Training for a Triathlon

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Two words sum up what it takes to compete in a race that combines swimming, cycling and running, often in extreme conditions: strength and will. Training for a triathlon requires the strength to build up endurance for each separate sport as well as the will to make it through the difficult transitions and mental challenges required to cross the finish line. Yet everyone is capable of competing in a triathlon, whether you are at peak physical shape, completely inexperienced at any or all of the events, or have never exercised. The key is finding the right training plan as well as the right race.

There are four types of triathlons: Sprint, Olympic (Intermediate or Standard), Long Course, and Ultra Distance (commonly called Ironman). For beginners, a Sprint triathlon is an ideal place to begin and consists of a course of 750 m swimming, 20 k cycling and 5 k running. For many athletes, the ultimate competition is the Ironman, which consists of a grueling 3.9 k swim, 180 k bike ride and to finish, a full marathon (that’s 42.2 k or 26.2 mi). All races include transitions – called T1 and T2 – between the events. Triathlons take place all over the world which means athletes have to be prepared to swim in open water, including lakes, seas and oceans; cycle and run through terrains like mountains and desserts; and compete in a variety of environments like high altitudes and tropical climates.
Before you begin training, make an honest assessment of your fitness level and your strengths and weaknesses in each event. Then, decide which level of triathlon you want to try and find an event that you feel is realistic. For your first triathlon, be confident you can complete the course; once you’ve completed one race, you’ll have the confidence to take on more challenges. Next, give yourself enough time to train. While some people claim you only need 12 weeks to train, be realistic. You may need months. The good news is that triathlon training is less intensive than marathon training and, because you will be cross-training, your body will feel less stressed.
Your training goals are to build endurance, strength and mental stamina as you slowly increase your distance. If you are weak on a single event, make sure you devote one day a week to only that event. Strength training with several of repetitions of lower weight, along with yoga and stretching, will increase strength without adding bulk. Give yourself days off every week, a lot of sleep and a nutritious, protein-rich diet.
You will need at least one competitive style swimsuit, goggles, a swim cap; a good fitting bike, whether it is a road, mountain or hybrid; cycling shorts; clip-less pedals and cycling shoes (helpful but optional); and good quality running shoes that fit well. The Internet is a great source of triathlon timetable workouts for all levels. Take it easy the week before the race and get ready to experience a truly wild ride.

Here's to your wellness,


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