Tackle a triathlon with confidence with our ultimate guide to getting race ready
Swimming is brilliant for working your whole body and ramping up your metabolism. But technique is crucial. Aim to glide through the water so you don't waste energy splashing about. The first two training drills should be done in rotation, switching every 50m. Try not to break for more than a 45 seconds' rest.
1. THE ENERGY CONSERVER
'Windmilling' your arms as you swim wastes energy, your arm should lift out of the water smoothly with your elbow bent rather than straight. Practise swimming in an exaggerated high elbow position when your arm is both under and out of the water, but don't let them go out too wide. Your hand should enter the water in line with your shoulder and stay lower than your elbow when underwater.
2. THE DISTANCE SHRINKER
This drill encourages you to glide as far as possible with each stroke, using fewer strokes in the water but getting you from A to B quicker. As you swim, keep your non-stroking arm out in front of you - Superman-style - and make sure you touch your hands together at the stretch. Practise your breathing, too. Most swimmers tend to be stronger on one side, which can make your stroke unbalanced. Practise breathing every three or fi ve strokes so you're breathing on alternate sides.
THE RECOVERY SWIM
You shouldn't power through the water during every session. Less energetic 'recovery' sessions will repair your muscles much quicker. They'll also help you to get used to switching between the different disciplines. Swim at a slow-ish, comfortable pace, at an effort level of about five out of ten.
You can train on your way to work or turn your Sunday jaunt into a practice session with these performance-boosting rides. Remember to stay low in the saddle; your body will create less wind resistance and you'll go faster.
1. The power builder
Sprints will help you pick up pace. Race day cadence (pedal speed) is about 90 to 95rpm (revolutions per minute) - this will help you preserve energy in your legs for the run, while still keeping up with the pack. It's a good idea to invest in a bike computer to help you measure your rpm. Start with a ten-minute warm-up, then cycle at 90rpm or higher in an easy gear. Every ten minutes, sprint cycle for 30 seconds by upping the gear and giving it your all.
2. The stamina booster
Long endurance rides will boost your stamina, which is really important when training for a triathlon as you need endurance to keep going through the race. This is a good session to do at weekends when you have more time. Find a route with a few hills so you get a cardio boost in the process, and stick to an effort level of around seven. Start with 30 minutes, progressing to 50 after a few weeks. Ideally, your endurance sessions should be uninterrupted rides - so choose quiet roads where you won't have to stop and start.
3. The technique perfector
This so called 'easy' ride is great for beginners or for recovery as it allows you to perfect your technique. Simply ride at an easy pace (effort level five), thinking about your body position; pedal smoothly, remembering to lift each leg as well as push down.
4. The race-day simulator
Brick training is when you follow a bike session immediately with a run to practise making the transition. Your legs may feel a bit tired after the swap, and this session will help you get used to that feeling. Try to ride at a high cadence and an effort level seven throughout. Hop off your bike and immediately start running (see plan for times).
Great - you can run for a few minutes without getting out of breath. So the running element of the race should be easy, right? Not when your legs are wobbling after the swim and cycle! Your training needs to focus on stamina to help you overcome post cycle jelly-legs - fast. Your endurance run will help. Pitch it at effort level of six out ten, so you can still talk, but should feel a little breathless. If you're a beginner, work your way up to a walk-run (a minute walking followed by a minute jogging) until you can run for longer than you walk.
Transitions can be scary for newbies, but this is one area where preparation - not fitness - is the key to success. Follow our tips and you'll whizz through:
POOL TO BIKE
Practice makes perfect, so rehearsing the change from swim to cycle/running kit will help you save vital minutes during the actual race.
BIKE TO RUN
As you approach the end of your session and get ready to run, stay in an easy gear at a high cadence to save energy and stop your legs turning to jelly.
Transitions will take much longer if you panic or rush. You don't want to get stuck in that wetsuit, so just try to stay calm and enjoy!
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