According to USA Triathlon, the sport’s national governing body, one-day memberships for single USA triathlon events have more than tripled from 100,000 in 2000 to nearly 327,000 in 2010. And it’s evident here in the state, with the influx of marathons and triathlons taking place, especially in the Scottsdale area and Valley-wide. From Ironman Arizona and the 2012 Mesa Sprint Triathlon to the Four Peaks Brewing Urban Dirt Triathlon and Neon Splash Dash, the list goes on and on.
For all the newbies to the sport, we asked Brooke Schohl, MS, RD, owner of Destination Kona — a triathlon store that offers not only gear and apparel, but also in-house nutrition and coaching services and training guidance specific to triathlons and to those training for swimming, cycling and running events — to provide her top 10 tips for triathlon training.
10 Tips for Triathlon Training:
Get your doctor’s approval.
Getting clearance from a trusted medical professional is essential. This step becomes even more important if you are embarking on a workout program from scratch. Start your training program conservatively, and slowly build up to longer workouts and higher intensity sessions. Following this approach helps to minimize injury, illness, fatigue and burnout.
Make nutrition a priority.
Following a balanced and healthy eating program boosts energy and immune function — not to mention the positive effects it has on body composition and weight!
Select a race.
Training with a specific race goal is important. Pick a race distance (sprint or Olympic to start), location and date that work best for you. Then register! You are now committed to the race — both financially and mentally — and ready to train.
Seek the help of a coach, or follow a training plan.
Yes, a coach can be pricey. However, he or she will be an invaluable resource to you on your endurance sport journey. If hiring a coach is unrealistic, quality training plans are available online at a lower price.
Arm yourself with some basic gear.
Regardless of the triathlon race distance you have opted to train for, the following items are must-haves: swimsuit, goggles, swim cap, bike, cycling shorts/shoes/helmet, a race belt and quality running shoes. Optional (but highly recommended) items include sunglasses, hat/visor and a wetsuit (if training/racing water is cold or choppy). As you become more invested in the sport, you can always upgrade your gear (replacing your road or hybrid bike with a tri bike, for example) — but make sure you have the basics to start!
Train with a group.
Let’s face it, an endurance sport like triathlon can be pretty complicated for the novice athlete. Not only do you have three sports to perfect, but you also have to determine what gear and apparel to train in, how to best organize your training schedule each week, how to master getting in and out of a wetsuit, and what in the world a “fast T1” means. Joining a local tri group can be a secret to success — team members help to keep you accountable and double as a resource for questions that pop up as race day approaches.
Make smart (and safe) training decisions.
This holds true in the water, on the road, on the trail — wherever it may be that your training takes you. Complete open water swims with a partner or group, always wear a helmet on the bike, and don some reflective gear for those early morning and evening runs. Respect your environment and train intelligently.
Realize your potential AND your limitations as an endurance athlete.
Don’t train or race beyond your capabilities. Just because you are on the same racecourse as the pros, doesn’t mean your 10 minute/mile pace suddenly becomes a seven-minute/mile one. Stay true to your training and run your own race; be confident and aware of YOUR abilities as an athlete.
Don’t try new things on race day.
Training sessions are a great time to test out new apparel, gear, fuel and hydration tactics. Race day is not. Don’t risk skin irritation from spanking new clothing, or an upset stomach from unfamiliar food or drink. Stick with what you know works for you!
Most importantly, HAVE FUN.
If you are taking up triathlon, there is at least a little part of you that is wildly competitive. Challenge yourself, but remember to have fun out there!