The triathlete community is full of many interesting, motivated and inspirational individuals. Triathlons are fun for the beginner athlete, the high school star, college stud, newlywed, elite competitor, or anyone who wants a challenge. Triathlons are also great for those who get bored in gyms and want a sport to do outside, or for people who get bored with only one type of workout. There is a triathlon for everyone whether novice or pro, including sprint, Olympic/International, half-ironman, and ironman. Having a race to look forward to is a great way to stay on top of your training. Swimming and cycling are low-impact, high-output activities that are great for those who have weaker joints and want to strengthen them. Even if you aren’t familiar with all three, or any of them for that matter, you can practice with a few workouts per week and gain enough skill to be able to participate in a race in a relatively short amount of time. Triathlons are just as much about the experience of training and the experience of the day as the race time itself. Often, triathlons offer the chance to join a relay team, so you can do one section of the race and have two friends do the other two sections of the race. This is fun because you can each compete in your favorite section and do something fun and challenging with your friends. Most cities have organized triathlon groups that offer group training sessions and travel to triathlons together. If you like to go the solo route, triathlon training is can also be solitary. Whatever path you choose, reward yourself along the way and enjoy the lifestyle that comes with sweating it out, toughing it out and impressing yourself.
Cross-Training for Triathletes
Triathletes, by definition, have a built in cross training regimen. However, it never hurts to step out of the swim, bike, run triad. One way is by weight training: most coaches suggest at least 30 minutes of moderate weight training twice per week for the beginning-intermediate triathlete. Alternate leg and arm strength days, and take into account what other workouts you are doing that day. For example, you probably don’t want to do a hard arm workout the same day as a swim, but it might be a great option post-run when your legs are tired but your arms have a bit of extra energy. Yoga classes for triathletes are becoming more common as well. These classes focus on strength and flexibility which will help a triathlete loosen up chronically tight muscles, strengthen balance, and increase endurance.
Nutrition for Triathletes
Eating properly is just as important as getting in proper training. Without the right fuel, your training won’t achieve maximum efficacy. One rule is timing: eat a snack with protein and carbohydrates at least 30 minutes before your workout so that your body has time to start digesting the food and reap the benefits. If you eat immediately before your workout, you may feel sluggish or get cramps as you try to digest. After your workout, eat within the first hour after finishing your workout in order to start muscle recovery and avoid being sluggish the next day. A great post-workout snack is soymilk with crackers and low-fat cheese because of the balance of protein and carbohydrates. Experiment with foods on shorter training days instead of your long run days or race day. For example, dairy may be hard for some people to digest when they eat it before a workout. Find out what works for you. During every workout, stay hydrated! Drink 6 ounces of water for every 15 minutes of exercise. Keep a reusable water bottle with you at all times to remind yourself to take a sip every now and then.
Injury Prevention for Triathletes
One of the best things you can do for yourself is set aside time to stretch. This is such an important part of a workout routine even though it is often ignored and accompanied by the excuse of “I don’t have time.” If you aren’t flexible, that’s okay; you will build flexibility over time and you'll be preventing injury along the way. If you do get injured, ice the injury and rest. When you don't have sharp pain or discomfort in the injured area, try the elliptical machine instead of running for the first few workouts. Continue icing the injured area for 10-15 minutes 2 times per day. If the injury persists for more than a few weeks, see a doctor or physical therapist. Another good way to prevent injury is to make sure your technique is correct. It is very common to see people on bikes that are improperly fitted; a bike that has angles adjusted specifically for your body can make all the difference. Running technique is also very important. Have a coach or trainer look at your form to make sure you are using your arms correctly and rolling through your feet properly. Even if you have to pay a trainer for an hour of his or her time, that cost is only a fraction of what it will cost to get professional care for an injury.