Triathlon offers a variety of distances to choose from, ranging from super-sprint (mostly for beginners) to sprint, to Olympic, Half-Iron and Iron distances. If you’re looking to step up a distance consider these five pointers
Don’t let frustration and ego ruin things!
Train regularly, and build up slowly Triathlon coach, Rob Popper (triathlonhouse.com), is insistent that all his clients are very cautious about training loads (and doesn’t advise beginners to do more than the Olympic distance in their first season, for example.)
He advises: “Increase distances by no more than 10-15% per week, especially as you get into longer distances because it will help you stay injury free – your body really does need time to adapt. You might be able to get away with increasing your weekly long run from five miles one week to six miles the next, but don’t try and jump your weekly long bike ride from 60km to 80km in one week.”
Swim coach, Salim Ahmed (facebook.com/ SalimsSwimLab) suggests that regularity is crucial with swimming, even if training for longer distances: “Once a week is pure maintenance,” he says, “Twice is better and three times a week will see big improvements. Stick to small, planned increments (if they’re small enough, they might feel frustrating but that frustration will make you faster). The beauty of this is that its painless, comes from listening to your body, and is also amazing for your ego!”
Have a plan and stick to it
Triathlon is a very time-consuming sport and the longer your distance, the more organised you’ll need to be about training. “You need to make every session have a purpose,” says triathlon coach, Richard Hobson (triliving.co. uk). “Never go out of the door without a plan; look at what you need to improve on and make those sessions count. As your training builds, you naturally move up to the next distance. So the training for the Olympic distance, would get you through a Half-Ironman, although you might not do very well. Every event is tough – because the shorter the event, the harder you’re going.”
Hobson then explains cautiously about the longest discipline: “The jump to Ironman is massive and you can’t just train for Half-Ironman and expect to get through an Ironman. An Ironman takes hours and hours and it’s hard.”
Remember too, that illness, injury and life inevitably get in the way sometimes. Sweating the small stuff (like the odd missed session) is going to have a negative impact on how good you feel when you’re really sweating (during training) the rest of the time!
Don’t forget your core!
If you’re training for longer, covering greater distances, core strength becomes even more important than ever. Make sure your week includes some kind of low impact training, like yoga or Pilates, advises Popper: “It’s really about doing anything else that helps you maintain strength and flexibility in the right places,” he explains. “Core strength is absolutely vital in all forms of human movement, and for injury prevention, and so especially beneficial to us as triathletes in all our training.”
Triathlete and yoga instructor, Sarah Odell agrees: “Training for, and competing in triathlons puts a lot of stress on the body. A regular yoga practice will not only offer the benefits of stretching, but will also help calm the nervous system and mind, so that the body cools down and recovers quicker.”
Think ahead with the 3 Rs – rest, recovery and refuelling
When you’re not actually training, you’re still recovering and preparing. Take regular, planned rest. “It’s not just about the session you just did, it’s actually about the sessions you plan to do the rest of the week,” says Popper. “If you do longer and longer runs each week, you may feel terrific after each and not understand what all the fuss is about stretching and drinking down some protein-carb mixture after.
But how do you feel for your swim session the next day? Or your ride the day after that? How does it impact on the rest of your training throughout the week? That’s why recovery after each session is important. Recovery is actually when your muscles rebuild, repair, and get stronger for the next sessions you will be doing.”
Popper recommends you take one day a week, one week a month and one month a year off for recovery. This can be active (for example, with a reduced load, or more cross-training) or pure rest, depending on how you’re feeling.
Talk to your friends, family and work colleagues about what you’re doing, and explain why it’s so important
“Talk to the significant people in your life and discuss frankly what sort of impact your plans for going longer will have on their lives,” Popper advises, adding, “Perhaps you’ll be more absent from social occasions? Will you be less a part of family life? Will you be spending more weekends away from home?”
Think about it, and communicate. It might be a good idea to talk to your boss as well – explain that you might need an extra half hour for lunch, but the skills you’re acquiring (on your run) can transfer over, making you a stronger, more committed employee. Hopefully he’ll agree that it’s not just art, but also tri-training, that imitates life!