BEGINNER’S GUIDETO TRIATHLON
REACH YOUR RACE WEIGHT
TRAIN FOR YOUR FIRST TRIATHLON
BUY THE RIGHT GO-FASTER KIT
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The Huub team understand the specialist technical and scientific fields associated within the world of triathlon, including hydrodynamics and swim stroke analysis. The huub design triangle includes one of the worlds leading Hydrodynamic specialists “Huub toussaint”, the swim stroke and swim type specialists “Swim Smooth” and one of the Industries most experienced piecing it all together. We are delighted to be awarded the triathlon plus “Gold Award” for best wetsuit 2012. Thanks to the team at Huub!
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TRAIN TRAIN using one of our free plans, create your own or hit the road or pool on the spur of the moment to get closer to race goals, personal bests or burn calories. Create training routes or search for other usersâ€™ rides and runs nearby to allow easy logging later.
UPLOAD UPLOAD to your free Training Zone account via your Garmin and Polar devices, Nike+ or log your sessions using the easy-to-use online system, adding as much or as little detail as you want. Your sessions are stored in your personal diary.
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BEGINNER’S GUIDE WELCOME
Welcome BEGINNER’S GUIDE
FREE WITH ISSUE 42 / SUMMER 2012
One of the great things about triathlon is that it welcomes athletes of any level and people come to it from a range of different backgrounds. But the thought of swimming, cycling then running can be daunting at first. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to starting tri from scratch. Whether you’re coming to tri from another sport or as a complete newcomer to training, I hope you’ll find all the advice and reassurance you need to crack that first race. Once you’ve started, keep your tri training on track by logging and sharing your workouts for free with the new Training Zone area on our website, triradar.com. There you’ll also find free training plans and plenty more advice to keep you going.
Photos Janos Schmidt / Spomedis / Delly Carr / ITU
Elizabeth Hufton editor email@example.com
BEGINNER’S GUIDE 07
WHEN YOU’RE READY TO PUSH YOURSELF A BIT HARDER, READ OUR GUIDE TO GETTING QUICKER
CONTENTS 10 STARTINGOUT
Essential tips for newbies
Conquer tri’s trickiest discipline
The bottom line on building up your run training
Takealeadfromtheprosand giveyour trainingastrongfoundation 08 BEGINNER’S GUIDE
The extra training that will keep you injury-free for triathlon
How to handle your ride
Take your training to the next level with some speedwork
How to get set for your first tri
Go from couch potato to triathlete in eight weeks
Shift pounds safely for racing
Your essential shopping list Learn where to invest your cash for the biggest time savings
TRIATHLON IS A DAUNTING CHALLENGE SO MAKE SURE YOU’RE READY FOR IT
Most of the advice we give in Triathlon Plus and on triradar. com is aimed at those looking to squeeze another second out of a bike split or find a few centimetres on their swim stroke. When you’re new to tri you can forget all that. You’re building up fitness and conditioning from scratch and the rules are different. Remember these first-timer rules as you start training and read on to find out how some of the best athletes in the sport got bitten by the tri bug. EVERY LITTLE HELPS In this guide, we’re giving you the basic knowledge you need to get to grips with swimming, cycling and running, and training programmes to build up those skills for a race.
But even while you’re just thinking about racing tri, you can help yourself by being more active in your day-to-day life. Everything from Sunday walks with friends to taking the kids swimming and easy bike commutes to work will gradually build your base of fitness, and that can only help when you’re ready to start your ‘proper’ training. DON’T WAIT TO GET IN SHAPE Shifting weight is a common reason for taking up tri but if you’ve got a lot to lose, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to wait until you’ve slimmed down to start training. Have a check-up with your doctor to make sure you’re ready for the work, and take things slowly; but the sooner you start training the quicker those extra pounds will start to drop off.
MY FIRST TRI FRASERCARTMELL
Winner 2010 Ironman UK; 2010 Ironman 70.3 South Africa.
2009 and 2010 ITU World Champion; 2008 Olympic Games bronze medal
My first tri was an XTERRAstyle sprint in Oban, on the west coast of Scotland. The swim was in the pool and then we ‘restarted’ the bike/run on a TT basis – I loved it. I was 15 and was beaten by Lesley Paterson – I’ve known her ever since and we are now on the same team (Trek/K-Swiss). My kit was my trusty ‘fully rigid’ Kona mountain bike and bike gear. I was delighted to finish as I was knackered! I realised that I wanted to race more and borrowed a wetsuit so I could do my first ‘proper’ race, and have never stopped since.
I grew up in a small town called Moree in New South Wales, where the emphasis was always on sport and the outdoors. I started out by joining my local surf club, so I had always been a swimmer. When I was about 13, I decided to compete in my local triathlon event. Lots of members of my family had given triathlon a go already and so had my friends, so I signed up. The race went better than expected – I won. And from that day forward I was hooked on the sport and quickly went on to compete at a national, and then at an international level.
10 BEGINNER’S GUIDE
Words Elizabeth Hufton Photo Triathlon.org / Arnold Lim/ Spomedis/ Nigel Farrow/ ITU , FinisherPix
FIRST-TIMERS STARTING OUT
ELITES TELL US HOW THEY STARTED TOM BISHOP
3rd place 2011 ITU U23 World Champs; 1st place 2011 Windsor Triathlon
Winner XTERRA World Championships 2011, Ironman Mooseman 70.3 2011, Paciﬁcc Championships 2011. XTERRA Paciﬁ
I had my first taste of triathlon when I was about eight years old but my first proper race took place about five years later when I spent a summer taking part in the East Midlands Triathlon Series. The races were TriStar 3 events so were shorter than super sprints and all of them were pool-based. My parents bought me a road bike and I had a decent pair of running shoes and a tri suit provided by Derby Tri. Cycling was my real strength and I ended up overtaking quite a few people on the bike leg. I finished in the top 10 in that Derby race and I knew straightaway that I wanted to keep on racing.
I got into tri through my dad, who wanted an outlet for my energy! My first race was the beginners’ super sprint at Stirling Triathlon Club. It was an amazing experience and I got as nervous about that race as I have done since, even having raced world champs. I was 14 and did it in a swimming costume and baggy sweatshirt to keep me warm! I was on a borrowed bike and didn’t understand the gearing. I couldn’t wait to do another. Not only was this going to be a life-changing journey, but it was going to be a chance to make lifelong friends.
BEGINNER’S GUIDE 11
BEGINNER’S GUIDE BEG, STEAL, BORROW Cost is a huge barrier for some people looking to get into triathlon. You’ll find plenty of advice in this guide on buying the best kit you can for racing (turn to page 56 to get stuck in), but that doesn’t mean you need it all at once to get started. Many of the best triathletes in the world started their triathlon careers with borrowed bikes, old surf wetsuits and worn-out trainers. Kit like this won’t see you through a tri career but it’s enough to get you started – the marginal gains can wait for later. IT’S NOT A RACE (YET) Triathlon is all about competition, but that shouldn’t apply to your training, especially in the early days. Don’t compare yourself with friends who’ve taken up the sport with you or compete in swimming, cycling or running. Trying to keep pace with others is likely to lead to frustration, disappointment and injury. Keep your head, train for yourself using one of our plans, and then test yourself against your mates and the clock on race day.
START STRONG, STAY STRONG Forget being last out of the swim or having a puncture on the bike – there’s only one first-timer fear worth worrying about, and that’s getting injured before you even reach the start line. So turn to page 51 of this guide and start your strength training now, or get
yourself to some core strength or Pilates classes at your local gym. You won’t find a top-level triathlete who doesn’t do strength and conditioning work like this, but it’s surprisingly rare to find agegroupers who take it seriously. Get into good habits now and you’ll be racing strong for years to come.
MY FIRST TRI TOMLOWE
3rd 2010 Ironman Arizona, winner 2011 Ironman 70.3 Steelhead, 11th 2011 Ironman World Championships I come from a running background and in 2003; bored with the sport I’d been doing since the age of nine, I bought a bike. Due to my running ability and easy transition to bike fitness, I was selected for the British pro team at the 2004 World Duathlon Championships. From there I began to swim once or twice a week and at 26, entered the British Army Triathlon Championships. I had a below-average swim but chased hard on the bike and run, eventually coming sixth overall and was the first Army guy across the line.
12 BEGINNER’S GUIDE
AARON FARLOW Winner Challenge Wanaka 2012, Ironman UK 2011 I did all three sports separately at school and my PE teacher suggested that I have a go at triathlon. I was never great at any of the sports but enjoyed the challenge. My first event was a sprint race – the Condobolin triathlon. It seemed like an Ironman and took me a long time! I finished second in my age group. I raced with a mountain bike, a pair of Speedos and an old run singlet. That was where my love of the sport began. It was such a challenge to finish; I learnt just how much I enjoyed the challenge. My mum and sisters came to watch: they thought what I had done was amazing.
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TAKE THE FEAR OUT OF THIS TECHNICALLY TRICKY TRIATHLON DISCIPLINE IN ANY TRIATHLON, the swim is the shortest part of the race, but for many it represents the biggest challenge. If you haven’t swum since your school days then you’ll need professional help to get started again. But if you have a basic front crawl stroke, then some hard work and attention to technique will see you make vast improvements in just a few months. 14 BEGINNER’S GUIDE
Working out how many hours you should swim per week is tricky. The easy answer is that it takes around 10,000 hours of practice for an individual to truly master a task. This works out to roughly three hours of training a day for 10 years! Of course, most of us don’t have anywhere near the required time to emulate Olympic swimmers (especially when we split our time between three sports). So to decide
how much time you need to spend swimming, you need to consider the following issues. SWIM HISTORY A large percentage of triathletes come from a single-sport background, and those who started off as swimmers will already have the fundamental techniques for fast swimming. They’ll have several hundred training hours banked already, whereas those without a
Words Doug Hall, Paul Newsome Photo British Triathlon
BASICS SWIM swim background will have to work a little harder to catch up. The best way to illustrate this lesson is through two examples. The first is pro triathlete Björn Andersson, who is one of the fastest cyclists in the sport. He swam competitively before taking up triathlon and as a result he now only swims 4km a week in training, yet manages to stay fast enough to ensure that he exits the swim towards the front, allowing him to focus on what he is known for – cycling very, very fast. Compare this to British pro triathlete Adam Bowden. He’s from a running background and swims upwards of 4km per day to bring his swim up to standard with his running and cycling. TECHNIQUE There’s no point flogging yourself silly five times a week if you swim like a brick. Get some swim lessons from a triathlon or front-crawlspecific coach. Although it’s costly
“YOU NEED TO DEVELOP A STYLE THAT SUITS YOUR INDIVIDUAL BODY TYPE” in the short term, you’re better off spending £100 on swimming lessons than spending endless money on pool fees and swimming with bad technique. FREQUENCY There is no right distance or frequency for swim training, and in the end it depends on your background and aims. For your average Joe, swimming little and often works best. Short swims four to five times a week help your body remember movement patterns far easier, meaning you’re more likely to improve your technique, without getting overtrained or bored. Beyond this, it’s a case of prioritising your swim training according to your needs, and doing what you can in the time available.
3 SIMPLE STRETCHES
DOORWAYCHESTSTRETCH Standinginadoorwayorbesidea post,placeyourarmintheposition shownwithyourelbowatarightangle. Gentlypressforwardswithyourchest andfeelthestretchacrossthefrontof yourshoulderandthroughthepectoral (chest)muscle.
There is a widely held belief that there is one ideal stroke style – but it’s not true. Watch elite swimmers or triathletes and you’ll see a huge range of styles. Some have long smooth strokes, while others use a shorter, punchy style. They all swim differently, and yet they all swim fast. So how are you supposed to know the style that will suit you best? Well, you need to develop a style that’s suited to your individual body-type. Things like height, arm length, buoyancy and flexibility all vary hugely from one person to another, and are crucial to your swimming style. HEIGHT Many elite swimmers are extremely tall, with the men
Holdeachof thesestretchesfor approximately20 secondsand repeateachtwoto threetimes
2 SEATEDANKLESTRETCH Sitonthefloorwithonelegextendedin
frontandtheotherbentacrossthetop.Hold thetoplegasshownwiththehandgently pullingthefoottowardsyou.Thestretch shouldbefeltthroughthetopofthefootand intotheshin.
