CaloriesIt is common for athletes to underestimate their energy demands during training. The general rule of thumb is that most triathletes require a range of 16-30 calories per pound of lean body weight, depending on the amount of daily training, intensity and gender.
Post Training FuelWithin 30 minutes after your training is finished, aim at consuming ½ gram of carbohydrate and 1/8 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight. For example, most female triathletes should aim for a 200-250 calorie snack, whereas most male triathletes will require closer to 300+ calories for post workout replenishment. Some examples of post-workout recovery foods include low-fat chocolate milk, smoothies with added protein, peanut butter, jelly, and sliced banana sandwiches, low fat cheese or cottage cheese and fruit, and yogurt with walnuts.
Tips for Running in Cold Weather
Dress in layers
An outer layer of Gore-tex will block wind and rain
Keep head covered as substantial amount of body heat is lost through the head
30% of body heat is lost through the hands and feet. Make sure on milder days you wear gloves and on cold days mittens. Mittens are best because the fingers warm the whole hand. **Running stores sell disposable heat packs (I love these) that you can insert in your mittens.
Don't run outside if it's below 0 degrees Fahrenheit or windchill -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Hit the treadmill instead!
Basic Training: Starting Out
1) So you’ve registered for the New York City Triathlon— Now What?
As you know, there are three events to prepare for: swimming, biking, and running. To start, we recommend brushing up on your technique to increase endurance. That could mean anything from signing up for a swimming lesson, taking spin classes, or hiring a personal trainer. Focus on your greatest perceived weakness and improve upon it over the next couple of months. Once you start increasing your training volume in the spring, the time spent in the gym and/or with your trainer will pay dividends.
2) Get Assessed
Most clubs will provide you with a complimentary fitness assessment as a part of your membership. This will most likely include measurements of your weight, blood pressure, body fat composition, VO2 Max, base strength, and flexibility. By evaluating your fitness level at the beginning of your training, you will have a base line against which to track your progress, in addition to the time intervals that you will be competing against in the pool, on the bike, and on the road.
3) Avoiding Injury
There are some common running injuries that can be avoided with proper training and equipment: Iliotibial Band Syndrome, tendonitis, and shin splints are maladies that usually affect runners at some point along the way. The main causes for these injuries are usually (1) too much mileage too soon in training (overuse) and (2) improper footwear. The first thing you should do when initiating a running program is to head to a local running-specific store where the sales staff can analyze your gait and fit you with the proper shoe for the way you run. Second, and most important, gradually increase your mileage from week to week and incorporate simple strength exercises into your workouts. If you feel that something is a little off, back off your mileage a little bit, if not altogether, until the pain you’re experiencing subsides. In the long run, it will be better to rest a simple malady and fully recover than to exacerbate the problem by continuing with your training and winding up having to take several weeks off in the middle of your spring/summer training.
4) Smart Weight Training
A well-rounded training program includes regular weight training workouts in the gym. The exercises that you will want to focus on the most are those that involve your legs, core, and shoulders. After all, these are the muscles that are used the most in running, biking, and swimming. Staple exercises for triathletes are squats, lunges, leg presses, leg extensions, leg curls, and calf raises for legs; shoulder presses, lat-pull-downs, straight-arm pull-downs, and bench presses for upper body; and a variety of core-specific exercises.
Proper form and execution are crucial in weight training, so we recommend that you schedule sessions with a personal trainer or triathlon coach at your gym to ensure that you are getting the most out of your workouts. Trainers will also be able to help figure out the amount of weight you should be lifting and the number of sets and repetitions you should do for each exercise, not to mention the motivational benefits of working out with someone in-the-know.
5) Brick Workouts: A Triathlete Must
A brick workout is a run immediately following a bike workout, or bike ride immediately following a swim workout, like you will be doing in the triathlon. The benefits of these workouts are numerous, but the main point is to train your body in the specific conditions you will experience on race day. You are going to want to know how your body and mind will respond to switching from swimming to biking and from biking to running. You should incorporate at least one brick workout per week into your training. By doing this, you will be fully prepared to transition from one discipline to the next. Brick workouts can also be incorporated into your winter training by going for a swim before a spin class, or immediately following a spin class with a short run on the treadmill.
