There’s no better way to get in shape for Spring than shaking up your workout with some cross training exercises, and no better way to cross train than to join in a triathlon. That’s swimming, cycling, and running all in one event and triathlons can be a great way to get your whole body fit. Peggy Pletcher, RD, nutritionist at Scott & White Healthcare – Round Rock offers the following advice to anyone considering a triathlon, from beginner to the more advanced exerciser.
“Many folks find triathlons intimidating and they don’t have to be,” said Pletcher.
Choose your Distance
To prepare for a triathlon, Pletcher says you first need to decide the distance you want to do. If you have never tried a triathlon, a sprint distance triathlon is a good one for you to consider. The swim is a doable 300-1,000 meters, with the biking portion lasting 5-15 miles, and ending with a 5K (3.1 mile) run. But, if you want a more adventurous challenge, there are a few distances to choose from:
- Olympic Distance triathlons include a 1500-meter swim, a 25-mile bike ride, and a 10k (6.2 mile) run
- Half-Ironman triathlons – a 1900 meter swim, a 56-mile bike ride, and a half marathon (13.1 miles) run
- Ironman – for those hard-core people that want the ultimate challenge can join in an Ironman triathlon and swim 3800 km, bike for 112 miles, and finish with a full marathon (26.1 miles).
When you choose your distance, choose carefully. The longer the distance, the more time you will need to prepare, so you need to decide exactly how much time you have to commit to training. Do you have your family/spouses support? Can you fit it into your work schedule?
Once you know the distance, get a plan. You need to have a training plan and schedule for each event. Figure out how much time you have before the race and track back to figure how long you have to train. Then you will need to figure where you are starting with each event, and how much you need to increase each week to be ready by race day.
Be sure to schedule recovery days in your training – they are as important as your training days. What is your weakest event? Focus on training for this more than the others. Add variety – switch up swim locations, run trails, and ride routes. Know what type of course the race will be on, and be sure to include those in your workouts.
You also need to know how to gear up for each portion of the event.
For swimming, you may need:
- A durable swimsuit
- A kickboard
- Swim goggles
- A wetsuit
For biking, you may need:
- A bike with a good seat/saddle
- A helmet
- Pedals – Cage or clipless
- Cycling shorts, Jerseys, Arm
For the run be sure to have:
- Good, well-tested shoes
- Sports bra, shorts (fitted or loose), technical tee’s
Fueling for a Triathlon
Fueling for a triathlon takes some thought as well. Here are some basic tips to get and keep you going.
The Day before the event:
- Continue eating about 70% of your calories from carbohydrates (about 5 grams per pound).
- Double your water intake.
- Be sure you have everything you need to eat and drink thought out, set out and ready to go if the race is in the morning.
- Be sure to drink fluids frequently – 6-12 ounces every 15-20 minutes. The stomach can only empty so fast. It is better to space this out with “squirts” than to drink it all at once (3-4 ounces every 10 minutes).
- Replenish carbohydrates during events lasting over 60-120 minutes (or if beginning exercise in the fasted state) – about 30-60 gram carbohydrate per hour. Mixed carbohydrate source (glucose/sucrose/maltodextrins can oxidize at 1.75 gms/kg/hour) may be better than single sources.
After the Event:
- Often the amount you sweat out during exercise is greater than the amount you can take in and absorb, especially if you are in a hot environment. Drink to replace loses – 24 ounces (3 cups) per pound lost. Check your urine for a day or two after your event.
- Replenish glycogen stores. 1.5 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram is recommended during the first 30 minutes and again every 2 hours for 4-6 hours.
- Protein is important to build and repair your muscles and tissues. Various studies suggest eating 6 grams of essential amino acids (15 grams of protein) plus 35 grams of simple carbohydrate.