5 Things to Know Before You Start Triathlon Training
Triathlon is an almost mythical sport. Most images we have in mind are of legendary triathletes mastering the full distance in the IRONMAN events: 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and, to top things off, a 42km marathon run to the finish line. Something that is unfathomable to most people but is one of the main (if perhaps overly fixated upon) aspects associated with triathlon: The challenge of not failing to finish. While doing the full distance in under eight hours is the main goal for pros, many others are happy if they simply manage to finish below the cut-off time, which is often around 16 to 17 hours. But guess what? There are many shorter triathlon distances, and training for and finishing them will add a lot of exercise and fun to your life without the pressure of becoming a full distance iron person. Here are five key things to know to get off on the right foot!
1 You Can Literally Start Triathlon Training Today
Provided you've checked in with your doctor to assure you're healthy enough for endurance sports…nothing is stopping you from getting started. A lot of people might be intimidated by all the different bike choices, bike parts and gear, not to mention the swimming technique and the price tags that come with a possibly endless shopping list. And, yeah: You will likely end up buying a bunch of new stuff while setting yourself up in this awesome sport, which (if done right) is the perfect mix of gadget shopping, health-improving endurance training, and daring to tackle demanding challenges and races. However, that should not stop you from starting.
If you have any kind of decent running shoes that don't hurt your feet, you can start. If you have any kind of bike (AND A HELMET), you can start. Because endurance training is above all about showing up, starting to move, and improving slowly and steadily. Go run for 30 minutes at a slow speed that has you breathing so easily that you can have a conversation while running, and you've already started triathlon training. Go cycle with whatever bike for an hour at a pace that has your legs continuously doing a little bit of work – just enough so you're in a constant, slight sweat – and you've already started triathlon training. You usually have to train for 3+ months before you do your first race. It's better to start now and perfect the details later than to procrastinate any longer and miss out on the opportunity to train.
2 The First Thing You Should Buy Is a Sports Watch
We're not just saying this because you can only use our training app with a sports watch or iPhone that tracks your workouts (to be exact, a Garmin watch and an iPhone 6s or older). Of course you can train without a smart watch or phone, but the benefits of having one of those magical devices track your distance, your heart rate, and many more things are just too large to ignore. It gets even more exact if you also get a chest strap to track your heart rate more accurately and also some nice additional performance parameters (any brand that uses the ANT+ standard should work and having a waterproof one also helps, in case you want to try it during swims, which is a bit tricky). You will know what you did, and you will have set the foundation to train at the right intensity to improve your endurance. Furthermore, it enables you to also share your workouts with others, which is a motivating practice, especially when you sometimes need an extra push in order to train regularly.
It's not a big secret that Garmin is the market leader among triathletes when it comes to smart sports watches. That is, after all, why we focused only on Garmin when we started out with our app. They have many different models that allow the tracking of swimming, cycling and running, and any of them will do the job. You can also track stand-up paddling and many other things, if you like, although the TRIQ app won't know what to do with those workouts. Our app is smart, but to plan training for three sports is already quite a challenge for our high-tech algorithm. In terms of watch models, they vary in material and size. Larger models usually have a longer battery life and more memory capacity for maps and other data. In terms of pricing, you also have quite a broad range to pick from, depending on design, material and more. But really: You don't have to buy the latest model right away. Garmin has made functional triathlon-ready watches for a while now, and they all share workouts with apps like TRIQ via the Garmin Connect app.
3 Training Hard and Exhausting Yourself Is Usually the Wrong Approach in Endurance Sports
When going for a run to improve your fitness, most people instinctively try to push themselves. If your lungs burn a little bit and you're sweating a lot and your muscles are somewhat sore the next day, almost everyone is happy and will probably take a few days off from training to recover and bask in the glory of having done something. There's nothing wrong with that. Unless you are trying to improve in the long run. If you train the way we just described, you will improve a little bit – after all, almost anything is better than doing nothing. But if your goal is to really improve and master some longer distances, you will need to start doing longer, low-intensity training sessions. Sessions that don't leave you sore. Sessions that might feel a little bit "boring" compared to that "blood-tasting gladiator sensation" some think is a cool thing to have after a run. (It's not.) Longer, low-intensity training sessions are not only healthier, there is a lot of training science involved in why they are the right way to train to improve. And the fastest way to start training that way and at the right volume is to get a Garmin watch and then the TRIQ app. We'll leave it at that for now. There is a lot more information on our website about things like training intensity distribution, intensity thresholds and other relevant topics if you're a reader. But if you're more of a doer…then get the watch and the app. (The 14-day free trial will already show you it's a good idea.)