3 SEATEDHIPSTRETCH Settleintothepositionshownwith
yourleadlegangled90°atthekneeand yourrearlegstretchedoutbehind. Gentlypushyourhipsforwardand squeezeyourglutes(bum).You’llfeelthe stretchthroughthefrontofthehipand possiblyintothequadriceps(thighs). BEGINNER’S GUIDE 15
BEGINNER’S GUIDE normally over 1.9m (6ft 3in). When you swim, the speed at which you travel through the water is determined by a combination of the length of your stroke and the rate of your stroke (how many strokes you take per minute). So, tall swimmers are normally suited to a longer stroke with a slower stroke rate. If you’re not so tall, then your most efficient style is likely to be a shorter stroke with a faster turnover. If this sounds like you, the advantage you have over the taller folks is that you can increase your strokes-per-minute to a higher level without fighting the water. APE INDEX Rock climbers often refer to something called the ‘ape index’, and it’s relevant to swimming too. It’s a measure of your arm span minus your height, normally expressed in inches. And it’s very easy to measure (see panel, right). Most adults have an ape index of between -3in (meaning your arm span is three inches shorter than
“TO BE POWERFUL YOU NEED TO BE FLEXIBLE” your height) and +4in (meaning your arm span is four inches longer than your height). Zero or +1in is about average. If you have long arms for your height then you will probably benefit from using a longer, smoother stroke style. If you have short arms, a longer stroke style simply won’t work for you. BUOYANCY Many triathletes (particularly men) have poor natural buoyancy because their muscular legs drop down low in the water and cause 16 BEGINNER’S GUIDE
drag. A key piece of advice given to swimmers is aimed at helping to rectify this: look straight down at the bottom of the pool. This helps push the front end of your body down in the water and lift the back of your body up. If you already have good natural buoyancy, or a very efficient kick that lifts your back-end up high, then looking straight down can actually lift you up too high at the rear, leaving you feeling very unbalanced in the water. You would be best served by looking at the bottom of the pool one or two metres in front of you.
Your swim times are not just determined by hours in the pool. To develop a powerful and efficient stroke, you need to be flexible.
Australian swimming-legend Ian Thorpe was famous for arriving at training 30 minutes before every session to work on his mobility and flexibility. This extra conditioning work has often been cited as a reason why he was so successful in winning multiple Olympic gold medals. Poor flexibility can give rise to many stroke technique flaws including crossovers, dropped elbows and sinking legs, all of which severely limit your potential in the water. Fixing these issues doesn’t have to eat into your training time either. You can make big improvements by performing a stretching routine in front of the television in the evening. Triathletes need to focus on three main areas: the upper back and shoulders, the hips, and the ankles (see ‘3 simple stretches’, p15).
MEASURE YOUR APE INDEX
Stretch up against a wall or post, with lower ﬁngertips just touching the ground and top hand reaching as high as possible. keeping 2 Then, your top
ﬁnger in place, stand up and compare it to your height. You don’t have to be too precise with this, just look at the difference and estimate it in inches.
If your arms were two inches shorter than your height, your Ape Index (AI) would 3 be -2in. If your arms were two inches longer than your body, your AI would be +2.
IT MAY BE TRUE THAT YOU NEVER FORGET HOW TO RIDE A BIKE, BUT DOING IT WELL IS ANOTHER STORY Most adults would happily say they know how to ride a bike, but for those coming to triathlon without a strong cycling background, the realisation that they haven’t even sat on one for 10 years can come as a shock. Flashy bikes may be one of the 18 beginner’s guide
things that attracted you to the sport, but there’s a lot to get used to before you splash out on a £2,000 dream machine. Getting used to the way a bike handles again and building up some skills and mileage should be your first priorities.
FIT FOR PURPOSE To ride well you need to feel in tune with your bike, and to almost forget it’s there; you need to be able to control it instinctively. That’s not going to happen if your bike doesn’t work properly or is 10cm too small for you. So if you’re starting with an old bike, take it to your local bike shop for a service (from around £50, depending on what work needs doing) and ask them to adjust the fit for you as best they can. If it’s ‘near enough’ then you can start training on it until you’re ready to
Words Mat Brett, Phil Mosley Photo Triathlon.org Spomedis/ITU
buy a new bike. When you decide to do that, you don’t need to spend thousands of pounds; while you can get some brilliant bike deals online, if you are not buying in a store where you can be fitted, then have a bike fit done independently so you have a good idea what will be comfortable for you. BASIC MAINTENANCE One of the biggest frustrations for newer riders can be constant battles with the mechanics of the bike. Be prepared for this by learning and practising the absolute basics, number one being fixing a flat out on the road. Make sure you have a repair kit ready to take on every training ride, even your first 10-mile spins away from home; take a spare inner tube, tyre levers and pump. It’s also useful to carry a multitool to tighten up anything that starts to rattle, or for mid-ride saddle or bar adjustments (take care to have these checked later by a mechanic or friend who knows about bikes though, as it’s easy to adjust parts too loose or tight and cause damage to the bike or yourself). Invest in good track pump and keep your tyres to at least 100psi, learn how to clean and oil your chain, and check and adjust your brakes. Some bike shops and workshops offer half-day courses in bike maintenance.
CLIMBING MADE EASY THE NEW RIDER’S first instinct at the foot of another seemingly endless climb is to stand up, but while using your body weight to stomp the pedals down might seem like the obvious answer, different hills require different approaches. Knowing when to sit and when to stand could potentially propel you up your next hill more quickly and easily. For many people, it all boils down to personal preference, however there is some logic you can apply to climbing that might prove useful next time you’re at the bottom of a big ascent. When standing up, you use more energy because you are supporting your bodyweight on your legs rather than the saddle and working your upper body. You create slightly more drag, which can slow you down. However, you work a wider range of muscle fibres, easing the pressure on any one muscle; and you can ride at a higher maximum power, allowing you
to battle up the steepest sections of a climb. When sitting down (using a much lower gear), your upper body is relaxed, so you don’t waste any energy, and you save energy by letting your saddle take your weight. You have a lower profile shape so you also create less drag. However, your legs can feel sore from repeatedly using the same muscles on the climb, and as less strong cyclists will know, on very steep climbs it’s not possible to sit and ‘spin your way up’! So staying seated and keeping an even effort by moving through the gears is the best tactic for most climbs, but if it’s a long or steep climb, alternate between sitting and shorter bursts of standing up. When you’re climbing in the saddle, focus on spinning your legs in an easy gear, keeping your upper body relaxed. Think about maintaining a smooth, fluid pedal stroke, and keep your hands resting lightly on the handlebars.
Handling the bike well is a skill that takes years to learn properly, and if you are a new or nervous cyclist you will benefit from riding with more experienced athletes and watching how they handle their bikes. They’ll also be able to give you tips on your own riding as you go. Good handling not only makes your training more enjoyable and effective but saves minutes in triathlon races by saving you energy and helping you take the shortest, fastest route.
Knowing when to sit and when to stand is the key to getting up hills faster
beginner’s guide 19
beginner’s guide corneringquickly
You can keep pedaling through many bends, but when things get tight you have to ease off the power and perhaps hit the brakes. That’s when your cornering technique is vital. The more speed you can safely carry through the bends, the faster your bike split will be. Always be careful of other road users: don’t go swinging out into the carriageway if there’s traffic about. This advice doesn’t just apply to sharp corners; it holds good for any bend where you have to haul on the brakes and stop pedaling. And don’t forget to practise both left-handers and right-handers, or you could find yourself in trouble on race day. Here’s how to corner well: If you need to brake, do it before you reach the corner, easing the speed off steadily so that you enter the bend with momentum you can take through and out the other side. Rely on the front brake mostly but use the rear too if you need to scrub off extra speed in a hurry. Make sure that you’re in the gear you’ll need to accelerate out of the bend. Stop pedaling as you enter the bend and lean your body and bike to minimise the amount you have to turn the handlebars. Keep your inner pedal high so it doesn’t touch the road, with most of your weight on the outer pedal. Ideally, you won’t brake in the corner, but keep your hands over the levers just in case, keep your upper body low to add stability and focus on the exit.
Stop pedaling as you enter the corner, lean your body and bike over and keep your weight low
Coming out of the corner, smoothly straighten up, tilt the bike upright and get back on the tri-bars if you’re using them. Once there’s no danger of grounding a pedal, spin the cranks and get back into your rhythm. By carrying momentum through the bend, you’ll find this easier than riders who’ve braked in the corner.
Going down the other side of a hill you’ve conquered is the fun part but for some new or nervous riders it can be equally daunting. Learning to descend well keeps you safer and helps you grab a few extra minutes on nervy competitors in a race. The main things to remember are keep your eyes on the road and Learning to corner confidently helps you hold your speed
20 beginner’s guide
your hands off the brakes. When you brake, you upset the stability of the bike and your bike is more likely to act unpredictably. On very steep or long hills, if you feel you’ll build up too much speed without braking (or if there’s a lot of traffic and you want to stay in control), ‘feather’ both brakes very lightly to take the edge off as you go; don’t snatch hard at the brakes or you’ll come off. If you hit gravel or water, again resist the urge to brake, which will make you lose traction – just stay relaxed and glide over it. If you’re nervous, you might feel tempted to sit up on the tops of your handlebars when descending. However, it’s easier to control the bike if you stay in the drops (if you’re riding a triathlon bike on a twisty descent though, don’t stay on the tri-bars), and keeping your weight low gives you a lower centre of gravity and more stability. Keep your weight firmly on the saddle to help you control the bike. Most importantly, relax. If you tense up, you’ll feel the front of the bike start to ‘chatter’ and you’ll lose control. Stay calm, keep a relaxed grip on the drops, keep your eyes ahead and enjoy the free speed.
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Words Elizabeth Hufton Photo Delly Carr / Spomedis ITU
Whether you’re a neWbie taking your first steps or a hardened runner turning to tri, here’s the loWdoWn
22 beginner’s guide
OF THE THrEE triathlon disciplines, running provides the most converts, but even those who’ve spent years pounding the pavements can struggle to translate that strength to a solid tri finish. For anyone who hasn’t run before, it can seem like an uphill battle as your body learns to cope with this high-impact, high-energy sport. Here’s how to take your first steps.
If you have never run before, you shouldn’t feel daunted by the task ahead. You will be surprised how quickly your body adapts and you can go from feeling faint after a few minutes to running for half an hour with no problem. Start with a few basics to keep your early runs pain-free and progress quickly.
SorT your SHoeS
Running puts a great deal of stress on your muscles, tendons and joints so make sure you have the right shoes to absorb some of the shock. Visit a specialist running or triathlon shop to have your gait looked at and get some expert advice on which shoes are right for the job.
Start running on softer ground when you can – easy trails, parks, or even grass verges by the pavement. This will help your body to become conditioned to the impact before you move onto hard Tarmac or pavement.
WAlK IT off
Your first run might follow this familiar, disheartening pattern: head out of the door full of enthusiasm,
bound down the round, start to feel a bit achy but push on, get dizzy, and stop exhausted five or six minutes from home. You’ll probably decide from this that you’re ‘not cut out’ for running. But it’s a tough discipline to get used to with no water or bike to take your body weight, so instead of this all-or-nothing approach, decide from the outset to take walk breaks every few minutes. You can gradually increase the run time between breaks until you drop them altogether.
Even if you think you know about running, it’s time to reconsider your knowledge for triathlon.
STArT BrICKInG IT
Bad news, runners: you can’t count on years of experience to see you through your run leg in a triathlon. You need to add at least one brick session per week to your schedule. Don’t count this as a run session or bike session; it’s a separate entity. You have various options, but start simple: a 40-50-minute ride at close to race pace with a 10-minute run immediately afterwards. The easiest way to do this is in the gym or with a turbo trainer. As you get nearer to your race, set up a mini transition area at home complete with imaginary dismount line, so you can practise running with your bike and struggling into your run shoes.
Turn THe VoluMe doWn
If you’ve been a runner, you might be used to running four or five times a week, but that’s not possible when you’re training for triathlon. You just won’t have time to run that often and running too much will leave you fatigued, increase your risk of injury and have a detrimental effect on your overall training. You need a minimum of two run sessions a week, and if you’re training for middle-distance or shorter, make them quality sessions, ideally with a club. Third and fourth sessions can be for endurance only.
If your first race is an Ironmandistance race, and you’re not a marathon runner, you’ll need to put in the hours. If you have time, it’s worth running a marathon a few months before your long triathlon. This will teach your body to cope with running for long periods, and will also demonstrate exactly what you’ll have to deal with at the end of your triathlon. Find a run programme that builds up to a marathon on three or four days’ running a week, and just maintain your swim and bike training. After the race, take two weeks off running before starting a tri-specific programme.
