Sunday, March 2, 2014

Friday #Fitness 6 - Training for Triathlons

Today, instead of writing about ghosts, I'm ghost-writing...for my husband.  Why?  Because although I'm passionate about fitness, I've never participated in a triathlon.  Despite my 23 years of teaching fitness classes, I'd have no chance at completing a triathlon, unless maybe I had three days and multiple breaks.  My husband is the triathlete in the family, so I've collected some of his tips for anyone interested in attempting this type of physical challenge.

Swim - Bike - Run is the most common Triathlon

His first advice was "Run until your toenails fall off.  Then run some more."  But I didn't think that was entirely helpful.  So we'll go with - start slow.  There are different lengths of triathlons.  The distances can vary, but here is the general breakdown:  

Sprint - typically 750 meters (0.47 miles) swim, 20 kilometers (12 miles) bike, 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) run

Olympic - also known as "Intermediate" or "Standard" distance - 1.5 kilometers (0.93 miles) swim, 40 kilometers (25 miles) bike, 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) run

Half Ironman - also known as the "Long Course" or the "70.3" - 1.9 kilometers (1.2 miles) swim, 90 kilometers (56 miles) bike, and a 21.1 kilometers (13.1 miles) run

Ironman - also known as "Ultra Distance" or "140.6" - 3.8 kilometers (2.4 miles) swim, 180.2 kilometers (112.0 miles) bike, and a full marathon: 42.2 kilometers (26.2 miles) run.

The Sprint distance looks daunting enough to me, but with proper training, it's a good first step.  My husband did the Olympic distance as his first triathlon, but before that, he ran in a few competitive races.  And although he has been a lifelong regular at the gym, he did not even start running in races until he was 40 years old.  First he trained for, and tackled, a popular local 7 mile road race.  One of our best friends visits to run this as well, and that added extra incentive for each of them to do well.  My husband also trained for and completed a half marathon, and soon felt ready to add in the swimming and biking components necessary to do well in a triathlon.

My husband (left) on the podium after he came in 3rd in his
age group in an Olympic Triathlon...and 19th overall out of
over 300 athletes!

Do some people complete triathlons with less training and equipment, using just the regular bike sitting in the garage?  Sure.  The equipment is expensive, and just to enter and finish a triathlon is an amazing feat.  But if you want to be truly competitive and make good time, there are some things you must have.  And a triathlon or road bike is one of them.

It's best to have a good bike, properly fitted to your body.  Frames come in different sizes, so even if you're going shop online or purchase secondhand, go to a reputable bike shop and get fitted first.  My husband chose an aerodynamic bike with clip-on cleats.  Not all bikes are created equally, and this choice really helps him in terms of finishing times.

A training program is a must, and he uses a free online website called Tri-newbies for this.  It's one of the few free things in this endeavor!  Lots of great information can be found at this site.

He much prefers to train on his bike outdoors (despite the risk of popping a tire--something the rider needs to be prepared for).  But of course, a two hour bike ride outdoors in the winter is not always realistic.  So he rides indoors when necessary, and to do this he puts his bike on this Kinetic Trainer and a Riser Ring.

A good heart rate monitor serves as my husband's "personal trainer".  Monitoring his heart rate allows him to stay within the proper training zone.  First, you need to figure out what that is, of course.  The rule of thumb to compute your training range is 180-(your age).  So at 40, your max level would be 140 beats per minute and the training range for running would be 130 to 140, and for biking 10 below that, at 120 to 130.  Of course, adjustments need to be made based on level of fitness.  The monitor my husband uses is made by Timex.

You know who else enjoys
the long runs?  Our rescue pup
Otis!  He doesn't wear his red bow
though, that's his holiday outfit.

The swim training can be done in a pool, but a swim clinic in a lake or the ocean is a good way to prepare for the actual race if you're uncomfortable swimming in an outdoor environment.  My husband uses a wetsuit as well during the race, and this allows him to have his heart rate monitor already strapped on underneath the suit to speed up transition times.

This hydration belt is helpful for storing water and energy bars and packets during long runs and bike rides.  Massive amounts of calories are burned during long sessions, and nutrients and water must be replaced.

All this sounds like a lot, but again...start slow.  Apparently, it's addictive, if my husband is any indication.  Now he's preparing for his first Half Ironman, which takes place in June.  I'll be there with the kids, as always, to cheer him on--from the sidelines.  Teaching seven classes a week leaves me with no room for additional workouts, but even if that weren't the case, I'm not sure I could ever find the dedication necessary to compete in something like this.  So I'll be sitting in a folding chair with my colorful sign, waiting at the finish line!


  1. Informative & great pics. Wish your hubby luck in the long course in June! Otis looks like a wonderful training buddy!

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Mike, and I'll pass on the well wishes! Training for this one has begun, and Otis is thrilled :)