6) The Treadmill: Your New Best Friend
Treadmill running is a great way to keep up your running while the weather outside is less than desirable. The treadmill provides a softer surface than running on pavement. If you live in a flat area, a treadmill is also a great way to get in hill workouts when the geography of your training ground might not allow for it. Hill workouts can greatly increase your leg strength and also provide a change of pace from running on flat ground. Every time you run on the treadmill, put the incline at 1-2%. This will seem challenging at first, but it’s a great way to build your strength and endurance. Running outside will be a breeze after running on an incline all winter long.
7) Spice Up Your Cardio: Take Advantage of Your Fitness Club
Cross training is an essential component of triathlon prep and a great way to stay motivated. Alleviate the boredom that might accompany your training in the winter months by using the other cardio equipment at your club, such as the rowing machine, stairclimber and elliptical machines. You can also try your hand at group exercise classes. Most clubs offer 30-minute core intensive workouts as a part of their group exercise schedule. Take the opportunity to try something different to add some variety to your training over the winter months. If your climate permits, try cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, both of which are great winter-specific cardio exercises.
8) Consider a Swim Coach
In addition to your traditional swim workouts, taking lessons with a coach or joining a master swim group are great ways to increase your speed and endurance. Lessons are a great way to get one-on-one instruction and really improve your technique for maximum efficiency. A good coach will give you advice on drills to practice, and if he or she is really serious, will film you in the pool to help you review your own performance. Masters groups are a great way to increase your speed, challenge yourself, and stay motivated as you will most likely be sharing lanes with swimmers of similar abilities and trying to complete sets on a pre-determined time interval.
9) The Dreaded Swim
For most of you, the swim is going to be your weakest event. The winter training period is a perfect time to hammer out any flaws that you might have in your technique. Here are a couple things that can help you once you hit the open water while you’re still training indoors:
- When you start your swim training, keep your workouts short. This will help get your body acclimated to the movements and coordination involved with swimming. It will be of much greater benefit to you to swim for short periods at a time and focus on your technique than to try and pound out yardage in search of fitness gains. By keeping it simple in the beginning, you’ll effectively preparing yourself for the distance that lies ahead.
- During these short workouts, focus on a couple of drills per swim. This will help you because they make you aware of your movements and keep the wear and tear on your muscles to a minimum.
10) Focus on Flexibility
Flexibility is as essential to you and your training as endurance and strength. Triathletes most commonly suffer from tightness in their hamstrings, hip flexors and chest muscles due to the body’s position when swimming and biking. Being flexible in these trouble spots will improve your overall comfort on the bike and in the pool, and will also help your performance on the run. Have a trainer at your health club suggest some stretches for these areas, and regularly add the routine to your workouts. For a more intense stretch, try using a foam roller. A little flexibility can go a long way toward improving your overall comfort, performance and posture.
11) Remember to Rest!
Training for a triathlon can be exhausting. You need to log distance and hours for three different events and strength train to prevent injury and improve your performance—all of which can make it hard to find the time to rest.
Rest, however, is one of the most important ingredients of effective training. If at any point you find yourself completely exhausted, don’t be afraid to take a day or two of rest even if your training calls for a workout. The mental and physical relief of resting will be benefit you far more than squeezing in an additional workout with half the energy and focus. Come back feeling refreshed instead of fatigued and your workouts will be much more productive. Try to schedule at least one complete day off per week in the spring, and two days off per week in the winter in order to avoid burn out and over-training.
1) Even Flow: One-Leg Pedaling
An easy cycling drill that is sure to improve your pedaling efficiency on the bike is one-leg pedaling. By performing this drill throughout the winter on your indoor trainer or spin bike, you can work on generating a more equal output of power throughout the pedal stroke. It is common to apply pressure only from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock on the pedal stroke, but this is only half of the rotation of the crank. By incorporating 1-leg pedaling into your drilling, you can start to emphasize the pulling motion of the hamstrings between 6 o’clock and 3 o’clock on the upswing of the pedal cycle. By being more efficient throughout the pedal stroke, you can even out the exertion of your leg muscles rather than having your quads do all of the work.
2) Full Rotation: Three Types of Cycling Training
Once you hit the bike outdoors in the spring, you’ll want some staple workouts to help improve your fitness and speed on the bike. The first workout is a steady state ride: Every week, be sure to include a long ride at a relatively low intensity (60-75% of max heart rate) to build your base level of fitness.