“THinK YOu KnOW ABOuT running? rECOnSiDEr YOur KnOWLEDgE FOr TriATHLOn”
TrAIn WITH SPeCIAlISTS
Joining a triathlon club is the best way to learn. Failing that, find friends who are strong in your weaker disciplines – so if you’re a cyclist, do your run training with runners; or if you’re a runner, find a cyclist to train beginner’s guide 23
beginner’s guide Accept that your run time in a tri will be slower than your road running PB
with so that you don’t ‘cheat’ and put too much emphasis on running. If you’re training for triathlon with single-sport specialists, just be prepared for some stick about your ‘other sports’.
Try fuel, noT food
If you’re completely new to sport of any kind, then energy drinks are probably something you have when you need to pull an all-nighter for work. But sports-specific fuel will become your best friend in a triathlon and the sooner you start using it, the better. Running is the most energy-demanding of the three triathlon disciplines but also the one which makes digesting food hardest, so you must teach your body how to cope with it and sports energy products are especially designed for this purpose. In any run session lasting longer than an hour, aim for 30g of carbohydrates per half-hour of exercise, which will be 500ml of energy drink, or one gel. Even if you have taken up triathlon to lose weight, don’t scrimp on these calories – they’ll enable you to train harder and that will shift pounds faster than any diet you’ve ever tried.
head At the start of the tri run you’ve been through the ordeal of the swim and bike. You’ll have to deal with any downs you had earlier, or keep focused if you’re going better than expected. If you’re a runner, you can expect to be up to 10% slower than your road running PB and accepting that is the first step to running well in a tri. Then it’s all about keeping the fire going. You’ll have been racing for anything from 40 minutes in a fast sprint to 10 hours in a slow Ironman, so remind yourself you’re still racing rather than ‘hanging on’ for the finish. 24 beginner’s guide
Upper body We’ve all seen runners at the end of a marathon looking hunched over and tired. In a triathlon – even at sprint distance – they often start like that, thanks to a combination of fatigue, extra weight round the shoulders and arms from swimming, and being bent over on the bike. The answer? Stick to your training so you’re fit enough to stay upright; and include core and weights sessions (see p40). heart and lUngs Though you’ll be tired from the swim and bike, you have an advantage over straight road runners here (as long as you’re fit). Your first two disciplines have provided an effective warm-up, getting the blood pumping round your body and raising your heart rate and temperature, so you’re primed to run fast. stomach You can eat more easily on the bike than when you’re running, but practise carefully in training to avoid having food sitting in your stomach at the start of the run. The shorter and faster the race, the less solid food you can cope with, so stick to gels and drinks if it’s Olympic distance or shorter. In a middledistance (70.3) or long-distance (Ironman) race, you’ll need to keep
eating on the run. The most common mistakes rookie Ironmen make are not eating enough, or eating the wrong thing causing vomiting or unplanned toilet stops. Again, practice is key. legs This is the tricky bit of tri, shifting from bike to run often in less than a minute. On the bike, your legs are isolated and upper body still, and most of the power comes from your quads. On the run, you’ll need to get the muscles at the backs of your legs working harder. The shift of blood to these muscles takes time, and it’s this that causes ‘jelly legs’ and makes it hard to run. The answer? It’s the practice. Include at least one brick (bike-run) session per week in your training. Feet New triathletes are often surprised to find their feet are numb getting off the bike. This can make getting your shoes on a struggle. You can combat this by wearing socks to keep your feet warm, using cleats with more ‘float’ (side to side movement that doesn’t unclip you from the pedals), and wriggling your feet on the last lap of the bike. If this fails, put talc or Vaseline on your feet to slip into run shoes even if you are feeling numb.
Words Matt Brett, Elizabeth Hufton, Rob Grifﬁths, Ralph Hydes, Paul Ryman Photos British Triathlon, Triathlon.org/ Delly Carr/ Janos Schmidt / ITU
The need For Speed Once yOu’ve gOt the fitness tO cOver the distance, it’s time tO generate the speed tO reach the finish faster. get the pace tO race When you have a comfortable fitness base in all three disciplines and are able to train in each at least twice a week, you’re ready to start adding in some speedwork. you will hear coaches talking about this as ‘the icing on the cake’ – it’s what gives you that final injection of pace for your races, but without the basic
fitness built up underneath, you will fall flat. So, make sure you’re ready to do more and add in speedwork gradually.
We’re really referring to work that gives you a higher race speed; a better name for the training would be higher intensity work. Some speedwork – when you’re training for an Ironman, for example – may
Training fast helps you gauge your effort in races
beginner’s guide 27
BEGINNER’S GUIDE not seem especially fast but it’s conditioning your body to swim, bike and run faster on race day. Most speedwork takes the form of intervals of some kind. Instead of doing one steady ride of an hour, you might do a 10-minute warm-up, two 15-minute harder intervals with a five-minute rest, then a 10-minute cool down. Intervals can be as short as a few 40-second sprints on the bike or five hard 25m reps in the pool; or as long as a 40-minute run at marathon pace. Even if you’re not aiming for a particular race, introducing speedwork to your training will help you increase your fitness. It’s also a
time-effective way to build triathlon training into your routine.
Unless you’re a pro athlete, you’ll only have a limited amount of time to train so you have to get the most out of every minute of every session. And you can do that by increasing the intensity of your training sessions rather than the number of them. Intensity refers to how hard you’re working in each session and is measured by your heart rate, power output and pace. An intensive session would be when you are working at or above your anaerobic threshold (also
MEASURING EFFORT perCeiVedeXertion
Perceivedexertionoreffort,sometimes shownasRPEor‘rateofperceived exertion’,isexactlythat–theathlete himselfquantifieshowhardheis exercisingbasedonfeedbackfromhis breathing,heartrate,muscles,and fatigue.Peopleusedifferentscales,but 1-10isasimplestandardforbeginners. Withexperience,athletescanusethis methodtocontroltheirpaceas accuratelyasiftheywereusinga heart-ratemonitor.
Goodold-fashionedspeedcanbe measuredthesimpleway–measured routesandastopwatch–orthe high-techway,usingaGPSbikeor runmonitor.Ofcourse,it’sauseful measure when you’re training for a set measurewhenyou’retrainingforaset racepace,andonetheworldnumber oneandtwotriathletes,Alistairand Jonathan Brownlee, say they use above JonathanBrownlee,saytheyuseabove anyother.However,likeheartrate,it canbeaffectedbyexternalfactors. Onthebikeinparticular,weather conditions, route and equipment could conditions,routeandequipmentcould leaveyoufrustratedattryingtohit certainspeedtargets.However,ifyou think like the Brownlees, then you have thinkliketheBrownlees,thenyouhave tobeabletohitaspeedintrainingto countonhittingitinarace.
28 beginner’s guide
Asimpleheart-ratemonitordoesn’t costmuchandgivesusefulfeedback, notonlyontheintensityyou’retraining atbutonyourrestingheartrate,agood indicatorofyourgeneralfitness.Most heart-ratemonitorsenableyoutoset fourorfivezonestoworkin,with alarmstotellyouwhenyou’vehita certainintensity.Thedownsideisthat heartratecanbeaffectedbyweather conditions,tiredness,adrenalineand caffeine.Asyoubecomefitter,you shouldbeabletotrainfasteratlower heartrates.Moreexpensiveheart-rate monitorsallowyoutoperformfitness testsandresetyourzonesasyou improve,oracoachcanperformtests with you to set training levels. withyoutosettraininglevels.
known as your lactate threshold, functional threshold or race pace – see page 29). Research shows that working at high intensities for short durations, with adequate recovery periods, brings the biggest performance gains. One 1998 study from McMaster University in Canada investigated the effects of cycling interval sessions on VO2 max – results showed that participants’ VO2 max increased by nine per cent. For shorter sprint and standard distance races this is good news, as improvements in VO2 max and anaerobic threshold are critical to improving performance at these distances. Training at higher intensities has also been shown to make athletes more economical at all speeds and power outputs.
Start speed training in your lunch break with these quick sessions from triathlon coaches Ralph Hydes and Paul Ryman
1 lunch hour Speed SWiM
WarM-up: 200m easy front crawl as 6x50m with 15secs recovery Main set: Do as many 100m reps as you can. Go for 100m hard efforts working at 8/10 work rate with 30secs recovery WarM doWn: 200m warm down – 100m front crawl (slow, perfect stroke), 100m various strokes
2 race-pace SWiM
WarM-up: 400m easy swimming Main set: 10-15x100m with 10-15secs rest. Add two more reps each week. You should be able to get 20-30 reps in a 45min session depending upon your pace WarM doWn: 400m easy swimming and stretch
3 bike STrenGTH STrenGT
WarM-up: 5-10mins easy riding
Speedwork sessions are an effective way to get ready to race
Main set: Choose a hill thatâ€™s fairly steep (5-12% gradient) that takes you 4-7mins to climb, and ride up it four times at moderate to hard pace. Ride gently down and practise your descending to recover WarM doWn: 5-10mins easy riding and stretch
4 race-pace bike
WarM-up: 10mins easy riding Main set: 4-5x2.5-3 miles (4-5km) hard or at your race pace with 3mins easy riding to recover WarM doWn: 5-10 easy riding
5 inTerval run
WarM-up: 5mins walk, 5mins jog building to run, gradually raising your heart rate Main set: Start with 5x50m sprints with 50m easy jogging to recover. Then 10x90secs with
30secs slow jog to recover. Do reps 1-3 at 6/10 effort, reps 4-7 at 7/10 effort and reps 8-10 at 8/10 effort WarM doWn: 5mins easy jogging and stretch
6 MulTi-pace run
WarM-up: 5mins walk, 5mins jog building to run, gradually raising your heart rate Main set: 3mins easy run, then up the pace for 2mins medium-pace run, then run 1min at a fast pace. Repeat until youâ€™ve been running for 45mins WarM doWn: 5mins easy jogging and stretch
7 GyM brick
WarM-up: 5mins easy riding (on a spin bike rather than a conventional exercise bike, if possible) Main set: 6mins on the spin bike
as 1min seated followed by 1min standing. Then jump off the bike and get on the treadmill for 4mins at a moderate pace. Repeat this set 3 times. WarM doWn: 5mins easy riding and stretch
If you want to get more serious about increasing the intensity of your training, one of the best ideas is to join a triathlon club or find a coach who can help you build a training programme. You can get an idea of how to approach harder training from some of the best triathletes in the world. You might not train as hard as them, but the principles they use will work as well for your next goal race as for their world championship or Olympic targets. beginnerâ€™s guide 29
sWiM sPeed WiTh Julie dibenS Meet the expert Julie dibens JulieDibensisathree-timeXterraWorld ChampionandaformerGreatBritain swimmer,whichiswhyshe’salwaysamong theﬁrstoutofthewaterintriathlon
SPEEDWORK PREPARES your body to swim at a high pace that you can maintain throughout the swim leg. You need at least six weeks to get used to this kind of training but, if you work hard, you’ll see improvements quickly. If you’re swimming three times a week, you should do one endurance session, a race-pace session and a session where you work on both your speed and technique. We’re focusing on speedwork here so turn to page 14 for essential advice on triathlon swim training.
To determine your intended race pace, work back from the swim time you’re aiming for in the race and figure out what your 100m
pace would be. So, if you’re aiming to do 1500m in 25mins on race day, you’ll need to be able to swim 100m in 1:40mins. This pace is what you’d want to hold for your main set in this session, which should cover the distance you’ll be swimming on race day. Make sure you have a warm-up and cool-down swim either side of the main set and stay controlled throughout so that you don’t lose your technique.
Combining technique work with a speed session will ensure your stroke remains in good shape as your pace increases. Doing 4-6x100m sprints will help you increase your top speed, which you can use to get out of the chaos at the swim start and onto the feet of someone you can draft. In addition, if you can increase your top speed then your 1500m race pace will start to feel easier. But it’s important to hold technique as you raise the intensity, which is why you should mix in some slow, controlled drills with 100m sprints.
