Do I need to have a background in any sport?
NO, although a background in any endurance sport will help. It seems to me, there are two main reasons why people embrace triathlon: the FIRST, it’s being a combination of three sports and this makes triathlon fun and challenging!
What ends up happening with a lot of competitive athletes is they get saturated with the single sports practice and triathlon offers variation, every day, besides sounding challenging. If you don’t feel like running, you swim. If you are bored of doing laps and stare at the black line at the bottom, you go out and explore new roads on your bike.
The SECOND reason is weight loss. At the end of the day, triathlon is a full body sport and to be good at it, you do end up spending a lot of time exercising. So often people start the sport with the goal of losing weight but become so obsessed with it that they begin to inspire others to do the same.
Should I diet to do Triathlon?
You should maintain a healthy diet for your wellbeing and there are some healthy habits you can quickly learn and embrace on a daily basis to improve recovery and optimize performance in training. It is a myth that triathletes only eat healthy food – they do indulge every once in a while, as we all should to keep us sane. Important though is hydration since your hydration will quickly become a limiter if you are not careful and replenish for your extra losses in training.
Should I swim, bike and run, every day for a triathlon?
Unless you are a professional athlete or have a VERY flexible work schedule, I’d say it’s even difficult to consider such a scenario. The more is not exactly the better, especially if you are new to this sport (or any sport) and it will take a few years to get to a point where it’s worthwhile doing the three sports more than once or twice a week. You should definitely, try to have on your schedule; a day where you swim, bike and run, just to get your body familiarized with it, but it’s not a requirement. As a professional triathlete, I do often get the three sports done in a day but it’s not the ideal situation if you are trying to juggle triathlon with a full-time job and family.
Should I practice transitions before my race?
Definitely yes. You want to get your body used to transitioning sports and even from bike to run we switch the group muscles we are using. The first times you try to transition sports, you should do it at a slow to moderate pace as it will always be a shock to your system. Practice makes perfection, the more you practice it, the more your body is familiarized with the feelings and motions and come race day it will almost feel normal.
What can I do to recover faster?
The quick answer is to hydrate and have a recovery drink of carbs and protein immediately after the workout. This is the fastest way to catalyze recovery. Beyond that, there are the number of techniques you may use to improve recovery: compression, cryotherapy, massage, and sleep would top my list.
Should I incorporate gym work into my training plan?
It’s my strong opinion, you should incorporate gym work into your daily routine at least once a week. It helps strengthen your body and avoid injury. The core, one of the most important areas of your body is what most triathletes focus on when they hit the gym because it’s also the area we, as triathletes, exercise the least. We need it to support every single movement we do in all three sports but unless you work on it on dryland, doing triathlon doesn’t exactly strengthen it enough for your needs. Beyond the core, your routine may include group muscles that apply to triathlon or address any imbalance and side weakness you may have. Because we are all imbalanced and it often leads to injury.
How can I prepare for the open water swim in the pool?
Swimming in open water is slightly different from the pool environment. You will get more chop from the swell and you should swim in a straight line between buoys to not loose time. The chop in Open Water swimming is better “cut” with a fast arm turnover, so if you have a very long stroke, where you glide a lot, you may consider some fast turnover exercises or swimming with a band (that promotes a faster turnover so you don’t sink!). Secondly, a sighting of buoys is a key aspect of open water swims and you should incorporate a few drills to improve it in your workouts. For instance, you may swim 100s or 50s repeats, lifting your head above the water like a polo player and trying to sight something outside the pool like a headlamp or a chair. Ideally, you incorporate this movement into your open water stroke so you swim as straight as possible and as effectively as possible.
How can I deal with injuries?
The beauty of this sport is even when you are injured, there is something else you can focus on and do to improve in one of the other sports. The most common injuries in triathletes are running related injuries – plantar fasciitis, Achilles, stress fractures. To avoid those, a lot of triathletes opt by not running as much as a normal runner would for a marathon (if you are preparing for an Ironman) and instead build endurance through long bike rides followed by runs. Avoiding injuries is a struggle all athletes, from all sports, have to deal with and giving priority to recovery and building a solid foundation before intensity workouts may save you from a lot of frustrating soft tissue damage and promote consistency. ■
Words + Photos by: Pedro Gomes