The second workout is a time trial, when you time yourself to gauge your speed and monitor your progress for a given distance: Each month, try to include a 10-mile time trial to monitor your progress. During your weeks of heavy volume, you might want to add a second 10-mile time trial following your first one. This workout will help you judge the approximate speed at which you will be able to compete during your race.
The third workout is speed work: Start with a long warm up and do 4-6 two-mile intervals at about 85-90% effort in a moderate-to-difficult gear with at least 5 minutes of easy pedaling between intervals. This workout will help with your top-end speed and increase your tolerance for lactic acid buildup in your legs. These three workouts should be considered staples of your training and will make the longest portion of your race feel like the shortest.
3) Pace Yourself: Setting the Right Stride
When it comes to improving your running economy, perfecting your stride rate is crucial. An ideal stride rate will have each foot striking the ground approximately 90 times per minute for a stride rate of 180. Stride rates that are significantly lower than this usually mean that there is a substantial vertical component to your running that both takes up time as you raise and lower each leg higher off the ground, and makes it more taxing on your legs and feet because of the harder impact as you literally pound the pavement.
By contrast, a higher stride rate generally means a more horizontal and more efficient movement. In order to increase your stride rate, incorporate turnover drills into your training runs. To do this simply run 4-6 fifty-meter intervals at the end of your training runs twice a week. Take short strides and move your legs and feet as quickly as possible. Towards the end of each interval, try to increase your stride length while keeping the stride rate high. It won’t happen immediately, but after a couple of weeks of consistent effort, your stride rate and efficiency should improve.
4) Speed Demon: Interval Training
Speed work is an essential component of training for the run. By doing speed intervals once a week during your outdoor training, you train your body to run at or faster than race pace, making your run portion a little easier and a little faster. A good distance for your intervals is 1 mile. Start your interval workout with a good 10-15 minute warm up. When you first start doing speed work, start with two 1-mile repeats with equal rest after each sprint: for example, if it takes you 8 minutes to run a mile, jog for 8 minutes when you finish each interval. Run at a speed that you will be able to maintain for the duration of the workout. Start your speed work with 1 or 2 intervals early in the season and gradually build up to 6-8 consistent intervals (sprint plus recovery) in a single workout. If 1-mile intervals are too long, try ½ mile intervals and work your way up.
5) Get Wet: Swim Workouts
Once you have gained some technical proficiency in the pool, it will be time to incorporate some higher intensity workouts into your routine. A couple of key swim sets include intervals of 100 and 500 meters, with the end goal of putting in 1500M worth of hard swimming at or near race pace in a single workout. One great workout is 15x100M at a set speed, which can be as short as 1:30 and as long as 3:00 depending on your speed and fitness. You should aim to decrease the time of your intervals by 3-5 seconds each time you do the workout. A 3x500M workout with no more than 1-minute of rest between sets will also help with your long-distance endurance. As with the 100M interval set, find your appropriate speed the first time you do the workout and decrease the interval with each successive workout.
6) Core Competence
As a part of your winter strength training routine, you will want to include core strength exercises. Not only is core strength important for triathlon-specific events, core exercises will also teach you how to use your stabilizing muscles in coordination with larger muscle groups. If you are unsure of how to perform the following exercises, consult a personal trainer to help guide you through them effectively at first: Lying hip abduction, Stability Ball Leg Curl, 1-Leg Squat, Plank and Oblique Plank, Stability Ball Jackknife, Trunk Rotations with Medicine Ball or Cable Tower. Again, the goal here is to learn how to activate and coordinate your core stabilizers and contribute to your overall strength.
7) Plyometric Power
A great way to increase your power, especially on the bike, is through plyometric training in the gym. Plyos use your fast twitch muscles and are generally very high in intensity and short in duration. Some examples of plyometric exercises are box jumps and power pushups. For plyometric training to be effective, keep the reps low (between 8-12) and make sure that you don’t have any nagging knee or foot injuries, as these exercises are high in force production and absorption. For proper technique and effectiveness, it is recommended that you seek the advice of a personal trainer at your club or gym for initial guidance.
8) Recognizing Overtraining
Most injuries incurred during training are usually due to training volume and physical weaknesses that are exacerbated by prolonged exposure to improper movements. If you are in this camp and have an injury that wasn’t sustained due to an accident of some kind, you stand to benefit in ways that you might not expect.