Emma Snowsill uses regular time trial sessions to build race speed
e sPeed biKe Meet the expert emma snowsill Snowsill is an Olympic, Commonwealth and three-time world champion, which makes her one of the most successful triathletes on the planet
LONG, STEADY RIDES in the off-season are what lay the foundation for shorter, faster sessions focused on speed as the race season approaches. At this point, you’ll want to reduce the volume of your bike training but increase the intensity. You can cut the duration or the number of your 30 beginner’s guide
WiTh eMMa SnoWSill sessions but, either way, your bike training is going to get harder. There are various ways you can increase you speed but three of the simplest are intervals, strength sessions and time trials.
Start off by doing 4x10min intervals and gradually build up to 6x10mins, with 5mins rest between each effort. Go all-out for each of the intervals, giving them everything you’ve got.
Find a long hill and put your bike into a big gear – as big as you can
manage. Then ride as fast as you can up the hill for 5mins, followed by 2mins of easy spinning. Repeat that five or six times. But make sure you build up to this – don’t go all-out first time or you’ll hurt your knees. Do a few shorter efforts to begin with and increase it gradually.
Add a time trial into your training week, at a distance that takes around 20mins at first. Build them up week by week to the point where you’re time trialling for an hour or so, at a pace you could hold for two hours. Then, during the race season, do an all-out 40km time trial every week.
Youwillheartheterm‘threshold training’alotintriathlon.Itrefersto trainingatoraroundyourlactate threshold,andit’simportantto includeinsomesessionsbecausein mostracesyoucompetein,youwill beoperatingatorabovethelactate thresholdbytheendoftherace. Sowhatisyourlactatethreshold? Asyourmusclesconvertglucoseinto energyyouproducelacticacid,which istransportedoutofyourmuscles andintoyourbloodwhereitappears asbloodlactate.Yourlactate thresholdistheexerciseintensity atwhichyoucan’tdisperseit,soit startstobuildup.Thistypically happenswhenyou’reworkingat 80-90percentofyourmaximum heartrate,althoughtheexactlevel willvarywithindividuals. Whenyouexerciseatanintensity aboveyourlactatethreshold,the accumulationoflactatewill eventuallyreachalevelwhereit causesyourbreathingtobecome muchquickerandmorelaboured. Therearearangeofphysiological tests,includingblood-testing devices,thatcanmeasurewhenyou reachyourlactatethreshold,but afterawhileyoushouldbeabletotell simplyfromhowyourbodyfeels– yourlegsgrowingheavyandyour breathingbecomingmorelaboured aregoodindications. Thehighertheexerciseintensity thatyoucanmaintainbeforehitting yourlactatethreshold,thebetter yourperformancewillbein enduranceevents.Thefitteryou becomethroughyourtraining,the longeryou’llbeabletosustain exerciseatyourlactatethreshold beforeyouneedtoslowdownorstop. Steadytrainingbelowyour lactatethresholdforsustained periodsraisesit, butyouwillalso needtoworkatyourthreshold intensitytogetthelastouncesof speedfromyourbodyandtobecome usedtotheburningsensationthat you’llfeelinyourlimbs.
beginner’s guide 31
BEGINNER’S GUIDE Simon Lessing believes that less is more when it comes to run volume
run sPeed ee WiTh SiMon leSSinG Meet the expert simon lessing Simon Lessing is a four-time world champion and has competed at both the Olympic and Commonwealth Games. He is now a triathloncoach
MY TRAINING PHILOSOPHY has always been about more intensity and less volume, and it certainly worked for me. I think triathletes on the whole are too obsessed with volume. You need to figure out what works for you but a lot of triathletes would be surprised at how much they could reduce their training volume and still improve. Doing a lower volume means you have extra time and energy to put into more structured, higher 32 beginner’s guide
intensity workouts like interval training. You’re going to get more out of an interval session than a daily 90-minute jog.
As a triathlete you’re trying to develop the ability to maintain a high pace throughout the run. If you only run slowly in training, you won’t develop your efficiency or increase your capacity for speed. However, intervals do create efficiency at the speed you aim to race at, so you become able to maintain a fast pace at a lower heart rate. If you’re just starting out, spend about a month just going out three or four times a week and running without any particular structure. After that, start adding a weekly workout of light intervals. If you’re working towards an Olympic-
distance triathlon, run your intervals at the pace you want to sustain during the final 10km run leg. After a 20min warm-up, run 5x800m at your 10km pace, followed by 2:30mins of easy running to recover. Alternatively, your intervals could take the form of a fartlek session where, after a 20min warm-up, you vary your speed significantly rather than running at a continuous pace. It needn’t be too structured, just play around with sprinting for lampposts or landmarks, easy running to recover and mixing in a few sections at a moderate, maintainable pace. Or you could do an interval session based on time where you run for 5x3-4mins at your 10km race pace, with 2:30mins recovery between efforts.
aBsolutE BEginnErs we’ve told you how to start swimming, cycling and running; here’s how to put it all together to become a first-time triathlete
Words Phil Mosley Photo British Triathlon
EvEryonE has to start somewhere, even world champions like alistair Brownlee. so if you’re completely new to triathlon this is the best place to be. the four-week training plan on the next two pages is designed to get you into the swing of regular swim, bike and run training so you can soon start calling yourself a fully-fledged triathlete. It will help you build up a solid fitness foundation so that by the end of it, you will be in an ideal position to try any one of the race-specific training plans that we publish every month in Triathlon Plus and on triradar. com, and to start you off we’re following this four-week introduction with a plan to take you right up to your first pool-based sprint race.
Anyone who’s reasonably fit and healthy can try this plan, but it’s always a good idea to get a check-up from a doctor if you’re not 100% sure. And if you find the training too hard, please don’t give up straight away. Try halving or even quartering the distances for four weeks, and then increase them gradually from there until you can manage the full amount. These sessions shouldn’t kill you, so just reduce them if they’re too hard. It’s not a contest to see how much you can punish yourself in training. If you come from an individual swimming, cycling or running background, it’s not a bad idea to use this training plan to gradually build up your experience of the other two disciplines. For example, if you’re a runner, use these swimming and cycling workouts and stick with your existing run training to get triathlon-fit.
need to know SWIM
Thequickestwaytoimproveyour swimmingistoinvestinone-to-one lessons,soyoudon’twastehours reinforcingbadtechnique.Get yourselfsomeswimtoystoo(see page58foraguidetothese).You’ll alsoneedagoodpairofgogglesthat don’tsteamuporleak,anda swimmingcostumethatdoesn’tflap aboutorrestrictyourstroke.Start yourswimtraininginalocalpool wheretheyhaveseparatelanesfor seriousswimmers(that’syou!), preferablywhenit’squiet.
Youdon’tneedaposhracingbikeat thisstage–anysafeandfunctional bikewilldoaslongasitfitsyou properly.You’llneedahelmet,mitts andpaddedcyclingshortstoo(find outmoreaboutbikekitonpage56). There’salottogetyourheadaround whenyoufirststartcycling,like maintenance,punctures,changeable weatherandfindingquietroutes. Eventhehardsaddlewilltakeafew weekstogetusedto.Allthesethings geteasierintime,sobepatient.
Thekeythingwhenyoustartrunning ismoderation.Toomuchtoosoon, andyou’llgetinjuredwithinamatter ofweeks.Twoorthreerunsaweekis plenty.Youdon’thavetobebreathing hardorfeelingtotallyknackeredfor ittobeeffectivetraining.Chillout, walkabit,andyou’llgradually improveovertheweeksandmonths withoutsuccumbingtoinjury.
beginner’s guide 35
beginner’s guide WEEK ONE 15minsas run1min,walk1min Notes:Makesureyoustartoutwithproperrunningshoes.Mostrunningshopswillrecommendthebestshoesfor you,basedonananalysisof yourgait–findoutmoreonpage60
16x25mas(alternating25mFC,25mKICK,25mBREAST,25mPULL) +2secsrests Notes:We’llbeusingvariousabbreviationsintheseswimsets,socheckouttheKEYatthebottomofthepage
Put your feet up and recover from the week
8x25mas(alternating25mFC,25mBREAST)+20secrests.4x50mas(50mKICK,50mPULL).Youcanincludefins, handpaddlesandsnorkelifyourpoolallows Notes:Ifyou’vehadswimminglessonsandbeengivendrillstopractise,incorporatethemintoyourwarm-up
Ride30minsatasteadypace,straightintorun10minsalternating1minwalk/1minrun Notes:Getyoursaddleheightright.Whenyou’resittingonthesaddle,youshouldjustaboutbeabletorestyourheel onthepedalwithyourlegstraight.Otheradjustmentslikehandlebarheight,andsaddlefore/afttakeabitmoretime
Ride30minsatasteadypace Notes:Ontheflatsyoushouldbegoing easyenoughthatyoucanbreatheeasilyjustthroughyournoseif youchooseto
WEEK tWO Mon
20minsas 1minrun,1minwalk Notes:Youdon’thavetorunhard.Trytorunatachattingpace.Ifthat’simpossible,shortentherunsectionsand increasethewalkbreaks
WU8x25malternatingFC,BREAST+15secsrestsMAIN8x50malternating50mPULL,50mKICK+30secsrests WD4x50mBREAST Notes:Rideataneasypace,butworkhardupthehills
Put your feet up and recover from the week
WU8x50malternatingFC,KICK+20secsrests MAIN8x50mPULLas25measy,25mhard+30secsrests4x50m KICKas25measy,25mhard+20secsrests WD4x50mBREAST
Ride40minsatasteadypace,straightinto10minsrun,alternating1minwalk/1minrun Notes: Keepyourtyresupatthepressurerecommendedontheirsidewall.Anuprighttrackpumpisbest
keY wU Warm up wd Warm down MAIn Main set FC Front crawl BReASt Breaststroke kICk Kicking with a kick float held at arms length PULL Front crawl with a pull buoy between your legs 36 beginner’s guide
beginner’s plan WEEK thREE Mon
Put your feet up and recover from the week
WU8x50malternatingFC,BREAST +20secsrests MAIN4x100mas(alternating100mPULL,100mFC)+45secs rests.4x100mKICKas(alternating25measy,25mhard)+30secsrests WD4x50mBREAST
25minsas 1minrun,1minwalk Notes:Youcanincreasethelengthoftherunsto90secsifyoufeeluptoit,decreasingthewalksto30secs
Ride1hratasteadypace Notes:Ifyou’regettingsaddlesore,tryusingsomechamoiscreamorVaseline.Ifthatdoesn’thelp,itmaybea bike-fittingissuethat’scausingyouproblems,soseekexperthelp
Ride50minsatasteadypace,straightintorun10minsalternating90secsrun/30secswalk Notes:Buyasaddlebagforyourbike.Alwayscarrytwospareinnertubes,tyreleversandpatches.Keepamini-pump inyourbackpocket
WEEK fOUR Mon
WU4x100malternatingFC,BREAST+30secsrests MAIN4x100mFCas(alternating25mhard,25measy)+45secs rests4x50mhardKICK+30secsrestsWD4x100mBREAST
Put your feet up and recover from the week
WU8x50malternatingFC,BREAST+20secsrests MAIN200mPULL+45secsrest.8x25msprintKICK +30secrests.4x100mFCas(alternating25measy,25mhard)+30secsrests WD4x50mBREAST Notes:We’reupto200mnon-stoptoday(withapullbuoy)
keY wU Warm up wd Warm down MAIn Main set FC Front crawl BReASt Breaststroke kICk Kicking with a kick float held at arms length PULL Front crawl with a pull buoy between your legs beginner’s guide 37
build on your tri fitness and get ready to race with this four-week pool-based sprint triathlon training plan
there are lots of pool-based sprint-distance triathlons to choose from around the uK. these races are ideal for firsttimers or anyone wanting to get ready for a season of racing. There are various formats, but 400m/20k/5k is a common one. They’re short and sharp, often with a disproportionately short swim 38 beginner’s guide
section, so if swimming is your weak point, these might be the races for you. If you’re already fairly fit you can start it straight away, or you can use the four-week absolute beginner’s plan on the previous two pages as a base before starting this – just don’t forget to take an easy week between the two. Anyone who can run 5k, ride a bike and
swim 16 lengths (even if it’s breaststroke) can potentially do a sprint tri. This training plan will get you race ready, so all you need to worry about is working hard. The final week of this training plan is a taper, so you should be well rested for the big event. You’ll also need a kick float and pull buoy for the swim training sessions.
