A triathlon, which is a sport consisting of swimming, cycling and running, has become very popular over the last twenty years and the participation rate by youth populations has been a large part of this phenomenon. Training for a triathlon, even if you are not planning to compete in one, can be fun and very beneficial, especially if you are a teenager. Swimming works your entire body and you will see benefits, such as cardio conditioning, improved muscle strength and posture, increased endurance, and improved flexibility. Cycling is great for your heart and health, will help you keep unwanted weight off, will improve strength in your core and legs, and it is fun. Running burns an average of 100 calories a mile, is an easily accessible activity, can be done virtually anywhere, improves cardio endurance and muscular strength, and triggers fat loss and promotes an increase in lean body mass. Triathlon training offers you a chance to change-up a monotonous exercise routine and because you are doing a cross-training type of program with triathlon, your recovery time after workouts, in addition to your risk of injury and overtraining, are reduced. Most of all, you can always find a friend to workout with while doing any of these activities because not only are they are beneficial for your health, but they are truly enjoyable.
Wanna start training? Here are some tips for how to start your training in each of the three sports that is great for a beginner.
What you need: Swimsuit, goggles, swim cap, pull buoy, paddles, kickboard, fins.
Where you go: To a local pool, preferably a 25-yard pool or 50-meter pool if available. Some of the best places to find this kind of pool would be your local YMCA, a gym, a high school or college with available lap swim time, or a park. You can always swim outdoors in a lake or ocean, if available and the weather permits. Most triathlons include a lake or ocean swim, and swimming in open water provides great practice for that.
What to do: Since you are a beginner, I would get in the pool at least 2 times a week, for at least 30 minutes each time, and have one swim be an endurance focused swim and one be a speed focused swim. Each workout should be roughly 1000-1500 yds in length, or if you are counting down and back in a 25-yd pool, that would be a total of 20 laps per 1000. A basic workout would include:
- 200 yd: warm-up
- 400 yd drills: Combination of pulling (with paddles and pull buoy), kicking (with fins and board), and stroke work.
- 900 yd: main set. I like a pyramid-type main set, which includes a 25-50-75-100-125-150-125-100-75-50-25. I would start with one, and as you work up to some more endurance type workouts, I would do this pyramid two times.
- 300 yd: cool down.
1800 TOTAL YARDS (You can shorten this workout by doing less on the drill portion, or simply going up to 100 yds on the pyramid).
What you need: If you are completely new to triathlon, you may not have a road bike to use, and you can get familiar with cycling by using your mountain bike. But, if you can, get a road bike that is either a 9-speed or 10-speed. You also need a helmet, shoes (with cleats to clip into your pedals, if you do not want to use the basic cages with your tennis shoes. Make sure you have available water cages on your bike so that you can take the proper hydration with you.
Where you go: Any bike path or street that has a bike path denoted on it is the best choice. There are several times where you might find yourself on the road with cars and there is not a bike path that is available. If you stay to the right and as far into the shoulder as possible, you should be safe. Just keep in mind that if you are on the road and not a bike path, that you must follow the same rules as a car and adhere to traffic signs and signals.
What to do: Cycling is truly a sport that you must practice at least 2-3 times a week, at least 30 minutes each time, to get in shape for. The more you do, the better you will get. The best way to get into shape is to vary your workouts and take advantage of hills when you have them and get familiar with some “loops” so that you can practice setting some personal records for time on them. For instance, one of my favorite loops is exactly 8 miles long, and I will ride this loop about 3 times and try to get a faster time each time. This loop has 2 hills in it, and it gives me good practice, as training on a flat surface all of the time is not going to make me the strongest rider I know I can be. You can also bring a friend and enjoy racing them on a bike path of your choosing.
What you need: A good pair of running shoes and comfortable running clothes.
Where you go: Running is so great because you can basically do it anywhere. Many towns have a local bike path that is free of car traffic, which makes for great running training. You can also take your training off-road and get familiar with some trail running, which offers you an exciting way to explore nature. Also, trail running is a way to strengthen your ankles and legs by running over uneven surfaces and climbing steep and rolling elevations, while giving you some respite from the hard pounding of the pavement you might find on the street or sidewalk. You can also visit the local track at your high school or college and get in some great running there as well.
What to do: Depending on your running experience, you might need to start slow and work your way up to where you can run a mile (or even a few miles) without stopping. If you can, try to run for at least 20-30 minutes, 3 times a week. Most sprint triathlons, which are perfect for beginners, include a 5K run (or 3.1 miles). If you can’t run a mile yet without stopping, you can work up to it by doing a walk-run-walk-run for 20 minutes (where you walk for 2 minutes, run for 2 minutes) for at least a couple of weeks before you start cutting your walk to 1 minute, while increasing your run time. You don’t want to increase your mileage by 10% each week. Once you work up to running at least 1 mile, you can start running for time on a flat surface, or change your workouts to the track, where you focus on speed for 1 lap, and then take a recovery lap in between. If you are slightly more experienced, you can find a running club in town and join them for weekly runs. This is great not only because you will get better at running, but you will meet some great friends along the way.
Go Out and Try a Tri!
No matter what your athletic background or experience, training for a triathlon will get you in the shape of your life, guaranteed! Remember that you can always learn new skills, and if you are not familiar with one of the three sports, find a friend or join a team so that you are more apt to try new things with some people who might actually teach you a few things. If anything, triathlon training encourages a healthy lifestyle and whether or not you compete in a triathlon competitively, you will find that the benefits of learning the skills from swimming, cycling, and running will be with you forever. Most of all, it is super fun: so, get out there and “tri” it!