By having an injury, you have to take a step or two back in your training and get some rest. Take this opportunity to evaluate your volume and also to get your running stride, swimming stroke and/or your pedaling technique evaluated. You can gain valuable insight into whether or not you have been overtraining or if you have a specific imbalance or weakness that has been worsened by improper technique. Chances are you will come back stronger and with a better understanding of your body and your training—and how to avoid injury in the future.
9) Symptoms of Overtraining
Overtraining is a common side effect of training for any endurance event. If you can personally identify any of the following physical and psychological symptoms of overtraining, you’ll be better able to recognize when it might be time to ease off your training: increased resting heart rate and/or blood pressure, trouble sleeping, irritability and loss of appetite. If you are experiencing signs of overtraining, make sure that you are scheduling AT LEAST one day off per week from your training. This is vitally important for your body to physically recover from your workouts. You can also be flexible with your workouts. Not every single workout on your training program is essential to successful training and racing. If you feel tired or pressed for time on a particular day, rest, or do something a little more fun and exciting that will give you some balance in your life in addition to your training. Stay positive throughout your training. It is stressful, but you must also remember that you are doing this for fun. Make the most of it and above all, enjoy yourself with your training.
1) The Wetsuit Debate
Wetsuits have several purposes. First and foremost, they can help a beginner triathlete increase his/her buoyancy, making it easier for you to float and therefore decrease your energy expenditure in the water and potentially increase your speed. A wetsuit can also help keep you warm in cold water. Wetsuits can run anywhere from $200-$500 and some multi-sport stores rent them out for races. If you’re on the fence about whether or not to purchase a wetsuit, try to find a place where you can take one for a test drive and see if you appreciate the added comfort most triathletes find when wearing one in competition. It just might become your favorite piece of triathlon equipment.
2) It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane: The Aerobar
The more aerodynamic your position on the bike, the faster you’ll go. For this reason, many triathletes have an aerobar set-up on their bike. Two of the main drawbacks to aerobars are the added weight that it puts on your bike frame and that it can be more difficult to handle your bike. Aerobars make it more difficult to steer, stop, and start, and offer less visibility. However, if your goal is higher top-end speed, an aerobar set-up is something that is definitely worth pursuing. One thing to note is that if you generally ride in groups, on varying terrain, or have an injury that prevents you from riding in a more forward position, your best option may be to stick with a standard road set-up.
3) Pedal Possibilities: Straps or Clips?
One option for your bike is to choose between pedal straps or pedals with cleats, also called clips. Pedal straps are convenient because you don’t have to purchase a pair of cycling specific shoes. Their main drawback, however, is that they drastically reduce your pedaling efficiency on the back end of your stroke, when you are not securely fastened to your pedals.
Pedals you clip into, on the other hand, require that you purchase a pair of cycling shoes. These pedals offer greater power and speed throughout your stroke, increasing efficiency. Their drawback is that it can be initially difficult to clip in and out of your pedals when stopping and starting, though this can usually be overcome with a few practice rides. When first using pedals with clips, try them out in a vacant parking lot or driveway where there isn’t any traffic. All too often, new riders will jump right into the street with their fancy new pedals and end up falling over at the first stop light because they couldn’t get there shoes out of the pedals.
The Countdown: Leading Up to the Race
1) Food for Fuel: Race-Day Nutrition
In the months leading up to your race, you will want to experiment with your race-day nutrition and how your body will react to certain things like gels, bars and sports drinks. Generally, most people can take in 250-500 calories per hour during competition. By doing this, you will stay fresher for longer during the race. One thing to keep in mind is that it is harder to digest things during high intensity exercises. For this reason, it is worth trying to ingest your gels and/or bars while on the bike, which is less demanding on your body than running. Sport drinks are the least demanding when it comes to digestion, so they should be your main source of energy during the running segment of the race.
2) Less is More: Reducing your Workouts Before You Race
During the last 7-10 days leading up to your race, you are going to drastically reduce your training volume, otherwise known as tapering. This is done to get your body prepared for the intense effort that you will exert on race day. Although your volume will decrease, you will want to keep most of your workouts at race intensity, while allowing for plenty of rest and recovery between workouts. A key to your taper is to stay patient and to not do any gut-busting workouts the week of your race. It is common to feel like you’re losing some fitness during your taper, but be patient and know that all of the hard work you’ve put into training over the last several months has prepared you for the rest and preparation leading up to the big day.
