You're no beginner. You're a seasoned runner--perhaps even a hardcore marathoner--or a tried-and-tested athlete in another sport. But the triathlon is one challenge that has eluded you so far. Perhaps you've always dreamed of trying one, but you haven't known where to begin.
If that's the case, you're not alone: it takes an unusual level of commitment to prepare for and participate in an event that involves three separate disciplines, especially as a serious competitor. Making the transition from a single-sport athlete to a triathlete takes time, training, and dedication. Once you know where to focus your efforts, you'll be ready to make the change!
One of the toughest transitions to make from other sports to the triathlon is the sheer amount of training time required. Though marathon training certainly gobbles up its share of hours, the most time-consuming training can often be saved for the weekend, with speedwork sessions and shorter maintenance runs filling in the rest of the week.
This is not the case with triathlon training. The sheer logistical challenge of training for three separate sports requires an understanding of the commitment involved and proper planning. While you can literally run out the door and start training for a marathon, triathlon training involves commuting to a swimming pool or lake and mapping out appropriate bike routes before you can start training. Additionally, more equipment is required, which can take time to acquire and maintain.
However, the key is to avoid becoming overwhelmed, or feeling like you have to cram training for all three sports into one day. Doing so will greatly increase your chance of injury. Instead, take a balanced approach to training by dividing your week evenly between each sport. For example, you could run three times a week, bike three times a week, and swim twice a week, doubling up one of your running or biking days with a swimming workout.
Consider the following strategies to make a smooth transition to triathlon training:
1. Rely on "bricks."
Most triathlon programs recommend inclusion of "brick" workouts, so named because they stack a bike and a run in the same session. Make one of your weekly runs a brick workout. Cycle for about 30 minutes; take a five minute break to change into your running gear, then run for about 25 minutes.
2. Perfect your swimming technique.
One of the biggest challenges that runners have is getting used to the swim portion of the triathlon. This is because technique is more important in swimming than it is in running. However, if you have a poor running technique, you won't be an efficient swimmer.
It's tough to improve swimming technique on your own. The best way to learn the fundamentals of better swimming mechanics and improve your stroke is to work with a swimming coach or enrol in a swimming program. Many community centres and gyms offer swimming classes and clubs for those wanting to hone their skills.
3. Keep up strength and flexibility.
Strength and flexibility are vital to triathlon training. Weight training exercises and stretching can help you to avoid injuries and be a better triathlete. Try to incorporate short, efficient sessions into your training two to three times a week, focusing on strengthening and stretching basic muscle groups like the shoulders, hamstrings, and chest.
Above all, the aspiring triathlete must be dedicated. Most marathon veterans and other long-time athletes won't have a problem with this leg of the program. Once you've overcome the new challenges of the sport, you may come to prefer the excitement and variety of triathlon training--and then you'll be hard to hold back!