Words Doug Hall Photo James Lampard
beginnerâ€™s plan WEEK ONE Mon
WU10minslightintensity MAIN6x3minshardwith2minsrecoveries WD10minslightintensity
WU10minslightjogging.5minssteady/tempoMAIN5x2minshardwith2minswalk/jogrestsWD10minslight jogging. Optionalswim:30minseasy,mixedstrokes WU400mas2x(50mFC,50mKICK,50mPULL,50mFC)MAIN200mas2x(100mFC,atapproxracepacewith60secs rests).400mas8x(50measyPULLwith30secsrests) WD400mas2x(50mFC,50mBACK,50mBREAST,50mFC)
WU400mswimeasy,mixedstrokes MAIN400mas(8x50mFChard,with20secsrests).400malternating25m KICK,50mFCWD200mswimeasy,mixedstrokes Optionalgymsession:Strengthandcore conditioningwork30mins
WEEK tWO Mon
WU10minslightjogging.5minssteady/tempo MAIN3x4minshardwith2minswalk/jog rests WD10minslight jogging.Optionalswim:30minseasy,mixedstrokes
WU400mas(200mFC,200mPULL) MAIN200mas(100mFC,50mback,50mFC)with30secsrests.200mas (100mFC,50mbreast,50mFC)with30secsrests.2x200matraceeffort,aimingforevenpacing,with60secsrest WD400measyFC/PULL
WU400mswimeasy,mixedstrokesMAIN400mas(4x100mFChard,with30secrests).400malternating25mKICK 50mFCWD200mswimeasy,mixedstrokes Optionalgymsession:Strengthandcore conditioningwork30mins
keY wU Warm up wd Warm down MAIn Main set FC Front crawl BReASt Breaststroke kICk Kicking with a kick float held at arms length PULL Front crawl with a pull buoy between your legs beginnerâ€™s guide 39
beginnerâ€™s guide WEEK thREE Mon
WU10minslightjogging MAIN3x5minshardwith2minswalk/jog restsWD10minslightjogging Optionalswim:30minseasy,mixedstrokes
WU400mswimeasy,mixedstrokesMAIN400mas(2x200mFCathighintensity,with30secrest).400malternating 25mKICK,50mFC WD400mswimeasy,mixedstrokes Optionalgymsession:Strengthandcore conditioningwork30mins
WU10minslightintensity MAIN3x9minshardwith3minsrecoveries WD10minslightintensity
WEEK fOUR Mon
keY wU Warm up wd Warm down MAIn Main set FC Front crawl BReASt Breaststroke kICk Kicking with a kick float held at arms length PULL Front crawl with a pull buoy between your legs 40 beginnerâ€™s guide
reACH your rACe WeIGHT
Lighten the Load and get yourseLf in the right shaPe for racing If you’ve ever watched an elite triathlon race, it can’t have escaped your attention that pro triathletes are leaner than the rest of us. And while age-group athletes come in all shapes and sizes, you’ll also find that the men and women winning their age groups aren’t carrying much excess baggage. So what difference does your body weight make when it comes to racing? Think about it this way: if 42 beginner’s guide
you were to cycle up a hill in light summer kit, then cycle up it again but carrying a backpack containing 5kg of rocks, which would be the harder ride? Excess body fat is as useless for your bike performance as that bag of rocks. And the same is true for running. When it comes to swimming, however, things get a little more complicated. In some ways, body fat is a good thing for swimming. A bit like a wetsuit, body fat gives you
extra buoyancy so that you don’t have to use as much energy just trying to stay afloat. But there are downsides to swimming with excess body fat. The increased tummy size – among other things – causes drag, creating little eddy currents that slow you down. Swimmers’ shoulders and necks also tend to be bigger, and those create extra drag too, adding further seconds to swim times. The combined effect of that extra drag
Words Phil Mosley, Kevin Currell Photo Delly Carr
Race Weight means that excess body fat does hinder your swim performance. When we talk about ‘race weight’, though, we’re not just talking about the number on the scales, and we’re not talking about being super-lean all year round.
If you want to hit your ideal race weight you should measure your body fat, rather than just rely on your humble bathroom scales. After all, body weight is only one component of your body composition and is hugely variable. Your weight can be affected by so many factors, including the time of day, the amount you ate in your last meal and how hydrated you are to name but a few. Measuring body fat is not always easy. One of the simplest ways is bioelectrical impedance, which involves sending a small electrical current through your body. This is the method used by most electronic bathroom scales sold on the high street, so it’s cheap and easy to use. But it’s not the most accurate of measures and needs to be well controlled. The gold standard is provided by machines that do something called dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). These are very specialist machines and are often hard to come by. The most practical method is the simple skinfold calliper. You should find most dieticians and nutritionists will be able to measure your body fat using this method, as will your local gym or leisure centre.
“exCess fAT Is As useless for your performAnCe As A bAG of roCks” sessions can be extremely effective too (see ‘The Need For Speed’, p27, for all you need to know about high-intensity sessions). In fact, if you have limited time, high-intensity training is the best way to increase your energy expenditure. You’ll burn more fuel per minute and hence more calories in a shorter time. Some research even suggests high-intensity exercise will increase your resting metabolic rate, helping you to burn more calories at rest.
On the other hand if you only do long, slow training you’ll need to do very long sessions to burn the same amount of calories. However, experience suggests that both methods work, but it boils down to the individual. Some athletes lose weight during periods of long, slow training whereas others need high-intensity training to enable them to shed the weight. The simple advice is that if one doesn’t work, try the other or better still, use a mixture of both. Short, high-intensity sessions are the key to getting lean like the pros
Research is pretty inconclusive about the kind of training that’s best for losing weight. Conventional thinking has it that long, slow sessions in the ‘fat- burning zone’ are the best way to achieve weight loss, but short high-intensity beginner’s guide 43
beginner’s guide SEASONALWEIGHT
Hitting your ideal weight for a couple of months in the summer can help you compete to your potential, but holding low body fat throughout the year is a bad idea. During the colder months it’s important to put on some weight, particularly if you got very lean during the race season. This is best done through increasing body fat, and with the reduced training volume during the off season, and reduced energy expenditure as a result, it should be easy to do. The benefits of increasing your body weight during the winter include avoiding colds, preventing injury, preventing overtraining, staying warm and, for females, a healthy and regular menstrual cycle. Some athletes, like ’97 Tour de France champion Jan Ullrich, believe that training ‘heavy’ in the winter helps them become even faster, as their body gets super-fit from lugging all that extra weight up the hills.
The need to be at race weight should not become your be-all and end-all. Your main focus should be on making sure your training is optimised and appropriate nutrition is in place to support your training and maintain your health. Common dieting mistakes include deliberately trying to lower body weight when training hard, cutting out certain nutrients all together, particularly carbohydrate, and thinking leaner is better. The key to finding your optimum body weight is consistency. If you consistently follow a sensible diet and you train consistently you should find that your body takes care of itself. This list of top 10 raceweight rules should help you achieve a sensible long-term solution to your nutritional needs. Stick to these rules and train 44 beginner’s guide
regularly, and you’ll soon find that your body finds its own optimum weight and body composition.
CAn THe AlCoHol Cut out the booze. Not only is it useless for training, but alcoholic drinks generally contain large amounts of calories. Drunkenness also gives you false signs of hunger, encouraging you to eat unhealthy snacks that your body doesn’t need. Booze has no nutritional value, so it should be the first thing that you cut out.
GeT your proTeIn Maintain your protein intake. Research has shown that proper protein intake is key to losing weight. It helps to maintain muscle mass, which keeps your resting metabolic rate high. It also fills you up so you’re less likely to overeat.
bIn Junk fooD Cut out snacks and fizzy drinks completely. It sounds obvious, but this can be very effective. The odd chocolate bar or bag of crisps may seem OK, but they really add up. If you genuinely want to lose weight, cut them out – they’re empty calories and don’t have any real nutritional value.
fIll WITH fruIT AnD veG Increase your fruit and vegetable intake. This is a great way of filling your plate or snacking. Fruit and vegetables have a low calorie count for their size and bulk. They help fill you up without fattening you up.
eAT loW GI fooDs Foods with a low glycaemic index (GI) release their energy slowly, decreasing your body’s insulin response to the carbohydrate. Low GI foods include brown pasta and rice, rye bread and sweet potatoes.
TrAIn sensIbly Don’t try to deliberately drop body weight during a hard training period. This is a fairly common mistake and can lead to overtraining, illness and injury. Identify the blocks of training where you’ll be training hard and make sure you fuel fully.
keep IT sTeADy Losing weight too quickly can be dangerous. Look to make slow, gradual decreases in your body fat to ensure you can still train without become too fatigued. Crash dieting will not only hinder your training, but will also compromise your body’s ability to refuel and recover properly.
reTHInk your sessIons Don’t think it’s all about the miles. Quite often a change in training can be as effective as doing more mileage. Increasing the intensity of training can be very effective in helping to keep your metabolic rate higher for longer.
keep IT reAl Set yourself achievable weight-loss targets. Setting unrealistic ones can be dangerous and unrewarding. If you set unrealistic weight-loss targets you’re unlikely to hit them, which might encourage you to reduce your calorie intake further. This can lead to overtraining, injury, illness and unhappiness.
eAT up Skipping meals is a common mistake that leads to dizziness and lack of energy. It can often mean you end up eating more in subsequent meals because you’re over-hungry. Decrease your portion sizes across all meals, or bulk them up with veg, rather than missing a meal altogether.
Words Emma-Kate Lidbury, Ralph Hydes, Midgie Thompson (brightfuturescoaching.com) Photos Triathlon.org/ Delly Carr/ Janos Schmidt/ Frank Wechsel/ ITU
get ready to race You’ve done the training, worked on Your technique and now it’s time to race. here’s how to get it right
it takes weeks of preparation to be able to race a triathlon well. you need to have all your gear ready and in good working order, you need to have got your body in shape with the right food and conditioning, and you need to have your head in the right place. when you’re counting down the last few days to your first race, here’s how to make your final preparations.
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Get over your fears Are you looking at your race wondering whether you will finish? Are you doubting your training and wondering whether you’ve done enough preparation? If you answered yes, you’re in good company with many great athletes. But you can banish those doubts and fears and stand there calmly and full of quiet confidence by strengthening what we’ll call your ‘confidence muscle’.
Confidence is based on past experiences and your perception of how you measure up against your own measures of success. This is how you as an individual should define success, rather than how other people do. People with confidence have a ‘can do’ attitude and focus on the positives. They look for something positive, even when there does not seem to be anything. A confident person will admit when they make
“people with confidence have a ‘can do’ attitude and focus on positives”
mistakes and will learn from them. People who lack confidence focus on the negatives, and struggle to acknowledge when things do go well. They may point their finger at everything and everyone else for their results. The key to strengthening your confidence is focusing on the positives. You flex that confidence muscle by looking at all the things you did well and that went right, even when the end result was not what you wanted. If you are in the habit of focusing on the negatives, this will take a conscious and consistent effort to shift. Become aware of your thoughts and what you focus on. Every time you notice you are thinking negative, work hard to shift
your thoughts to something that is more positive. You can work the confidence muscle before a race just like you’d train on the bike or in the pool to build your physical muscles. You can build that ‘confidence muscle’ by writing a confidence CV. This is a list of all your past achievements and successes – in all areas of your life – much like a training diary of your exercise sessions. This CV helps you to see what you have accomplished. Look for occasions where you can you give yourself a pat on the back, big or small, and write them down. This confidence CV is an acknowledgement of all the great things you have done in your life and will help you to shift your focus on to the positives. Another way to boost confidence is through visualisation exercises. Imagine you’re watching a movie where you are the lead character and where you are your most confident and amazing self. Imagine, for example, you at your next event. See what you will see, hear what you will hear and even get a sense of the feelings you’ll feel when you are confident and everything is going
perfectly. Also, see yourself handling anything that comes your way that might not be perfect, like a flat tyre. Then, imagine you are actually in that movie now. If that is somewhat challenging, imagine what it might be like if you had all that confidence. Or, imagine someone who has lots of confidence and pretend you are like them. Repeatedly watch that movie in your head before your big event. Then, when you actually come to the real thing, you will have an increased sense of confidence because you have done it before, even if it was just in your mind! fuel your race riGht In the week leading up to your race, there’s no need to follow a special diet. You may have heard of a process called ‘carb loading’ where athletes deliberately overeat carbohydrates before a long race. In practice that might lead to you feeling sluggish and having digestive problems on the day of the race. Eat as you normally would, with a good balance of carbs, fats, protein and fruit and vegetables. Your training should reduce in the run-up to your beginner’s guide 47
beginner’s guide race so you’ll naturally be storing some extra calories anyway. In the last couple of days before a race, slightly reduce the amount of fibre in your diet. This is because fibre is a common cause of gastro-intestinal distress during a race. On the day of the race itself, make sure you get a good breakfast of 300-400kcal, a few hours before the start at least. If it’s a really early start – some triathlons start at dawn – you’re better off with a lighter breakfast, just an energy bar or a couple of slices of toast. During the race if it’s an Olympic-distance event or longer, aim to take on 60-90g of carbohydrates per hour. That means two energy gels, or a litre of energy drink, every hour – make sure you have it ready on your bike with gels stashed in the pockets of your tri suit, and make sure you use products you’ve practised with.
set uP your traNsitioN Make sure your transition area is laid out methodically and rehearse the order you’ll grab your kit. Form a mental checklist that you can run through when the time comes during the race, so that you stay calm and focused.
