Triathlon is the sport of sports, combining swimming, cycling and running into an endurance race for the ages. Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds. Triathlon encompasses several distances for any age or skill level.
Over the next few weeks our beginner triathlete article series will go behind the scenes of the sport to give you an inside look at what it takes to successfully complete a triathlon.
Before you sign up for your first race let’s go over the basics of the sport. We recently sat in on a Triathlon training session presented by Mid Atlantic Multisport Coach Bill Hauser at A Running Start in West Reading to get his take on starting out.
If you’re a first timer, chances are you will want to choose a sprint distance. Sprint Triathlons are generally comprised of a half-mile swim, 10-mile bike and 5K run. For those looking for more of a challenge you can compete in an Olympic distance .93 mile swim, 24.8 miles bike ride and 6.2 mile run. For comparison, the Ironman distance is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run.
Once you have chosen your distance you may need gear. Although we will go into specific gear in future articles here is what you should start out with. While you can use a regular swimsuit, the bike in your garage and tennis shoes to compete, you will want to invest in better equipment if your looking to turn it into a hobby. You may want to look at a trisuit, wetsuit, road bike and proper running shoes to start.
Now to training, where do you start? Hauser recommends using intensity and interval training throughout the year. As he spoke to the crowd of 20 he talked about the importance of building a proper training schedule. He uses three phases, base, build, peak and recovery. For Hauser, developing your aerobic base in very important to success.
“Triathlon is an endurance sport, your races will be at least an hour long. You get stronger by building your aerobic engine and then you can develop your speed.” Hauser said.
Hauser also mentioned the importance of technique. “Whether its running on the track, swimming laps or riding a faster cadence cycling, keeping good technique pays off over time”. Building the base with good technique allows athletes to enter the build phase, which is the beginning of high intensity workouts.
The peak phase is a combination of high intensity and adding frequency of workouts. “A lot of people think when I get closer to a race i don’t want to be doing a lot of hard training, when that’s actually not true” Hauser said.
His recommendation is to do the opposite. By keeping the intensity high your keeping your body sharp for race day. In contrast, keeping the volume low, you won’t wearing yourself out. To goal is to maintain your level not build your strength just before the race.
With all of this training it might be easy to forget about recovery, however Hauser says this is the worst phase to skip. “You need to give our body time to decompress between races, its better to take the time you need than let it be dictated to you by an injury or burn out”. Building recovery time into your schedule doesn’t mean you don’t train, it simply means the workouts are less intense.
But wait there’s more! you can’t do all of this training without the proper nutrition, something that Hauser says he sees all to often. “You need to get used to finishing the bike with a fuel tank, not finishing on empty.” For beginners this means consuming more carbohydrates prior to the race, but as you move into longer workouts your body will need more calories and hydration to continue.
Bill has been active in endurance sports, both as a coach and competitor, for more than 20 years. He has experience coaching athletes of all ability levels, from beginners to elite-level competitors. Bill is one of a select number of coaches in the United States to have received Level II certification by USA Triathlon (USAT). He is also a USAT-certified Youth & Junior coach and served as the Head Triathlon Coach for the Southern New Jersey Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training Program.
Bill was selected to the 2001, 2002 and 2003 Triathlon All-American Teams by USAT and represented the United States at the 2002 Long Course World Championships in Nice, France. He has competed in the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii three times and has run nearly 20 marathons around the world. His Ironman PR is 9 hours 38 minutes and his marathon PR is 2 hours 42 minutes. Bill has served on the USA Triathlon Board of Directors for the Mid-Atlantic Region since 2002.