As the race season approaches I was pondering about the different kind of athletes that competes in the triathlons (and run races) I have participated in the last few years. The range is very wide. There is the pro-triathlete looking for a race to help him get in shape, the competitive age grouper as myself and then all the people that are nervous and happy to be there and are just very content to finish the event. I realize that the ladder type needs a much different approach to run training than the former.
My previous running articles focused a lot on interval training and bricks, which will make you faster and help finish stronger. This kind of workouts often requires a lot of mental will and physical conditioning that a lot of people don’t have or don’t even aspire to have. I know my wife is going to participate in a very short tri this year, but she is not necessary going to swim her twelve pool lengths without stopping, she will have a Mal-Wart bought mountain bike for the bike ride and will walk/trot for the run part. I am convinced it is all the people like my wife that make some of these races so great. Much more fun and less intensity than the way I approach them. I wish sometimes I wasn’t so competitive.
For this people, repeat workouts and heavy duty bricks that kill your legs are not necessary. I am listing below some training tips for running, but also good for biking and swimming that you should focus on to make your tri and/or run races very enjoyable events.
Try to have fun. Concentrate on covering a certain distance during your workouts, not on going too fast. If you are not used to intense running workouts, you need to get used to running/jogging before your body will accept tough workouts. I know a friend of mine who had decided to run a 10k. He was used to just run 3-4 miles 3 times a week. Then he met somebody (not me) that told him how important it was to do 400m repeats on the track, so he went there one weekend and run 24x400m to cover the 10k distance. He took him the all day and almost “killed” him.
As your training days pass: work on distance first, then on intensity. Build up the distance you want to cover and only after you are comfortable with it, try and increase the intensity. At least when you start your running program, try to keep a pace that allows you to still be able to talk. If you have a Heart rate monitor, learn how to run at 50%-60% of your maximum heart rate.
Wear proper clothes. Make sure you have a pair of comfortable and supportive running shoes (running, not tennis shoes). Check the weather and dress accordingly.
Choose a soft surface to run/walk on, whenever possible.
If you have never run a repeat workout before start by going to a track and trying to jog al the way around once. (that is: about ¼ mile). Then walk another loop. Try to jog the track one more time, then walk another loop. Before you know you will be able to cover 3 miles (12 loops total).
Instead of trying hill repeats just make your next run/walk be on a hilly terrain, possibly off the cement.
If you want to try a simple brick, and I suggest you do, you can start alternating stationary bike and treadmill at the gym, as I have already indicated in a previous article.
Know your race: if you can, try to get an idea in advance about the kind of conditions you will face on race day: steep hills on the bike? Pavement for the run? Etc. This will give you a chance to get comfortable and not be surprised. If your bike ride is going to be hilly, try to bike on hilly terrain during your workouts.
On the bike, I would not worry about clip less pedals and or special shoes unless you are used to them. Use your most comfortable running/walking shoes and maybe just cages for the bike. This way you also can use the same shoes for both biking and running.
Make sure you can complete each of the three distances of your race comfortably. A good gauge in my opinion is to practice up to 110% of the distance during a workout. For example if you are going to have to run 3miles, make sure you can run/walk for 3.5 miles. If you have to swim ½ mile make sure you have worked your way up to ¾ of a mile before race day.
Take a lot of rest. Since you are just planning on finishing there is not need to rush through the transitions. A big part of the difficulty of triathlon stands in the ability to switch your body between sports in a matter of seconds. This is often one of the causes of pain during the race for those of us that are serious about them. But if you are just planning on finishing, take your time out of the water to get your body used to standing again. Drink plenty of fluid and change in comfortable clothing for the next event. Same between biking and running. Take the time to do a few stretching, loosening motion before start running and you won’t feel too bad.
Get support: I love to have my family at the race. Even though they can’t help me, it is great to see my kids scream when I get by on the bike. If you are there just to finish, friends and family will help you get through the tough moments. They may even hand you a water bottle if you forgot it in the transition area or exchange a few words during the last mile of the run.
Drink and eat: If you planning a long workout (or race) take with you enough fluids and food. Remember that if you start to feel thirsty it is already too late to drink. Also, don’t experiment with new foods the day of the race, but stick to something you have tried during workouts and that your body accepts.
Make a list and start preparing all the things you will need for your race a few days in advance. This will you will be less likely to forget something.
Last but not least: check with your doctor if you have decided to do a triathlon, but have never attempted anything even close before. It’s better to make sure you are in good enough physical condition to start something like a tri.
Thank my wife for this article if you find it useful. She is my inspiration and gauge of when I am tri-ying too hard and need a break. “I will just run to the next light pole, then walk” she says sometimes.
Happy spring training.
Triathlete and ACE Certified Personal Trainer
P.S. All information in this article is provided freely with the only goal of educating athletes accessing the beginnertriathlete.com website. The article/workouts above are not meant to be exercise and/or personal recommendations, but only examples of workouts that I and/or other athletes have completed in the past. Enrico Contolini will not be responsible or liable for any injury, illness or death resulting from the use of the information contained in this article. Please, always remember to consult your physician before starting any exercise program.
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