Here are some things to keep in mind if you want to try a triathlon this season
Swimmers are in a great position to start doing triathlons because they’ve already got the hardest sport to learn down pat. Many people coming into triathlons struggle with the swim, especially with swimming in the challenging environment of open water.
Unfortunately for swimmers, the swim leg is usually the smallest portion of the race, and as the old triathlon adage goes, “You can’t win the race in the swim, but you can lose it.” Having a great swim will only set you up for success in the rest of the race. Being calm and relaxed without being overly fatigued as you begin the bike will be beneficial.
Here are some things swimmers looking to start doing triathlons should know.
Because of your background in swimming, you won’t have to put a ton of focus and energy into your swim training. Just make sure you’re fit and able to complete the distance efficiently and smoothly.
If you don’t have a lot of open water experience, practice sighting in either the open water or in the pool. You’re taught not to lift your head in the pool but rather to keep your spine in line. However, you’ll have to lift your head to sight so you’re not zig-zagging over the course rather than swimming in a straight line.
You’ll also want to spend some time before your event familiarizing yourself to swimming with a wetsuit on. It’s slightly different than swimming in your practice suit.
You can opt for either a sleeveless or sleeved wetsuit. The sleeved wetsuit will be faster and warmer than a sleeveless one, but a sleeved wetsuit will change your arm position slightly during your recovery, so you should have a straighter arm during your recovery while wearing it.
You’ll also want to work on increasing your stroke rate slightly for the open water and reduce your focus on your kick. A lesser kick, combined with lifting your head to sight, will cause your hips to drop, increasing drag. The added buoyancy of a wetsuit will help you stay at the top of the water, helping you save energy.
Adding bike training to your workout regimen is relatively low risk as long as you have a proper bike fit. There’s a relatively low load on your body while you’re cycling, but you’re constrained in your movement patterns because you’re attached to your bike with your butt on your seat, your feet in the pedals, and your hands on the handlebars. Take the time and invest the money in having a professional make sure you’re on the right bike.
The run will require the most patience to incorporate into your training. Running, unfortunately, is usually the hardest sport for swimmers to learn because many of the technique points from swimming are opposite from running. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed and down, allow for counter-rotation of your shoulders and hips, and change your breathing pattern to a slow inhale and faster exhale.
When adding run training to your workout regimen, be mindful of how quickly you build up your mileage. The fitness you’ve build in the pool can lead to a dangerous trap with running. Swimming is a low-load exercise that’s good for you joints; running is a very high-load exercise. There’s usually about 2.5x bodyweight load going through your body with each step while running, and if your joints aren’t used to this kind of load, you can easily strip your body’s ability to adapt to this load.
Start slowly and build up, giving yourself at least one day between run sessions to make sure that you’ve recovered properly. Most of the aches and nags you might get from running may not manifest themselves during the run but will crop up the day after.