10 essential tips every new triathlete needs to know
With our essential top tips, you’ll be more prepared than ever and triathlon like a pro in no time.
Whether you are just starting out or have been training for a while, completing a triathlon can seem a bit daunting. Simply preparing for the event can be a physical and emotional challenge.
But you needn’t let apprehension get in your way. With our essential top tips, you’ll be more prepared than ever and triathlon-ing like a pro in no time.
1. Join a local club
What better way to learn skills from others and the more experienced than to join a local club? Your peers can support you through challenges, share hints and tips and even set yourselves mini-competitions to prepare for the big day. This can be a massive boost to your confidence and is an excellent way to feel supported.
What’s more, meeting with others creates a social event which means you can have a laugh alongside the (occasional) discomfort of training. Joining a club can also help with motivation because meeting up becomes a part of your weekly routine. You can even keep in touch via group pages and social media.
2. Set a regular training schedule
You should give yourself at least 12 weeks of dedicated training.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the task ahead, schedule the hours into your days and weeks which you will dedicate to mastering your triathlon. This will also prevent you from doing too much at once, which could lead to exhaustion and injury (there is no last-minute cramming with triathlon training!).
As a rule of thumb, you should train around two to four hours per week, including a mixture of swimming, cycling, and running. Practising the transition should also be a part of your training. Try not to regularly train any discipline in isolation -swap it up and optimise your transitions from swimming to cycling to running. A ‘brick’ workout combines at least 2 of your disciplines in one training session.
3. Get the right gear
By gear, we mean kit! There are many parts of your triathlon kit which you may need new bits for, but you may want to start with the bare necessities. First up is running trainers, swimming gear (wetsuit) and… yes, you will need a bicycle. You can find a complete list of essential gear on The British Heart Foundation Checklist website.
When you get a little more into it and are perhaps gearing up for your first race you may want to consider buying some more expensive pieces of kit. For example, trisuits are optimised to support your performance in the swim, cycle and run with quick-drying and optimal comfort. What’s more, they don’t require a fussy change between transitions, potentially cutting minutes off your time.
4. Optimise nutrition
A triathlon is not an easy feat. Therefore, you need to support your body with the right nutrients and sufficient energy to support it in the race and maximise the gains from your training. British Triathlon.org recommend including plenty of carbohydrates and healthy fats in your diet for energy, along with good quality protein throughout the day to help your muscles recover and rebuild. They also state that including plenty of vegetables, berries and fruits will ensure sufficient vitamins and minerals . You can read more about optimal nutrition for a triathlon on the British Triathlon website.
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5. Start small
The definition of a triathlon is a race consisting of swimming, cycling and running, but these can be over a variety of different distances . Completing a triathlon of any length is a huge achievement, so you don’t need to go straight from 0 to iron man to feel accomplished.
The first organised event you do should be manageable and enable you to develop skills of a triathlon: the smooth transitions between disciplines, managing your mind in the race and simply soaking in the environment.
This means the next race you do, you can have these things down to a T, enabling you to focus on the much bigger stuff - such as, ahem, winning!
6. Book a session with a professional
It’s highly unlikely that you will be a pro triathlete and a master at all three disciplines (swimming, cycling AND running) when just starting out.
It is great to accept that we all have room for improvement. What better way to do this than booking training sessions with professional coaches? For example, if you know that cycling and running are your strengths, why not book a session with a skilled swimmer to pick up some hints and tips to perfect the swim too? It’s a perfect way to become a brilliant all-rounded triathlete - and the medal is pretty much in the bag!
7. Get savvy on triathlon ‘hacks’
Tricks can help you transition throughout the race more efficiently. Some simple things such as replacing regular shoelaces with elastic shoelaces - this could knock off a whopping 5-seconds from your race.
One ‘hack’ involves putting a plastic bag on your feet to help you into your wetsuit (which is often a struggle). Another hack involves using elastic bands to tie your cycling shoes to your bike; this can save faffing around before you can even start the cycling race - you can simply jump on your bike, and go!
A quick online search can uncover hundreds of these triathlon hacks, so find some that work for you.
8. Don’t shy away from rest
The diversity of a triathlon can make it feel like there is so much to fit in – cycling skills, running and swimming. You should really consider rest as a fourth component of triathlon training. Your body needs rest to recover optimally and grow to be more robust and more efficient in everything you do.
Not only this but not giving your body adequate rest will make the whole process a drain on your positivity. Training and competing are meant to be enjoyable, not a slog. So remember to rest and not work yourself too hard.
9. Train your mind
Triathlon racing is just as much a physical challenge as it is a mental challenge. There will be times your mind is telling you to stop, and you will need to pull yourself away from these thoughts to carry on.
An excellent way to manage these thoughts is to set achievable goals and targets for your triathlon. These goals could revolve around timings or even distance. Don’t set goals too high at first because even a tiny achievement can give you a boost to keep going.
You should also practice mindfulness during your race. This can help calm your nerves and anxiety, which may often lead to poor breathing and be counterproductive.
10. Drop the non-essentials
There are an endless number of accessories and merchandise you can buy to support you on your triathlon, from extra fancy chip bands to GPS monitors. Try taking a step back and considering what you really need for your race (see step 3). Many of these extra accessories will only be one extra thing to carry on your race and will add excess weight (only a few extra grams could make a difference to how you feel and perform).
We say leave the absolute non-essentials at home and use the best tools you have to get you through – your mind and body.
Ready to start your triathlon journey?
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