Last year, we took a look at how to train for a marathon in 10 weeks, and this year, we’re going to do a similar series for doing a triathlon. This is a trendy sport now, long past its up-and-coming phase, and every potential triathlete should know how to train—and what to expect.
In the first entry for this series, we focused on getting your body moving for 30 minutes a day, six days a week. Hopefully, you’ve been able to do that for the past 30 days or so. Now, it’s time to step it up to 45-minute workouts for the next month. Swimming will be the hardest part, so make sure you’re able to get plenty of air while you swim. Even if you’re swimming breaststroke all the day, that’s okay. It’s the muscle we need to train to be in motion continuously for the length of your race distance.
For the biking and the running/walking, this extra 15 minutes a day shouldn’t be that dramatic in terms of a transition. You’re getting stronger every day, and your body can handle it relatively easily. If you’re experiencing any pain, it’s okay to skip a day. Always remember to stretch before and after your workouts, as well, to reduce trauma on your body and muscles. If you’re still just walking, that’s okay, too. There’s no law that says you must run in a triathlon!
During this second month, you can start looking into better equipment. If you want to buy a triathlon bike (either a road bike or a tri bike), you should start by going to a local bike shop and asking a lot of questions. Don’t buy anything there (yet, if at all), but you should find out whether you like the idea of a road bike or a tri bike better. If you anticipate the desire or need to do inclined riding, then perhaps a road bike is better for you. If you just want to do flat riding, then a tri bike could be best. However, knowing your race’s bike course is important, too, as that may dictate what kind of bike you buy. Most people tend to go with the road bike, because a lot of triathlons have hilly courses.
In addition to deciding what kind of bike you want, you need to look at sizing. Everyone’s bodies are different, and the size of your bike is important. Get measured at the bike shop while you’re there, for that will help you with an eventual bike purchase whether it’s at that store or not. However, do NOT buy a bike on your first visit to the bike shop. There are too many great, used bikes out there for sale at great prices, and you should consider those before buying at a bike shop.
Spend the next month looking around for a bike you can be ready to ride by December 10—four months before your target race in mid-April. The bike shops can help you with shoes, clips, helmets and everything else you’ll want or need on a bike. Padded bike shorts work for most people, but not everyone likes them. Remember with gear, a lot of time, it’s trial and error: Recommendations from experts and friends are great, but everyone’s bodies are different. You always need to do what’s best for your body, no matter what the experts say.
Same goes for running shoes: Maybe you’ve been walking in normal sneakers for the last month, and that’s fine. Eventually, though, you do need to invest a little in a proper pair of running shoes (if not two pairs). Go to athletic-shoe specialty store that puts you on an ergonomic treadmill and measures your gait. This will ensure you get the right pair of shoes for your feet—again, what’s right for your best friends is not always going to be right for you. We do suggest buying two pairs, because when you find the right shoe, having backups matters. You don’t want to have to scramble again to find your specific model if the airline loses your luggage or your puppy gets hungry.
One more thing to work with this month is hydration and dietary changes. In terms of hydration, start replacing one of your caffeinated drinks each day with water instead. Eventually, we’re going to work up to a point where half your liquid intake each day is water, so this is just a small start. In terms of food, start reducing the use of dressings on salads and sauces on other foods. You want good calories more than bad calories, of course, and you also don’t want to drink your calories. We will focus more on diet changes in the third month, so be prepared to make some changes. Your body will thank you for it on race day.
(Disclosure: This writer finished dead last at Lavaman in 2010 using a $100 mountain bike from Walmart. It was his first official triathlon race since the mid-1990s, and he went on to compete in multiple Ironman events by 2012. After breaking his ankle, he is starting his comeback in 2016 with Lavaman once again. Meet him there if you want!)