3 Aspects to Success in Triathlon


As my 2016 goals have been set and my races have been selected, the real strategy of achieving great results this year comes into focus. There are 3 aspects to success in triathlon that are needed to be mastered by any aspiring triathlete. These aspects are a solid triathlon training plan, nutrition plan, and equipment upgrades/maintenance. For the amateur triathlete, each of these aspects can be challenging and costly, but absolutely necessary. Hopefully, you will see that these aspects can be mastered in a low cost fashion.

A Solid Triathlon Training Plan:

The first aspect that any triathlete must obtain and master is the triathlon training plan. No one can simply show up on any given day and not have a plan for specific workouts. I know when I first started training for triathlons, I had did not have a solid plan. I would think to myself “Just do a little running, a little biking, and a little swimming and all will be good.” Sure, you can take this tactic and finish a triathlon, but if you want to be successful you need a solid plan.

Each plan will help you to have the right mix for your training. You need a mix of low heart rate (zone 2) training whereby you develop the bigger engine of your cardiovascular system. You also need a mix of high intensity training to develop your top speed for triathlons. After all, triathlons are a race and speed counts. Because triathlon is truly a mix of speed and endurance, you need to be able to have a plan that will get you to go as fast as possible for as long as possible.

You can look all over the internet and you will find triathlon plans. You can get plans for sprint distance races, Olympic distance races, half ironman races, and ironman races. You can pay a small amount of money or a large amount of money, or you can find free plans. In any event, you need to find a plan that will suit you and your specific goals. Some plans will take on a philosophy that you have all the time in the world to train, when in fact you have limited time. You may need to find a different plan, that will give you the required workouts in a package that fits your schedule. For a long time, I used the Time Crunched Triathlete book and plan for my training. This plan incorporate more high intensity work within a shorter amount of hours during the week. The author admits that this training regimen is suitable for someone attempting a Sprint or Olympic distance race, but is less useful for someone attempting a half ironman or full ironman distance race. The important thing is to have a plan that is detailed and takes into consideration your needs. You do not want a plan that simply includes the discipline and the length of time for the workout. You need to have intervals during the workout to help you make the most of your training.

One particular plan that I have discovered is the TriFuel plan for the full ironman distance racer. This plan at one time was for purchase, but last year I discovered I could access it for free. This plan is based upon working out Monday-Thursday taking off Friday and then doing long workouts on Saturday and Sunday. I did modify the plan because I take off on Sundays. I workout Monday through Saturday. This plan also includes detailed workouts for each discipline for each day. It is adjustable in that it doesn’t have a set calendar date for you to start, but you can start anytime during the plan. It also includes some particular markers for fitness tests so that you can trace your progress. I used this plan all last year and it really worked for me. It consists of a 20 week out season plan, a 12 week competitive season plan, and a 2 week taper plan. I particularly liked the specific swim workouts that focused on using all of the swim strokes including the breast stroke, the butterfly, and the back stroke to strengthen all the muscles for the swim discipline of the triathlon race.

Having a solid triathlon training plan is crucial for you to have the greatest amount of success in your triathlon racing.

Nutrition Plan:

One of the main reasons triathletes get involved in triathlon is to lose weight. I know that I have benefitted from my time in triathlon to lose upwards of 50 pounds. Continually, if you want to be competitive you must keep a close monitor on your weight. Nutrition also helps in preventing injuries and keeping up with the overwhelming amount of work that is happening with your body in the triathlon workouts. Nutrition is crucial to helping you reach the starting line of any race in great shape and the right weight. It is also crucial in helping you succeed during a race.

There is a debate in triathlon circles over the amount of weight to lose. Some people maintain that because you lose upwards of 10 pounds in an Ironman distance race that you should not shoot for the absolute bottom of your weight. You should maintain a weight that will enable you race well, but not be so thin that you don’t have fat to burn in your race.

I am not disciplined enough to measure out all of my food for every meal. I have, in the past, kept a pretty thorough food diary through MyFitnessPal. I find this to be cumbersome now, though. I do need to keep a proper balance thought in my diet. I recently put on some weight over the holidays. I know that I need to shed some of that weight to be ready for race day. I will do this by avoiding sugars and high fat foods. Of course during the holiday season, I had peppermint milkshakes, fudge, cookies, cake, and many more sweets. I drank soda which is never good. I ate extremely fattening foods like Burgers and Donuts. I believe by doing this simple change I will lose some of the excess weight. Last year, I got near my target weight of 175 pounds, but did not write get there. I would cheat every now and then on my nutrition. With my stated goals of achieving a Kona qualification and running a sub 10 hour ironman, I will focus on not cheating on my nutritional needs. I had a pretty good diet last year that avoided a lot of carbohydrates. While this took some adjusting to the lack of carbs for my exercise, eventually my body adjusted and I lost some unnecessary fat that had been hanging around my-midsection.

Everyone’s nutrition needs are different. You will need to find the right mix of foods to help you maintain a goal weight and also to maintain your training abilities. If you start getting into some of your training and you “bonk” often then you will need to address this. Bonking is the process of your body shutting down because it lacks the proper nutrition to continue to work. There are many nutrition plans out on the market, but most of them will not tell you what yo eat just what mix of carbs, proteins, and other nutrients you need.

I do wish for someone to come along and give a 6 months daily plan of simple meals for the triathlete.

Equipment Upgrades/Maintenance:

Every triathlete needs to take an assessment of their current equipment and plan for any upgrades or maintenance schedules. If you are like me, then you will know that triathlon equipment is very expensive. If you are able to obtain some equipment then you need to maintain it. One of the biggest issues in this arena is bicycle maintenance. I am not a certified bike mechanic, but I have watched enough online videos and read enough books to know how to properly maintain my bike. I make sure to purchase a new chain every year. I know that chains can go up to 3,000-5,000 miles. I try to change mine somewhere in this range or before. I especially want to change it before the big Ironman race in October. If you don’t change your chain then you need to at least clean it and properly lube it. You can make some small upgrades that will make a big difference on race day: new tires, ceramic bearings at various parts on the drive train and wheels, aero helmet and form fitting clothing. All of these are small upgrades that may make a big difference.

There may be some training aids that would help as well. Do you have a set of fins to train for the kick in the swimming pool? Do you have a quality trainer to be able to ride your bike during the winter months? Do you have a watch or bike computer that can help you track all of your workouts?

Planning out your upgrades and maintenance schedules won’t take long, but they will set you up for some great success in the new year.

Each of these aspects of triathlon training and racing will help you achieve all of your goals in this next year.

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