Our Active Root Triathlon Ambassadors Kerry Archer, Kirsty O'Brien and Rachael Butcher give us their top tips on how to train for a triathlon. Later in the week we'll also be publishing their advice on race day!
Kirsty: "I remember when I started doing triathlon. I had no clue where to start with training and what would happen during a race. I couldn’t get my head round how you went from swimming to biking, and biking to running. But luckily triathletes are a friendly bunch and were happy to give me loads of advice. Some of it was useful, some of it was random, and some of it was very confusing. But over the years I have applied some of it and come up with some tried and tested advice of my own."
- Be Realistic. Decide how many hours you can dedicate to training. Try to plan training that fits around your life rather than directly effecting it. Look realistically at time you have to spare each day and plan your training according to this – don’t try to squeeze sessions in to times that may not exist. For example, if there is time that you would usually spend sitting on the couch watching reruns of a TV show then that is time that could be used for training. But a lunch break that is meant to be an hour but often turns in to 30-40 minutes because you are busy at work is definitely not going to work – believe me, I have tried eating my cheese sandwich while on a watt bike in the gym and it was an epic fail.
- Make A Training Plan. Write down your sessions. This can be in as much detail as you want but it's always beneficial to put what the aim of your sessions are i.e. threshold/high intensity/HR zone. This will help you understand how best you train. For example all my main sessions are club sessions as I’m much better at attending a coached session than I am doing it myself. Training with others is a great way to push yourself. The best thing I ever did was to get myself a coach - she takes the stress out of training for me, keeps me accountable and stops me from panic over training.
And make sure you trust in your plan.....as my Kiwi friend always tells me 'Do the Mahi, get the treats' Mahi = work in Maori. If you've put the work in, all you have to do on the day is have fun.
- Find Some Training Buddies. When motivation is low this is the best way to get you out training. Find a mate to train with, if possible, someone that is a little better than you to give you that extra motivation to work hard. Or get a dog.....if there's one thing that will get me out the door and out for that run its the blooming dog sat by the door wining at me!!
- Ensure You Build In Rest/Recovery Days. Be good to yourself and listen to your body
When you are training for triathlon your as asking your body to do a lot. Most people stick to one sport, we are not content with this and ask our bodies to work through the aches and pains of doing 3 sports that work different muscles in your body and ultimately makes sure that, sometimes, the only part of your body that doesn’t hurt is your ears and eyeballs. So be good to yourself - easy recovery training sessions that are done at a snail’s pace are as important as the hard sessions. The best training programs are usually made up of an equal amount of easy and hard sessions and have a recovery week every 4-5 weeks. Listen to your body, it will tell you when you are doing too much. If you feel exhausted all the time you need to scale back – look at the training you are doing and your nutrition and make changes. Don’t be scared to take a recovery day. Taking time to recover is just as important as training. By the same token, if you are feeling good, then don’t be scared to push it. On the rare occasion that my legs feel good, I will try and do whatever session I am doing a wee bit faster or for a wee bit longer. And then, again, I treat myself with cake!
- Incorporate Strength And Conditioning Into Your Training Plan. This doesn’t have to be time consuming and the exercises don’t have to require equipment.
- Set Targets. Have a competition/race in mind to aim for as this will help you to structure your training. When I first started training for triathlon I was just randomly messing about in the gym and the pool and had no idea what I was doing and why. That was, until I signed up for my first race and realised I needed to get my act together. So set targets and sign up for races. This gives you something to aim for and helps you focus your training. You get an idea of what distances you need to aim for and in what time period. You can then look at the time scale you have, and set mini-targets leading up to the race where you want to be hitting particular times or distances. A word of warning with this though, think carefully about the goals that you set. After not running much, ever, in my life, I first set a target to run 10k without stopping within 3 weeks of training. Another epic fail which ended with me sitting in the middle of a park trying to look pathetic enough so a kind cyclist would take pity on me and give me a lift home!
- Vary Your Sessions and build in progression so you don’t get bored. I like to write down each session and my average pace and distance so I can see how I’m improving. To keep training interesting I mix it up a bit. While I have a kind of template of the types of sessions I am to do, and on what day, the session itself will
vary from week to week to try and keep it interesting. For example, on a Monday I do my hard run session. One week that may be a set of 25x400m reps. Then the next week that may entail 10x1km reps, and then the next week it may be 7x1mile reps. I am easily bored, so this keeps me interested for longer and makes it more interesting. It also good to keep your body guessing. You will see more improvement if you are not doing the same thing all the time
- Repeat Sessions
It may sound like I am contradicting the previous point, but it is good to have some sessions that you repeat. This is a great way to chart progress and to help you set realistic goals. I usually pick one or two key speed run session, bike to run sessions, and speed swim session that I repeat on about a 4-6 week cycle. I try as far as possible to do them under the same conditions (for example when the weather is similar or in the gym) and see if there has been any improvement. Nowadays, I don’t improve anywhere near as often as I used too. But when you first start training you will get gains and that can be a great confidence booster. When I get the occasional personal best session now I treat myself with carrot cake.
And don’t forget to do some brick sessions!! This is hugely important in triathlon as it prepares you for the bike to run transition. Depending on the distance of your triathlon the run only has to be short...just enough to get over the wobbly leg sensation so you can hit the run hard!