5 Steps to an Effective Beginner Triathlon Training Program
Signing up for your first triathlon is a great first step towards completing your goal! Now what can you do to get started? First off, come to the acceptance that you will not achieve perfection in your first race, nor will you (likely) break any records. I’ve seen far too many triathletes overshooting on their first few races, which results in pressure and anxiety and disappointment when they don’t measure up to their unreasonable goals. Your beginner triathlon training program does not need to be a struggle or a stressor!
Then there are those who have the opposite problem- they are afraid of being the last one to cross the finish line! If this is you, your key is to do the proper type of preparation so that there is almost no chance of this happening (since someone has to finish last, it’s not impossible, but if you follow the right plan, you will make the idea of finishing last very slim!). And, say you did finish last- you’re still ahead of those who didn’t finish at all- and those who didn’t even enter the race!
Not that there is anything wrong with not completing the race, going slow, or not achieving goals. When you can stop focusing on the “what if’s” and shift to getting out there and performing the best you can, you will enjoy yourself a lot more and likely even go faster with that improved attitude!
Pay close attention to the following tips on helping you with beginning triathlon training:
1. Practice how you race
If you enter a sprint distance event, train and practice for a sprint distance race. If you normally run a 9 minute/mile pace, don’t anticipate being able to maintain an 8 minute/mile pace or faster, during your race. Learn the distances of the race you have entered, and be sure to complete that distance when you practice. At this point, you can move on to improving your speed.
You will almost certainly experience some anxiety on the day of your race; there’s nothing you can do to avoid it. It’s important to be sure to use that nervous energy for your race, and not let it overwhelm you to the point of “choking”. An easy way to do this is to practice some mental imagery. Visualize your ideal performance. Also keep in mind the fun aspect! This is why you are doing this, competing is part of the deal, but try to keep it all in perspective.
If your race day is also the first time you train, the fun factor will be diminished considerably- unless you are already in top shape. Think of everything you will be doing during your race and practice it ahead of time. Think- getting in the water, swimming in a crowd, transitions, getting on/off your bike, changing a flat tire, and as you already know- the 3 disciplines you will need to complete.
4. Don’t change it up
If you haven’t done it in training, don’t try it on race day. This includes what you eat & drink, how you pace, the equipment you use, your stroke technique, etc. This is even a challenged for the more advanced level triathletes, constantly looking for a last minute advantage. However, the last minute stuff tends to lead to a subpar performance.
5. Expect mistakes
Here’s some news: You won’t have a perfect race and you will probably make mistakes. Just make sure you are ready for them and accept them and move on when they happen. If you get lost on the swim course, just re-collect yourself and aim towards the next buoy. If you go out too hard on the bike, just slow your pace a little before the run. Correcting mistakes is part of the game of triathlon racing, and not having a perfect race is something to embrace!