4 Starting with High Training-Hours-per-Week Goals Often Leads to Failure
You've set your sights on this big triathlon race goal, and now you think: "Instead of barely one hour of training per week, I now have to do eight hours." And how does that play out? Well, let's say you actually manage to train for four hours in the first week. Four hours is great!!! But as you probably will notice, with getting changed and showering it actually takes more than four hours to train for four hours. In all truth, to get started, two or three hours would also be totally fine. Those four hours might even be a bit too much, and might even lead to you feeling like you're failing. Instead of slowly easing into training more, you're stressed because chopping 4+ hours out of your daily routines is actually not that easy. And then you train less next week. And even less thereafter. And then you stop training, or do that gladiator stuff again that we described earlier. Too much too soon is a big reason why many people end up never actually doing a triathlon.
We're actually working on having the TRIQ app help you here as well. But let's be realistic: There is only so much an app can do. Our app will save you a lot of time because you don't have to plan and figure out how to train. It will fit the right training sessions for your race goal into the availability times you've set. And it will check on your recovery and training readiness so as to adjust training if needed, even scanning your HRV (heart rate variability) via the iPhone's camera. But much like with a real coach: If you're not honest with yourself or with your coach, it's going to be hard for TRIQ to help you. So start easy; you will be amazed at how good it feels to get better and better. Start with some small successes, and then approach the big ones in due time. No need to overshoot right away. You can do it – just don't put too much pressure on yourself by wanting to do unrealistic amounts of training immediately.
5 The Beauty of the Sport Is That Each Personal Triathlon Journey Is Unique
There are many beautiful things about triathlon. Mastering three different disciplines is amazing. Each of them has its own set of dimensions. The run is pure and the grindy end to a race. The bike portion has a lot of technical and equipment aspects, including figuring out settings and gadgets, and takes you on long rides through the countryside. The swim involves coordinating your body in completely new ways in an element that many find challenging, but it also holds the promise of really perfecting a new skill and gliding through the water better than you ever expected. There is a reason why athletes in wetsuits running into an ocean together at the start of a race always feels amazing and exciting, each and every time.
But aside from the actual performance: The most beautiful thing is all the different personal experiences that people channel into their triathlon journey. Of course there are the ambitious time chasers and those that just love to compete, but for many other people, triathlons and training are more of a group activity with friends. For some, it's an outlet to overcome a traumatic experience, or to get from a dark place in their life to a brighter one by working on a fantastic new goal that aligns body and mind and helps them (and others) to cheer them on and to celebrate the milestones on the way to the finish line. For others, it's a reason to live healthier, eat better, feel stronger, and maybe lose some weight along the way (although it should be mentioned that just training won't achieve that), because knowing that they're able to swim-bike-run further than ever gives them confidence and also allows them to take the stairs more often without getting out of breath. And there are those who see it as about the outdoors, or about feeling their body's incredible power to adapt to new circumstances and endure more. And some find it simply to be the perfect combination of non-contact sports for staying healthy and fit as one ages, without overburdening the body by just doing one and the same sport all the time. There are even some people, in all honesty, who just like being able to eat more as a result of burning off all of these extra calories.
To cut a long story short: It's usually a combination of all the above and more. We applaud anyone and everyone who tries and trains, with all of the ups and downs that it might include. TRIQ is here to save you time and to put you on a maintainable track of consistent training, without overtraining. To do so, it uses the power of sports science and an incredibly smart machine running in the background to constantly calculate and optimize towards the best possible combination of training for you in accordance with your goals and life schedule. It can help you become your best – whatever that means for you personally. We'd love to be on this journey with you. Happy training!