates know
what you are up to.
– Be consistent. You don’t have to workout 7 days a week, but with a
measured and consistent approach to training you will see great
– Log your training, there are lots of free online training logs out there, it’s
great to see how far you’ve come!
(A basic overview as nutrition relates to training, for more detailed &
personalized information on diet see a Registered Dietitian)
Most of us know the basics of eating well, if you have a balanced healthy
diet there is no need to change your eating habits when you start tri
training. If you feel like your regular diet is lacking then you may want to
consider making some positive changes in your diet as well as your
training! A healthy diet is particularly important for athletes to fight off
colds and flu, maintain good energy levels and avoid injury.
Water: the essential nutrient
H2O is necessary in daily life but even more so while you are training. It is
key to figure out a hydration strategy that works for you, there are loads of
products out there to help you hydrate on the run – a basic sports water
bottle will fill most needs.
How much water to drink? Check out your pee – if it’s dark yellow you
need more water, if it’s light you are properly hydrated.
This is the time for easily digestible carbs. The best time to eat is about 2
hours before your workout – this is not always practical so make sure you
know a few things you can eat before training that sit well in your
Water, sports drinks and sports gels. Your main goal is to replace lost fluids
and electrolytes. In shorter distance racing you don’t need to worry too
much about replacing calories – training nutrition becomes extremely
important during longer distance races. Sodium losses from shorter
distance training can be replaced by most sport drinks, supplements may
be needed in extremely hot temperatures or during long distance training
and racing. Keep in mind that some gels and chews have caffeine in
them, if you don’t drink coffee or ‘use’ caffeine in your regular life then be
wary of trying a caffeinated product while you’re working out.
Immediately after exercising try and take in a recovery drink of fast
digesting carbs (chocolate milk works great!) this will restore some of the
muscle glycogen you just used up and start the recovery process. Then
within 60-90 minutes eat a good meal with wholesome carbs and protein.
This window is important, after 90 minutes your body is far less receptive
the absorbing the nutrients and you will take longer to recover.
A note about Carbohydrates.
Triathletes should appreciate that carbs are the body’s major source of fuel, the low/no-carb lifestyle does not often work well with training. If your carbohydrate intake does not provide a sufficient amount of fuel for your workouts and recovery you will not perform at your best. Don’t break out the wonder bread just yet! There are many ways to eat a diet rich in carbs that is also low in gluten and sugar.
A carbohydrate can be simple (one or two molecules) or complex (with up to thousands of molecules). Simple carbs, often called “sugars” are easy to digest and have their place especially while training or racing. While simple carbs have been demonized they are not all bad a more useful way of distinguishing carbs is between refined and wholesome. Fruits contain simple carbohydrates but are jam-packed with nutrients. Whereas products made from refined white flour contain complex carbs but far fewer vitamins and minerals.
LAY OF THE LAND
Each course will be unique, but most races share a basic set up.
The Transition area is your home base, this is a central area with bike racks set up. It is typically situated near the swim finish, bike start & finish and the run start. Transition is where you store your gear, you will rack your bike here before the race and keep all your race equipment with it (more info on setting up your amaking them speedy in an upcoming post).
The basic triathlon formula is this:
Some races will have multiple transition areas, point to point races will often require athletes to have a support crew to ferry their gear around. But in your basic sprint tri the TA will be something like this -
-An entrance from the swim
-An exit to the bike
-An entrance from the bike
-An exit to the run
Your bike will have it’s own little spot, and you will be able to snag a small area to the side of it to lay out your gear – be considerate – be a tidy triathlete!
Most TA’s are for athletes only, you will have to leave the cheering squad at the gate. Typically you will go through your body marking and then show this to be let into the TA.
You will not be allowed to remove your gear and bike from the TA until the last cyclist has come in from the bike course. Be patient, cheer them in!
Body marking is where you have your race number written onto your upper arm, thigh (just above the knee) and your age marked on your calf (for all to see!). This is for identification purposes – so they can look up your number if you are leading the race! It’s also fun to check out people’s ages as you pass them.
Depending on the size of the race, the TA could be intimate or enormous! If you find yourself in a large TA with many bike racks make sure you have a system to find your bike again! People tie balloons and ribbons to their bikes, others simply count racks. Some TA's have labeled bike racks so you can remember your rack - like a parking garage!
TA things to remember:
-Enter and Exit through the correct gates (avoid potential collisions!)
-Don't mount your bike until you are out of the TA, and dismount before you re-enter TA
-Buckle your helmet before you leave the TA (very important - grounds for DQ!)
-Don't forget to take off your helmet before you start the run (yes- it's happened!)
During your tri, TA is home, make yourself comfortable!