Train for a Triathlon
Edited by Nerissa Avisado, Lynn, Eng
Everyone knows that proper (or improper) training for a triathlon can spell the difference between success and failure, finishing first or finishing last, or if worse comes to worst, not being able to finish at all. It takes more than just mastering the physical aspects of the competition to make it to the end. Beyond the proper diet and nutrition, resistance training and core workout, every athlete also needs to possess the right mental and emotional disposition to even stand a chance among his fellow competitors.
You have to admit it, just the thought of a training plan probably gives you a headache. One of the things that makes an individual groan about training itself is the thought of all those instructions on what to do when you hit the gym, when, how many repetitions and their duration, for how many days or weeks, or months, until you finally achieve that body building greatness everyone dreams of. Then again, all you really wanted to do was flatten that bulging tummy.
Even if your training book is well-designed, really inspiring and colorful, you eventually reach the point where all the needed advice is crammed into grids, the strict work-outs you need to follow in the succeeding weeks or months until you achieve "your goal". There are people who like things nice and simple, something they can toss inside their gym bag and then forget about each day as they kick off their shoes. Others however, see such plan workouts as something intended only for the super human athletes like Lance Armstrong. That can really take out all the fun out of your workout.
This is the reason why it's important that you conquer all hesitation about your training plan if you really want to get the most out of it. Like a master chef, your trainer will work with a fixed set of basic ingredients when coming up with the perfect plan for you, then adjust these combinations to achieve different results that will suit you best. However, almost all types of workouts follow these rules: Individualization applicable to your fitness level and goals, progression to deliver results, recovery to allow improvement, and variety to prevent you from getting bored.
Now that you have an idea about the basics, it's time to get to know the six essential "ingredients" to get you in tip top shape in time for your competition. These are: Endurance, strength, flexibility, speed and power, agility, and balance. In this article, the first three will be tackled.
- 1Endurance. There are just 10 things you need to learn about endurance, these are:Advertisement
- Learn your numbers. Know your anaerobic threshold heart rate by beats per minute, after which, subtract 20 or so beats so you can get the mid-range idea of your aerobic heart rate. Don't worry about knowing your heart's maximum rate, or how many miles you've been running. Just focus on the two mileposts of your intensity, and for you to get an estimate on the days you leave your monitor in your house, your approximate pace that you take in minutes for each mile.
- Start by running at a pace where you're able to carry on a conversation.
- Slowly increase your frequency until you can run, swim, bike, about four to five days each week.
- Every other week, try increasing your duration by about 10 percent.
- Build your duration until you are able to reach 60-90 minutes a day for running, and if you can manage it, about two a hours a day for biking.
- Again, if you can, do one for about four months.
- After this, you can try 4-6 weeks of interval training twice weekly. After you've tested your lactate threshold, you can now structure multiple sets of quick runs above and below your heart rate's intensity, starting with the intervals below your threshold rate, multiplied by two the length of the intervals above your threshold rate.
- Try increasing your lengths of intervals until you reach 10 minutes in length.
- Slowly shorten your recovery phase until they equal half of your interval lengths.
- If you absolutely have to see the numbers behind your results, then twice each month, go to the track so you can really gauge your performance. Try running a mile at speeds that used to make your heart beat really fast, and you'll realize your body has greatly improved. You'll also have so much more than a simple running routine; you'll have endurance.
- Get warm before you get familiar. Do 10 minutes of brisk activity to get all warmed up. Remember that warm muscles move greater resistance compared with cold muscles. Give yourself a time estimate together with the 45 minutes needed to work through your strength training session.
- Intensity progression. You need some time to build the foundation of your basic strength. You have to ensure your chances of success through: Starting with weights that are light enough so you can push them for about 15-20 sets, until you can build enough strength for controlling your own body weight for up to 20 pull-ups, push-ups, crunches, squats, and side planks. For a lot of people, the ability to control their body weight in multiple squats, steps, pulls, rotations, and extensions is all the strength they need.
- Repetitions. This is simply a way for you to know how much intensity you can put your muscles through. The higher your repetitions, the lower your intensity. Know that you cannot move something at your strength's high end limits. Using high repetitions at the start will keep your weight modest. Decreasing your repetitions later on signals your body to move towards a more intense, shorter duration with a specific resistance. Various ranges of repetitions affect your muscles in different ways as well.
