The triathlon is the toughest endurance event there is. It’s a race that challenges the strength and stamina of athletes through three disciplines: swimming, cycling and running. It tests our cardiovascular fitness to the absolute limit.
If you’ve found this page, kudos to you for signing up to a triathlon – it’s a bold but fantastic move.
Whether it’s your first or your hundredth, this is where the hard work starts, and of course, you’ll want to be in top condition to get maximum enjoyment out of what should be a tough yet rewarding day.
When drawing up a training regime (eight weeks to three months minimum), it’s important to put a well thought-out plan together that physically and mentally prepares you so you can achieve the distance you’re covering.
Here we run through the basics around developing your technique and strength training. We also run through your general preparation. We provide tips that’ll ensure that when the starter’s gun fires and you set off, you’re completely ready for what’s ahead.
To begin, here’s some guidance for when you’re training for the first leg, the swim.
New triathletes should become accustomed to open water swimming because most events are held in lakes, or like the Salford Triathlon, in a disused dock.
Start your swimming training early and consider that swimming uses different muscle groups to running and cycling. Many new triathletes think that running will provide them with the stamina for the swim. That’s partly true but it won’t prepare you fully.
There are some crossover benefits, but spending more time in the water and becoming familiar with the unique fatigue caused by strokes such as front crawl and butterfly will prepare you for when tiredness hits on the day.
Swimming is as much about your technique as your fitness. The following tips will improve your efficiency in the pool:
It takes time but repeat your technique to achieve a really good stroke.
If you can’t find time to make it to the pool, instead focus on home-based strength exercises.
Technique and strength go hand-in-hand. You need power to improve your swimming ability.
REMEMBER: Always seek advice on equipment, such as wetsuits and well-fitting goggles.
Find a local bike shop and book a bike fit session. During the fit they will look at your body and your bike (preferably a well-maintained road bike). They will adjust the seat, handlebars and stem so that you’re seated in the optimum position to create more power through your legs and avoid injury to the lower back, arms and shoulders.
Ditch your trainers. Specialised cycling shoes and pedals that you can clip into are recommended. They improve efficiency as you create power on the up and down strokes. Not having clips is like running with your shoe laces undone.
Focus on ‘pedalling in circles’, and importantly, when possible, ride in a low gear and at a low cadence as you don’t want to push yourself too hard with the run to follow.
It’s great going out and putting the hard miles in and your legs might be stronger than ever. But without stable core strength your form will drop and as the ride progresses you will begin to rock in the saddle. Incorporate the following into your training:
When the weather’s nice, get outside. But if the weather’s bad, consider an indoor trainer and fan (trust us) and get yourself in front of Netflix. Watching a film is a great way to pass the time as you suffer on the bike.
Unlike swimming, you could certainly incorporate cycling into your commute. It’s an ideal time to get in those important miles that’ll get you used to riding and condition the muscles you need to propel yourself quickly and efficiently around the course.
The run or sprint is the final hurdle to overcome. After the gruelling swim and bike ride, you’ve got to get yourself the finish. Of course, it’s better to get there with energy and strength to spare, perhaps being strong enough to pip a rival to the win.
To begin, you need to use the right technique so you aren’t putting needless stress on your body. Podiatry and gait analysis are recommended for new runners or those who are suffering from undiagnosed problems.
Biomechanical assessments look at the way your feet and lower limbs affect the rest of your body and give you an understanding of the factors causing discomfort. So before you start intense training, go and get professional help.
The four key aspects to good form are alignment, posture, hip strength and pelvic stability. Remember this and avoid the following:
Just running isn’t enough. The stronger you are, the fitter and faster you’ll be. The strongest runners incorporate the following into their routine as a base:
To get used to the transition between the cycle and final sprint, find time to mimic what you will be doing on the day. Do the sessions one after another, being careful not to overload your body before your legs are used to the strain.
You’ll never avoid the sweat, but with this advice, you should avoid the blood and the tears.
Finally, never forget the importance of nutrition. Consuming the right combination of fruit, veg, carbs and protein is essential. A solid fuelling strategy will fully support and maximise the effectiveness of your training.
It will help you build strength by supporting muscle growth and helping you maintain a healthy weight that will hopefully give you the edge over your competitors.
The Salford Triathlon takes place on Sunday 26th July and offers triathletes the chance to race on a fast, flat course taking in the regenerated Salford Quays and MediaCityUK development.