Motivation will get you started, habit will keep you going.
As a seasoned triathlete, I often get asked to give tips to beginners or novice triathletes. I use the term ‘beginner’ quite loosely, as many triathletes bring vast levels of experience from other sports and want to see what triathlon is all about.
Triathlon has increased in popularity since its conception by the San Diego track club in the 1970s to its current form today as a recognised Olympic sport. Triathlon has enjoyed significant growth in the UK, with 215,000 people in England competing in at least one triathlon last year. With an average of 26 permitted events happening each week, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved.
To build your confidence in preparation for your triathlon, firstly set yourself a goal and choose a race to enter. Ask yourself what motivated you to take up triathlon to begin with and what do you hope to gain from the experience? These underlying questions will help you stay committed to your training so that your goal becomes a reality. When choosing your first triathlon event, find one close to home to reduce race day stress and to give your friends and family the opportunity to come and support you. Other factors to consider are race distance, pool based or open water and time of year.
Once you’ve decided on an event, it’s time to prepare and plan. Abraham Lincoln once said ‘if you have 8 hours to cut down a tree, spend 6 hours sharpening the axe.’ In other words, take time to put a strategy together before diving straight in.
A structured plan will promote consistency and progression and should be adapted to support your lifestyle and time constraints. Not all sessions will be at maximum effort – you should allow for a gradual increase in intensity for your body to adapt and become faster and stronger. Some plans may be unrealistic in terms of commitment, so choose wisely and be flexible in discovering what works for you.
Implementing an adaptable and flexible plan might mean substituting an outdoor ride for an indoor session on a static bike. For example I do most of my training sessions on a Wattbike, targeting specific power outputs based on my threshold power, varying cadence and duration. Similarly, I will do treadmill run sets with specific speed targets.
A successful plan balances the technical and physical demands of each discipline, which is particularly applicable to swimming, additional strength and conditioning focussed sessions and recovery. I detail many effective conditioning sessions in my new book Swim, Bike, Run, Ready? (being published early 2019).
I work individually with all my athletes through the preparation process and creating their unique plan. Each athlete shares their performance data with me so I am able to offer encouragement, motivation and analysis within my capacity as a performance coach.
Within any plan, some sessions will be more challenging and demanding than others. Training in a group environment or with a training buddy aids motivation and will fuel competitive spirit and could potentially make the experience all the more enjoyable.
Your focus at the end of each session should be to develop and implement a variety of recovery strategies. Your next session always begins at the end of the previous one!! To increase your blood flow to an area and the range of joint mobility I would recommend using a foam roller. To hydrate and restore your body’s fluid levels and to aid muscle repair I consume a CocoPro after every session. It’s refreshing, convenient and has fast absorbing whey protein.
Throughout the training process, you will learn what techniques are the most appropriate and effective for you. What works for others might not work for you. So explore and enjoy the process.