RACEBELT If you have to wear a belt for the bike and run, put it on underneath your wetsuit at the start of the race. If it’s only needed for the run, pick it up with your run cap/visor and fuel in T2. Put the belt on once you’re on the move.
CAP/VISOR Pick this up as you pull on your run shoes in T2 and, once you’re making your way through transition, pull it on. Make sure you’ve adjusted it, so that it fits and stays on, before the race to avoid any mid-race dramas.
TOWEL If you’re allowed to use a towel, lay it in front of your bike so you can spot your kit. Stand on your towel as you grab your bike to remove dirt from your feet, but don’t waste time drying them – that will happen naturally on the bike.
FUEL Lay this beside your run shoes so you can grab it easily in T2. If you’re taking fuel on the bike, try taping it to your top tube, or having one or two energy gels in your tri-suit pockets from the start of the swim (if it’s a wetsuit swim).
RUNSHOES Have these ready to dive into as soon as you’ve racked your bike. Replace your usual laces with elastic laces beforehand and lock them in place so all you need to do is push your feet inside your shoes. Sprinkle
how to Do a race warM-uP
LEG SWINGS After a ﬁve- or 10-minute jog, start with some leg swings. Stand side-on to a support – your bike, another person or a fence. Swing your outside leg from the hip, keeping it loose (the knee can be slightly bent) taking care not to twist the whole body. Switch sides.
48 beginner’s guide
PENDULUM SWINGS Next, face your support, holding on at arm’s length and swing each leg in turn across the front of your body. You don’t need to swing the leg too far – just make sure it’s enough of a distance to feel a stretch. Keep the movement controlled – it’s not about speed, focus on the movement and the stretch.
KICKS 3 BACK Standing side-on again, kick your
leg slowly backwards. Many people ﬁnd their leg tends to turn out during this movement, which means you’re not working the glutes as hard, so make sure you keep your toes pointing down (have someone check this while you stretch).
racing tactics some talc inside them before the race as this will help you get them on in T2. BIKESHOES If you’re new to tri, have your bike shoes in front of your bike (and in front of your run shoes), open and ready to go on as soon as your wetsuit is off. However, you can speed up by attaching them to your bike and putting them on as you pedal: keep the shoes in place by putting an elastic band through the loop on the heel then attaching the band to your bike frame. Run through T1, jump on your bike, start pedaling and the bands will break off as you pedal.
HELMETANDGLASSES Before the race, place your helmet on your handlebars so you can grab it easily. Balance your sunnies inside your helmet with the arms extended so you can slip them on then put your helmet on. Practise putting it on and fastening the strap at speed. BIKE Rack your bike by the saddle or handlebars. Don’t touch it until you’ve secured your helmet, or you’ll get a penalty. Then grab your bike and run through T1 to the mount line. It’s faster if you hold the bike by the saddle with one hand. At the line, transfer both hands to the handlebars and jump on.
“ride in the Most aero position you can – you’ll save energy”
DuriNG the race
The important thing is to remember all the training you’ve done, stay focused and feel confident in your ability. Here are a few more tips to help your race go smoothly SWIM: Before your swim, make sure your wetsuit is worked all the way up your body properly, so you have good freedom of movement in the arms and shoulders. Get into the water and acclimatise to the temperature. In a deep-water start (which most are in the UK), spread out flat in the water ready to swim. If you’re feeling anxious, move to the outside and back of the pack so you have plenty of room to swim at your own pace. And don’t forget to sight! T1: You’ll be dizzy when you stand up from the swim so take a moment to become re-orientated. Start stripping your wetsuit off as you run to transition. In T1, take your time and do exactly what you’ve rehearsed. BIKE: Ride in the most aero position you can through the bike leg; you’ll save energy and gain free speed. That means keeping your hands on the drops and your back low and flat. Stay in the big ring as long as it doesn’t ‘burn’ your legs; you’re in a race so can afford to push yourself! Make sure you stay a safe distance from other athletes, as almost all age-group races are not draft legal. You need to stay seven metres back from the rider in front, and if you’re passed, it’s your responsibility to maintain that gap – either by overtaking again if you’re confident, or by dropping back.
ARM CIRCLES By the time you get your wetsuit on, your upper body should be pretty warm! Once it’s on, swing each arm from the shoulder in wide circles, keeping the movement controlled.
SLAPS 5 BACK Bring both arms up to shoulder
level. Swing them forwards to cross over in front of you and all the way round, so that each hand slaps the opposite side of your back (ie your right hand slaps your left shoulder blade and vice versa). If you can, ﬁnish the warm-up with a quick swim.
T2: In your first race, take the extra few seconds to make sure your run shoes are comfortably on with no creases in the insoles – you’ll be thankful halfway round your run. RUN: Your brick sessions should have helped prepare you for the ‘jelly legs’ start of the run, but you’ll need to use your head to get round the rest of it. Have a gel as you start the run – the sugar hit will help keep your mind positive. Concentrate on your form and get to the finish.
beginner’s guide 49
STRENGTH TRAINING FOR TRIATHLON
Words Ralph Hydes Photo Robert Smith
A SIMPLE HOME-BASED RESISTANCE ROUTINE BUILDS A SOLID FOUNDATION FOR ALL YOUR TRI TRAINING
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Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to use strength training effectively, let’s define what we mean by strength. Strength is the ability to generate power through a muscle. For triathlon, this needs to be strength endurance, which is the ability to generate power repeatedly through the muscles. The more strength and endurance your muscles have, the faster you will be able to go for long periods of time. It is important to build a balance of strength in both antagonist and synergist muscles (the working muscle and opposing muscle). This will help with cycling up hills, swimming in choppy water and running over undulating terrain. Unbalanced muscles will lead to poor posture and inefficiency, resulting in early fatigue and injury, which is bad news. FUNDAMENTALS OF STRENGTH TRAINING So we’ve convinced you that strength training is a good idea. Now we just need to work out how to fit it into your already-packed routine. Firstly, you should start incorporating these sessions into your programme slowly, especially if you haven’t done any resistance 52 beginner’s guide
training before or for a long time. Start off with just one strength session a week. You can do these exercises at home in the evening or after your swim, bike or run sessions. You can perform all of the exercises we’ve given after any run session. Strength training at home is the simplest way to add it to your routine and the benefit is that you can do it any time that suits you. On the downside, there are lots of distractions at home, so start each session by setting up a dedicated ‘gym’ area; write a list of the exercises you’re going to perform in your session and tick them off as you go along. It’s also helpful to note the weight, number of reps and sets you do so that you can progress your exercises each week. For these exercises you’ll need a resistance band, such as a Dynaband (dynaband.co.uk) and a Swiss ball, and if you have hard floors, a non-slip exercise mat is a good idea too.
BUILDING YOUR SESSIONS
● Work each muscle group up to three times per week on nonconsecutive days
● Warm up before each session with five to 10 minutes of light cardio exercise; it’s good to do them after an easy bike, run or swim ● For each session, choose one or two exercises for each muscle group and do one to three sets ● Train larger muscles such as your legs and chest first before moving on to your smaller muscles such as your biceps and triceps ● Each week, add either one repetition or an extra kilo to each exercise to progress ● Work all of your muscle groups each week so that you avoid muscle imbalances
Physical strength and cardio fitness are equally important when racing
Photo Triathlon.org/ Janos Schmidt/ ITU
UNLESS YOU have hours each day to cycle, swim and run, chances are you aren’t getting the specific strength training you need to develop your speed. Most of us have (desk) jobs meaning that while we sit working, we’re shortening our muscles, creating muscular imbalances and poor posture. In turn, this leads to weaker muscle output and a higher chance of overuse injuries. When done properly, strength training can be a shortcut to the positive benefits of longer training sessions without the time implications.
STRENGTH TRAINING EXERCISES
Cyclingisn’tthebestsportforyourposture.Ifyourposture becomestight,yourbreathingandflexibilityareaffected.Witha resistancebandineachhand,flattenyourbackagainstawall. Yourfeetmaybeacoupleofinchesfromthewallandyourknees bent.Takeyourarmsaboveyourheadandpullthemdowntoyour sides.Keepyourelbowstouchingthewallasyoupullyourarms down.Themovementshouldnotbebig.
Thisisanotherfantasticexercisetobuildyourswim strength.Fixoneendofaresistancebandtoafixedpoint,holding theotherendinyourhand.Bendoverfromthewaistandperform afrontcrawlswimstrokeaction.Ideallyyouneedtworesistance bands–oneforeachhand–andperforminasmooth,continuous alternatingmotion,asifyouwereswimming.Thiswillimprovethe powerofeachstrokewhenyouhitthewater.
Alotoftriathletesgetshoulderpainswhentheyswim, especiallyiftheirstrokeispoor.Thisexerciseworksyourweakest musclesoftherotatorcuff,essentialforimprovingyourswimming andshoulderstrength.Attachtheresistancebandtoafixedpoint atelbowheight.Keeptheelbowtuckedintoyoursideandmove yourfistawayfromthefixedpoint,awayfromthecentreofyour body.Repeatwiththeotherarmsoyou’lldo3x15-20oneacharm.
Withyourfeetshoulderwidthapart,loweryourbacksideasif youweresittingdown.Thefurtherbackyoupushyourbacksidethe moreyouwillfeelitinyourglutesandhamstrings.Keepyourknees overtheanklejoint.Tomaketheexerciseharder,jumpintothe squat.Doone-minutecontinuoussquats,with15secsrestbetween sets.Thisdevelopsyourlegpowerthroughtherangeofmovement demandedbycyclingandrunning.
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Inapress-upposition,placeyourtoesonaSwissball.Keep yourabstightandperformapress-up.Ifyoufeelthisinyourlower back,youarenotengagingyourabsenoughormaybelettingyour backsag;raiseyourbacksideslightlyorwalkyourhandsbackso yourshinsareontopoftheball(thisshouldgiveyoualittlemore stability).Aimforthreesetsof15press-upswhileholdingthe properposition.Todevelopthis,raiseonelegofftheballbutmake sureyoukeepyourhipslevel.
Theseareeffectiveforbuildinggreatcorestrength,whichis essentialtoallthreedisciplines.Putyourhandsonthegroundand yourfeetonaSwissballinapress-upposition.Bringyourkneesup toyourchestandthenpushyourfeetawayinajack-knifemotion, keepingtheballundercontrolthroughout.Thisexercisecanbe trickyatfirstsoyoumightwanttofinda‘spotter’tomakesureyou don’tgoflying.
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Usethistodevelopyourobliquemuscles(downthesidesof yourtrunk).Thiswillhelpstabiliseyourbody,sotrytodosome obliqueworkattheendofeachworkout.Keepyourkneesbent withyourfeetflatonthefloor.Asyoucomeup,twisttooneside andtouchtheoppositekneewithyourelbow.Returntothefloor beforecominguptotheoppositeside.Avoidliftingyourfeetas youcomeup,asitusesthehipflexormusclesratherthanyour abs.Do15-20persideforthreesets.
Thisimprovesyourhamstringsandglutesforcycling.Lying onthefloor,placeyourheelsonaSwissballwithyourlegsout straight.Liftyourhipsandbacksoyourbodyisinalinefromheels toshoulders.Squeezethebuttocksandcontracttheabswhile doingthis.Fromhere,drawyourlegstowardsyourbackside.This worksyourabsaswellasyourhamstrings,makingitabetter optionthanhamstringcurlsonamachine.