3) Calm and Steady: Mental Preparation
As you mentally prepare for your race in the final days leading up to it, you may experience many different thoughts and emotions regarding the event. Here are a few things that can help improve your race day focus and dampen any concerns that you may have about competing.
First, you need to trust yourself and trust that your training was effective. You have completed workouts in each individual discipline that are longer than your race distance, so there should be no doubt about your ability to complete the event.
Secondly, realize that not everything will be absolutely perfect about your race day, so be prepared for the unexpected. You never know what the race will throw at you, so try not to let little snags have a negative affect on your race—just work around them, stay positive and keep going.
Finally, make sure you race your own race. Just because someone passed you in the water or on the bike doesn’t mean that you have to make it up then and there. Stick with the race plan that you visualized and chances are that you will be passing the hares that passed you earlier. If you can be calm, visualize your performance, and thank a few volunteers along the way, you will be ahead of the game mentally, a huge advantage and a guarantee that you will enjoy the experience.
1) Dive In
One of the most common mistakes triathletes make in the water is their hand placement when entering the water. Placing your hands across the midline of your body can cause a fishtail action with the hips and lower body, thus creating more drag and slower speed through the water. An easy way to work on this is to imagine your left hand entering the water at 10 o’clock and your right hand at 2 o’clock. This is an exaggerated entry point, but if you're prone to misplacing your hands, you will most likely wind up entering the water at 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock. An alternate way to work on this in the pool is by trying to enter the water on the outside of each lane line on the bottom of the pool.
2) Splash Control: Positioning Yourself for the Swim
If this is your very first triathlon, the swim portion can be quite intimidating. You will be surrounded by lots of other swimmers all trying to get to the swim exit as fast as possible, which means lots of limbs flailing around and tons of splashing. It can be overwhelming and distracting to say the least. If you’re not 100% comfortable in the water or with swimming among a crowd, try to seed yourself towards the back of your wave. This strategy should give you more space and free water to swim through at the beginning of the swim and set you up for a good race. Settle into your rhythm and before you know it, you will be passing fellow competitors.
3) From Water to Wheels: The First Transition
The transition from the swim to the bike is usually the longer of the two transitions that you will go through because of the time it will take to remove your wetsuit and put on your cycling shoes and helmet. A good way to save precious seconds is to wear your biking shirt underneath your wetsuit. A common mistake for first-time triathletes to try and put on a shirt after coming out of the water—a sure-fire way to get clothing stuck to your wet skin. You will barely notice the shirt under your wetsuit and it will be dry within 5 minutes of jumping on your bike.
4) From On the Bike to On Your Feet: The Second Transition
The second transition is usually the faster of the two because you are basically just jumping off of your bike and changing your shoes. An easy way to shave a couple of seconds from your transition time is to take your feet out of your biking shoes BEFORE you get off of your bike. This takes practice, but when executed correctly, it will make your second transition easier than you could have imagined. In order to have a fast T2, have your running shoes (either pre-tied or with speed laces), hat, sunglasses and race belt neatly organized at your assigned slot. Once you rack your bike, slip on your shoes, grab the other items and put them on one-by-one while you are jogging towards the exit of the transition area. You will be in and out of transition before you know it.
5) Rub Relief: Preventing Chafing
A common malady during racing is the chafing of your clothing against your skin. A wetsuit, sports bra, tank top or pair of biking shorts can make your day at the races quite uncomfortable if you are not properly prepared. One cardinal rule to follow is to never wear anything that you have never worn before.
A great way to prevent chafing is through the application of a lubricant such as Body Glide or Vaseline to common chafing areas like the back of the neck, under the arms, nipples (seriously) and across the waist. A little lubricant can go a long way when it comes to your comfort during your event. Would you rather remember how great you felt crossing the finish line or the nasty burning sensation of your clothing rubbing against your raw skin? The choice is yours.
6) Race Day Checklist
A night or two before you race – or before you travel to your race – make sure that you have at least the following items:
- Swim Cap
- Bike Pump
- Running shoes
- Water Bottle(s)
- Biking shoes
- Swim Goggles
- Race belt & number
- Post-race change of clothes