- Sets. The standard advice trainers will give you is to lift about 2-3 sets to ensure the volume of work is sufficient enough to develop new strength in as many as your fibers as possible. This is also another way to ensure you're lifting the weight that's light enough to protect your joints. In order to build your foundation of basic strength, you need to be able to challenge all your muscle fibers as much as possible. You can do that by doing 2-3 sets.
- Engaging your Core. For a lot of people, they only think of their abs when the word core is mentioned. In truth however, your six-pack ab muscles are merely superficial layers of muscles on top of your true core, which are a corset of overlapping muscles used to stabilize your pelvic region, links your lower and upper body, and the one anchoring your strength movements of your limbs using a solid support pillar. To strengthen your core, it takes more than just doing crunches, like putting more emphasis on your overall ground-based movements that you put on your feet, your back without support. You can do this with squats, lunges, ab rotations, and standing cable presses. Lying or sitting on a stability ball will also do the trick because this requires your midsection to stabilize your body weight, in turn building the strength of your core.
- Spotters. You need a trainer or a partner to make sure you're lifting weights safely, and to make sure dumbbells don't come crashing down on your throat. Spotters are important to keep you safe during compromised positions. However, if you feel you can do it all by yourself, you're free to do as you please, as long as you are taking the proper precautionary measures.
- Breathing. Remember to inhale before you lift, and exhale while working on the resistance, known as your sticking point. This will make sure every muscle is fully engaged at a time you need them most. This will coincide if you take a full breath. Don't worry if you cannot do it right away; eventually you'll adopt to it intuitively.
- Duration and Frequency. Honest people will tell you lifting weights isn't much fun. It's tedious, but you need to do it to make weightlifting worth your while. If you're always doing an easy set of 10, why do you even come to the gym wasting your time?
- Recovery. When you're working out with your muscles so sore, you're delaying muscular rebuilding, and even if you don't, your muscles can no longer push enough resistance to make many gains. For heavier soreness you need more time for recovery, and this may mean having to wait it out a bit. Remember to listen to your body and not your training chart.
- Get warm. The reason why you can stretch easily when you're warmed up is because warm muscles are more tolerant neurologically to the discomfort of them being stretched. Simply put, they handle pain better.
- Injury reduction. Stretching reduces injuries in general. It can reset the structural imbalances that usually lead to injury and helps build your range of motion needed to prevent falls.
- Pay attention to what your body tells you. This is precise, and for you to isolate the specific spots in your body that feel tight, focus on the smallest changes in your position and sensation. In about an hour, you'll be back in your car or at your desk, so just pay attention and do it right.
TIPS FOR HAVING A SUCCESSFUL TRAINING PLAN
When you train for a triathlon, your training plan may appear like a numerical guide for exercising, but in truth it's really a way to organize behavior. Here are some ways on how this can happen.
- Motivation. One way to make your training plan an effective motivational tool is to try looking at the big picture for this year, making a concrete set of directions month after month to keep you going.
- Confidence. When you have a systematic plan you're also boosting your confidence, especially when you're entering a race or competition, like a triathlon. When you show up for an event and know that you're prepared, there is no greater comfort than knowing you've followed a great plan to be there.
- Simplicity. Having a calendar can make training time have less guess work day after day, like guessing whether you're doing too much or too little. It can also free your mind and let you focus on what you're doing, rather than on why, how, or when.
- Progress. When you have a long range plan, you have better insight on your progress. Especially if you have yearly increments in say, running, a plan will give you a baseline for drawing your plan for next year.
- Organization. Finally, having a plan allows you to be systematic. When you organize your exercise regimen, you're also cycling through different effort periods. This will protect you from doing the same work infinitely, getting bored, and eventually, giving up.
Obviously, this is not enough to give you everything you need to know about training for a triathlon, you need an entire book to achieve that. It just gives you an idea the kind of discipline, effort, dedication and mental attitude you need that goes beyond the physical to conquer your inner fears and let out the tiger in you. Good luck and let them hear you roar!