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beginner’s guide the basics
triathlon gear once hooked on the sport, you need to buy an arsenal of kit. here’s how you invest in tri gear
Tri-barsarethesimplest andmosteffectiveway tomakeanybikemore aerodynamic,creating alower,narrowerand moreaerobodyposition
Skinnysaddlesarelight butthey’remurderwhen you’reinanaerotuck,so gosoftonthesnoutifyou wanttorun,nothobble, thefinalleg
Usingamoreaerodynamic deep-rimwheel–particularly onthefront–cancut secondsfromyourtimefor everykilometreyouride
Transmissions(also knownasgearsystems) atalllevelsnowperform smoothly,somore moneybuysyouless weight,notimproved function
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Theheartofanybike andthekeyfactor inoverallfit, aerodynamics, weightandultimate performance
BASICS GEAR Bikeessentials
Don’t forget to keep some of your bike budget back for these must-haves
To gain a bit of extra power on the bike, swap flat pedals for SPDs (‘clipless’ pedals). Cleats on your shoes click in to the pedals so you can pull up as well as pushing down, maximising your effort on the bike.
SHOES Buy tri-specific bike shoes and you’ll be set up for race day. These usually have just one or two straps and a big loop on the heel to help you pull them on quickly. Look for a rigid sole for good power transfer, and good ventilation in the upper.
To stay comfortable while you’re training, buy a few basic bits of bike gear: padded shorts or tights, a cool jersey with closed pockets to stash food, tools and valuables; and a light waterproof jacket.
Words Guy Kesteven, Mat Brett, Elizabeth Hufton Photo Russell Burton
You’ll need a few light, multifunction tools for long rides and for race day, and you’ll need to practise using them. Make sure you have a set of tyre levers, a light but efficient pump (small enough to fit in your jersey pocket) and a multitool to make roadside adjustments.
While wearing a helmet is not enforced by law in the UK, it is advisable, and all triathlon races will insist you wear one. Look for a light, well fitting, well vented model that meets British safety standards. Once you get serious about saving seconds, you can also invest in an aero helmet, but you need to be able to ride in a full aero position to make it worthwhile.
A bike computer isn’t essential but makes training much more interesting. Basic models cost as little as £20 and use a magnet on the wheel and sensor on the fork to monitor speed. More expensive GPS computers offer mapping and accurate speed and elevation tracking, and often come with heart-rate monitoring in the package, but you’re looking at a three-figure sum for even the cheapest models.
saving a minute or two on your bike split. It makes sense to do this if you can’t afford a separate tri bike or are racing on technical courses where you need drop bars too.
The next step up from training with a GPS bike computer is to incorporate power measures into your training. A hub-based power measurement system is most accurate but costs over £1,000, and you may want help from a coach to interpret the data.
Upgrading your wheels will give you the most noticeable ride difference. Deeper rims are more aerodynamic, but don’t handle as well in high winds and can add weight when climbing, so if you can only afford one set of racing wheels, go for 40-60mm deep rims which offer a good compromise.
Splash out a bit more to make the most of your ride
Fixing a set of tri-bars (or aerobars) to your road bike means you can get into a more aero position, potentially
TRI BIKE VS ROAD BIKE THEBIGQUESTIONfacing everytriathletewhen choosingabikeiswhether togoforaspecifictriathlon bikeoraroadbike. Asspecifictribikes don’treallyexistunder £1,000thisisn’tanissuefor alotofnewtriathletes. Justchoosearoadbike withalowfrontendthat willconverteasilytotri-bar use,ratherthanthe increasinglypopular
high-frontedsportivebikes. Evenifyouspendover £1,000,aconventionalroad bikewillbesaferandmore comfortablewhenyou’re ridingwitharoadclub,orif yourterraininvolveslotsof hillsorroughroads.There arealsofarmoreroadbike optionsthantrior time-trialspecificones.If youtendtodomostofyour trainingsoloonflatter roads,thengettinga
totally radical position will totallyradicalpositionwill paymassivedividends whenyou’reracing. Onepopularoptionfor triathleteswhocanafford itistousetwobikes:havea cheaproadbike(preferably withmudguardsfitted)for mostofyourtrainingrides, andatriathlon-specific biketosaveasaninstant boostforpre-event tune-upsandtheraces themselves.
beginner’s guide 57
Ifyou’reacompetent,fastswimmer anddon’tneedtheextrabuoyancy, youmightwantalowerneoprene thicknessaroundthe shouldersandarms. Theextraflexibility willenableyouto movethroughyour strokenaturally
Somemoreexpensivewetsuits haveextrastretchypanels aroundthebodyandshoulders toallowmorefreedomof movementforyourarms
Texturedpanelsonthe forearmsthatare designedtoincreasethe wetsuit’sfrictionwith thewaterandimprove yourpull
Springyareasattheends ofthearmsandlegscan makegettingyour wetsuitoffintransition quickerandeasier
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Thefitofyourwetsuitiscrucial.Too tightandit’llchafeandberestrictive; toolooseandit’llletinwater,creating drag.Anydecentshopwillletyoutryon suitsandhelpyouchoose.Someshops suchasTriUKinYeovilandRoylesin Wilmslowhavein-storeexercisepools soyoucanswiminarangeofsuits beforemakingyourdecision,whileyou canalsogotodemodaysatsome open-waterswimvenues
Wetsuit Orca TRN suit available from wiggle.co.uk
Themaximumneoprenethickness you’reallowedintriathlonis5mm. Thickerneopreneismorebuoyant butlessflexiblesomost manufacturersusedifferent thicknessesfordifferentpanels. Mostcompaniesuseexactlythe samematerials.Moreexpensive suitshavespecialcoatingsto reducedrag;greatflexibility;orair pocketstohelpyoufloat
Mostwetsuitsusethickermaterial onthelegstoaddbuoyancy.Ifyour heavylegmusclesnaturallysink, it’llplayhavocwithyour streamlining.Thethickermaterial liftsyourlegshigherinthewater, andsoincreasesyourspeed
BASICS GEAR sWimessentials
You’ll need your wetsuit for races, but don’t forget to add these essentials to your tri shopping list too
You’ll always have to wear a swimming cap in races, so get used to wearing one in the pool. It also reduces drag so makes swimming easier. When you go to a race, wearing your own swim cap, then putting your goggles on, then the race cap helps keep your goggles in place and your head warm.
You’ll find that most swim training plans, including those in Triathlon Plus and on triradar.com, ask you to use some training aids to help you learn good technique and focus on certain areas of your swim. They’re fairly cheap to buy and you can start with a kick board (float to help you work on your kick), pull buoy (float held between your legs so you focus on your upper body), and paddles (worn to build power in your shoulders and back).
You’ll probably need a few sets of goggles with different lenses: clear for indoor use and tinted for high-glare days outside. You might want to get a mask-style set of goggles for racing too, as these allow greater peripheral vision.
A good wetsuit lubricant will stop chafing around your neck during the swim and applying it to your forearms, wrists and ankles helps you pull the suit off quickly in transition. You can use something cheap like Vaseline or baby oil, but be warned that these speed up the breakdown of your wetsuit. Buy lubricant designed for the purpose from triathlon or surf shops.
SWIMMING COSTUME/ TRUNKS
Swap your board shorts or holiday bikini for proper performance swimwear and your training sessions will become much easier.
Go for tight, short-style trunks, or a high-necked, race-backed costume for women, to reduce drag.
Upgrades POOL WATCH
You don’t need one of these, but if you’re new to swimming and need a bit of motivation and a way to monitor your improvements, a lap-counting swim watch like a Pool Mate or Finis Swimsense is a good investment. It senses the motion of your arm on each stroke and uses breaks in the rhythm to count laps; from this and your speed and stroke rate, it can work out an ‘efficiency score’ which you can use to improve your technique and speed up.
RACE DAY KIT These extras will save you time and trouble on your big day NUMBERBELT Inmosttriathlonracesthe rulesstatethatyoushould wearyournumberonyourback duringthebikelegandyour frontduringtherunleg.The simplestwaytoachievethisis topinittoanumberbeltwhich youcanleaveonyourbikeinT1, grabandputonbeforeyou leave,thentwistitroundfor therun.Numberbeltscanalso beusedto storeracefuel. SADDLEPACK Asmallstoragepackforyour
bikeisusefultostasha multitool,spareinnertubeand tyreleversincaseyouhave mechanicalproblemsonthe bike.Themostaeroplacefor thisisunderyoursaddleand therearepacksdesigned specificallytosithere.A‘bento’ packthatsitsonyourtoptube isgoodforlong-distanceraces whenyou’llwantextrafuelto handaswellastools. ELASTICLACES Beforeyourrace,swapyour normallacesinyourrunshoes forelasticones.Adjustthemto therightfitbeforeyougoand fixtheminplace,sprinkletalc inyourshoesandyou’llbeable
to pull them on much faster topullthemonmuchfaster when you hittransition. whenyouhittransition. TRI SUIT TRISUIT You don’t want to Youdon’twantto waste time getting wastetimegetting changed in between changedinbetween disciplines, so wear a disciplines,soweara tri suit under your trisuitunderyour wetsuit and keep it wetsuitandkeepit on for the whole onforthewhole race. Tri suits are race.Trisuitsare either separate eitherseparate nd a shortsanda top – better for top–betterfor long-distance races long-distanceraces when you might whenyoumight toilet break needatoilet ––orall-in-onesuits, or all-in-one suits, which are more aero whicharemoreaero
and don’t ride up when you run. anddon’trideupwhenyourun. Whichever you go for, look for a Whicheveryougofor,lookfora tight fit to keep drag to a tightfittokeepdragtoan absolute minimum, a couple minimum,acouple of secure pockets for gels, and ofsecurepocketsforgels,and aagoodpad:youwant good pad: you want something that will protect somethingthatwillprotect you on the bike without youonthebikewithout getting in the way of gettinginthewayof your run. Women’s yourrun.Women’s trisuitsoftenhave built-insports brastoo.Ifyou think you’ll be thinkyou’llbe swimming in just your tri swimminginjustyourtri suit (you’re racing in a pool suit(you’reracinginapool or warm open water), go for orwarmopenwater),gofor the all-in-one option and theall-in-oneoptionand make sure you can zip makesureyoucanzipupthe pockets to reduce drag. pocketstoreducedrag. beginner’s guide 59
RUNNiNG SHOe heelCoUnter
Thisinternalfeaturesits attherearoftheshoe, usuallyhiddenbetween theoutermaterialand thelining,whichhelpsto keepyourheelstable andsupported
Mostbrandsnowuse highlytechnicalfabrics toencaseandsupport yourfoot,helpingyour skinbreatheandwicking awaysweat
Keepinganeyeonthis rubberwillhelpyousee whenyourshoesneed replacing.Itsjobisto providetraction
Thislayer–frequentlyfoam–provides cushioning.Mostshoebrandswillalso includetheirowncushioningtechnology withinthemidsole.Adual-density midsoleisonewithafirmerwedgeof foam–amedialpost–ontheinneredge tohelpslowpronation
60 beginner’s guide
Theseremovableinsertssitdirectly belowyourfootandaredesignedto increasecomfort,addextracushioning andbettersupportyourfoot
KNOW YOUR SHOES RACINGSHOES
Alsoknownas‘flats’,theseare ultra-lightweightshoeswithminimal cushioningorstability.They’rebest suitedtolight,fastandefficientrunners, andeventhenonlyforshorterdistances.
Moreversatilethanaracingshoe,but stilllightandfast.They’reusually reasonablywellcushioned,andmany offerdecentlevelsofstability.Ifyou’rea competitivetriathlete,thentheseare goodforbothracingandfastertraining.
You can run in any old kit, but spending a bit of money on some proper training gear will make it easier to get out of the door and pound the streets
Shorts or tights, a technical running t-shirt that wicks sweat and doesn’t chafe, and a lightweight showerproof shell should all be in your running wardrobe.
Photo Triathlon.org / Delly Carr/ ITU, Robert Smith
Running is the only high-impact discipline in tri so for this women will need a supportive sports bra. Make sure you get fitted correctly and buy a bra that suits your shape and size – smaller women can get away with a compressive crop top but those with a cup size above C will need a properly shaped, adjustable bra.
Upgrades RUNNING COMPUTER
A simple stopwatch costing less than a tenner is all you need to start monitoring your runs, but as you progress you might want to get
something more high-tech. Many runners like to train with heart-rate monitors, which cost anything from £50 up to hundreds of pounds. A GPS running watch accurately measures speed and distance and will usually incorporate heart-rate monitoring, for a useful gauge of effort level and fitness improvements. If mapping isn’t a priority, then a multisport GPS unit like the Garmin 910X can be used in all three disciplines, even measuring distance in open water.
Theseareshoeswithplentyofgive. Mostbrandsuseaproprietary cushioningmaterial,suchasNikeAir, AsicsGelorBrooksDNA,combinedwith differenttypesofEVAfoamtoprovidea plushfeelasyourun.
Theseprovideyouwithasmuchcomfort asyou’llgetfromacushioningshoe,but theyaddalittlemorecontroltotherate atwhichyourfootpronates(rolls inwards).Thisisthankstoablockof firmerfoaminthemidsole–usually grey–calledamedialpost,andthe brand’s own technology such as Asics’ brand’sowntechnologysuchasAsics’ Space Trusstic or Adidas’ ForMotion. SpaceTrussticorAdidas’ForMotion.
MOTIONCONTROLSHOES MOTION CONTROL SHOES
Thebigboysoftherunningworld–if The big boys of the running world – if you’re a severe overpronator then these you’reasevereoverpronatorthenthese are the running shoes for you. They have aretherunningshoesforyou.Theyhave firm midsoles, lots of stability firmmidsoles,lotsofstability technology and a little extra weight. technologyandalittleextraweight.
BAREFOOTSHOES BAREFOOT SHOES
Increasinglypopular,‘barefoot’ Increasingly popular, ‘barefoot’ running shoes allow your feet runningshoesallowyourfeet to move as naturally as tomoveasnaturallyas possible, with maximum possible,withmaximum flexibility and minimum flexibilityandminimum control and cushioning. You controlandcushioning.You need to be able to run with a needtobeabletorunwitha naturally efficient gait, landing naturallyefficientgait,landing lightly on your midfoot or lightlyonyourmidfootor forefoot, to run in these. forefoot,toruninthese.
beginner’s guide 61
“Without the extensive knowledge and experience of the team at Bridgtown Cycles I wouldn’t have had the success that I did in 2011. From the Trek Speed Concept provided to the changes made to my position on it, each carefully thought out variable reduced my bike splits and aided my physical state when running off the bike...........”
Words Nik Cook Photo Joby Sessions
GO-FASTER GEAR IF YOU’RE SERIOUS ABOUT TAKING TRI FURTHER, CASH INVESTMENT CAN MAKE YOU FASTER. HERE’S HOW TO GET THE MOST FOR YOUR MONEY ACCORDING TO THE SONG, money can’t buy you love – but it can buy you speed. This especially applies to the bike leg of a triathlon, where time savings over even the 40km of a standard distance race can be measured in minutes rather than seconds. Yes, triathlon can be enjoyed on a budget and the biggest gains most people can get are from improved training,
but there’s no denying the thrill of the sound of a disc wheel ‘whomping’ through the air, the ‘must go faster’ feel of a properly set up triathlon bike or the kid-atChristmas excitement of a piece of carbon loveliness arriving in the post. One of the joys of triathlon is the opportunity to apply and embrace science and technology in the pursuit of speed. Most triathletes are self-
confessed kit junkies and, even in a time of economic meltdown, will continue to spend a proportion of their everdwindling income on go-faster gadgets. So it makes sense, if you’re going to spend your money on aero-bling and other cool toys, to know which investments are going to give you your best returns and which are no more then trinkets. BEGINNER’S GUIDE 63
If you’re ready to splash out, here are your best pound-per-second savings (time savings approximate over a 40km, Olympic-distance bike split)
TIME GAINED: 60 SECS COST PER SECOND: £20.83
TIME GAINED: 180 SECS COST PER SECOND: 56p
It’salmostariteofpassagefortriathletesto stickapairofclip-onsontheirbike.Check yourpositiononthebarsastheycouldbe losingyouspeed.Becauseoftherelaxedseat tubegeometryofaroadbike,simplysticking onapairofaerobarscanleadtodiscomfort andreducedpoweroutputfrom over-reaching.Onesolutionistouseshort aerobars–butthiswillreduceyouraero gains.Thesecondistoalsobuyanangled seatpost,topushyourpositionforwards. Integratedbarsmightsaveyouanother second,butreallythey’dbepartofafull bike/frameupgrade.Don’tforget thatonaveryhillyorparticularly technicalcourse,youraerogains mightbelostthroughfactorssuch aslosingtheabilitytoshiftgears whileclimbingoutofthesaddle.
Wecomparedthesetostandard-rimand spokepatternwheels.Oneofthemost popularandeffectiveupgradesyoucan maketoyourbikeistogetadecentsetof deep-rimwheels.Fromanaeropointofview thedeeperandprofiledrimwillslicethrough theairmoreeffectivelythanastandard box-sectionrimandthefewerorshorter spokeswillcreatelessturbulence.Chances are,thenewwheelswillbesignificantly lighterthanyouroldonesand,asreducing ‘rotatingweight’shouldbeasimportantas aerodynamics,thiswillalsosignificantly increaseyourspeed.They’llalsobelaterally stiffer,resultinginsharperacceleration, improvedhandlingandlessenergylossdue toflex.Finally,youcanridedeeprimsinall conditions,makingthemanincredibly versatilewheelset.
SHOP LIKE AN EXPERT PERFORM A QUICK INTERNET search and you’ll soon see how much research has gone into the subject of making bikes go faster. Working through it can be a pretty daunting and confusing experience so to help us break through the jargon we have recruited the assistance of two experts: Kraig Willett is a former Category 1 cyclist in the USA, owns biketechreview.
64 BEGINNER’S GUIDE
com and he is also an Ironman. He has worked on the positioning of over 100 athletes (including elite triathletes, Union Cycliste International pro tour riders, Tour de France podium finishers, and World and Olympic Champions in San Diego’s low speed wind tunnel, lswt.com). Kraig has been directing cycling-related wind tunnel entries for more than a decade, driven by
the simple fact that he enjoys helping people go as fast as they possibly can. Marc Laithwaite (theendurance coach.com) is a sports scientist and British Triathlon Federation, United Kingdom Athletics and Association of British Cycling Coaches Level 3 coach. He is also a competitive cyclist and multi-sport athlete.
GEAR SAVINGS TIME GAINED: 60 SECS COST PER SECOND: £2.50
Alloftheventsonaregularhelmetthat keepyoucool,dosobychannellingairto yourhead.Thiscreatesturbulenceand drag,andistheoppositetotheslippery cutting-through-the-airfeelyou’regoing for.Alongwithyourarmsandshoulders, yourheadisoneofthefirstthings punchingaholethroughtheair,so streamliningitisimportant.Thelackof ventsandthetear-dropshapeallowthe airtofloweasilyaroundthehelmet, minimisingdragandincreasingspeed. However,togetthemostoutofanaero helmet, you have to keep your head in a helmet,youhavetokeepyourheadina straight line and looking forwards to keep straightlineandlookingforwardstokeep the tail down. Start rocking your head or thetaildown.Startrockingyourheador looking down and aero gains will be lookingdownandaerogainswillbe lost . Wearing one in hot weather lost.Wearingoneinhotweather can also cause you fatigue. canalsocauseyoufatigue.
Howmuchyoucanspendonatri/TTspecific framevariesincrediblyfromtotheOKtothe hugelyexpensive.Theframeissculptedtobe asaerodynamicaspossible,witheverytube profiledandcableshiddenfromthewind.The geometryisgearedforspeedandan aggressiveaeroposition.Asteepseattube anglethrustsyouforwardontoyouraerobars maximisingpoweroutputandaerogains. Integratedaerobars,deep-rimwheelsand bladedforksaretakenasstandard,soyou’ll haveallthosegainstoo.However,atri-bike isn’tversatile.You’renotgoingtobedoing long winter rides on it, and forget gentle longwinterridesonit,andforgetgentle recovery spins. Time savings shown are recoveryspins.Timesavingsshownare compared with a standard road frame. Don’t comparedwithastandardroadframe.Don’t forget you also need to factor in the cost of forgetyoualsoneedtofactorinthecostof componentsif components you aren’t taking them off componentsifyouaren’ttakingthemoff another bike. anotherbike.
TIME GAINED: 120 SECS COST PER SECOND: £14.17
NOT JUST FOR PROS MANY AGE-GROUPERS feel uncomfortable about having top-level kit and mistakenly think their ability doesn’t justify it or that their slower speed won’t yield any significant gains. This couldn’t be further from the truth and us mortals can benefit even more than the pros. Both of our experts agree with this: “Enhancing aerodynamics will save you a specific percentage so if you’re slower, you’re out there riding much longer, with this percentage working out in your favour. There is a common belief that unless you’re riding at 25mph+, aerodynamics is pointless – but the research does not support this theory,” says Willett. Regardless of what bike you’re riding, finding a position that strikes the right balance between aerodynamics, power output and comfort is key. There’s no point having a super aero bike and ultra aggressive low position if you lack the flexibility and strength to stay down on the aerobars and produce the watts. Willett spends a lot of time finding the optimal riding position for his clients and adopts a bullish approach: “Get you body in a good, robust, position. In the initial playing around stages, look at what happens with big changes. Moving around by a centimetre here and there is just farting in the wind!” Next, take a long hard look at your physique. If you’re carrying a bit extra you could be negating the other gains you’ve made. Laithwaite is quick to make this point: “One of the key performance indicators for cycling is the power-to-weight ratio. There is a presumption that it’s only relevant for hilly courses, but that is wrong. Bigger riders have a greater body surface area and the power-to-body-surface-area ratio is very important for time-trial performance, as research has shown that if you cut a big hole through the air you’ll go slower than smaller riders with a similar power output.”
BEGINNER’S GUIDE 65
BEGINNER’S GUIDE TIME GAINED: 70 SECS
DISCREARAND AEROFRONTWHEEL (AROUND£2,400)
COST PER SECOND: £34.29
Thisiscomparedtoatypicaldownand seat-tubebottlearrangements. Surprisinglyforanitemthataddstothe frontprofileofthebike,windtunneldata doessupporttheireffectiveness.The shapeofacorrectlymountedbottle actuallyhelpstosplittheair.Combineit withbehind-the-seatmountsforspare bottlestoachievethemostpracticaland aeroapproachtohydration.Therearealso thetheoreticalgainsfrombeingableto staydowninanaeropositionwhile drinking.Don’tgoandruinthingsthoughby havingaveritablegrocerystoreof lunchboxesandotherparaphernalia attachedtoyourbars,asyoucaneasily turnadvantageintoloss.Aimforthe‘clean’ frontendofapro’sbike.
LOOKINGATTHEGAINSaboveit’seasyto seehowmuchtimecanliterallybebought. Whilenoneofthegainsindividuallyare massive,justtotupthefirstfiveandyou’re lookingatgoingalmostsixminutesquicker over40km.However,it’sfartooeasytoget obsessedaboutgainingspeedandtoforget totallyabouthowyoucanalsoloseit.In exactlythesameway,afewlittlethingscan
66 BEGINNER’S GUIDE
Let’sbehonest,discwheelsarecool,ifonly forthefactthattheymakeanoisesimilartoa TIEfighter.They’refasterbecausetheytake thethinkingbehindadeep-rimtotheextreme. Nospokesmeanshardlyanyturbulence. Someofthelatestdiscsevenclaimpropulsive propertiesincertainwindconditions.Be awarethough,youcaneasilyturnagreataero wheelintoanaerodynamicbrickbyfittingthe wrongtyre.However,theextragainovera decentdeep-rimwheelsetisonly10seconds. Ifyou’reridingahillycourse,lightweight mightbeafasteroption.Andafulldisccanbe ahandfulinastrongcrosswind.Timesavings shownarecomparedtoastandardrimand spokepattern.
TIME GAINED: 20 SECS COST PER SECOND: £2.25
soonaddupandnegateallthathard-earned cashyou’vespent.Makingsureyou’rerunning yourtyresattheircorrectpressure,zipping yourjerseyupandattachingyourrace numbersoitisn’tflappinginthewindarejust afewexamplestotrimtime. Don’tforgetthattriathlonsaren’trunina windtunnel,andwhatmightworkaccording toalab-based,mathematicalequationorfor
aprowon’tnecessarilysuityou. However,don’tbeafraidtoexperiment and,nomatterwhatyourstandard,ifhaving newkitmakesyoufeelbetteronraceday, chancesareit’llmakeyoufaster,regardless ofthesciencebehindit.Weallneedabitof retailtherapyeverynowandthenand,ifit shavesafewsecondsoffyourbikesplitinto thebargain,thensomuchthebetter.
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