Although a few individuals may already be doing some form of a structured training, the majority of people seem to wait until the last minute before beginning their tri-specific workouts.
If you wait until a few weeks before the event to start, you might as well resign yourself to the fact that you’ll be one of the stragglers limping across the finish line near the back of the pack.
On the other hand, you could start training now and be ready to have a great race come mid-July.
Most single-sport athletes (i.e., cyclist, runner or swimmer) have good aerobic fitness in their primary sport. That’s a decent starting point, but preparing for an event that combines three unique disciplines requires a different approach compared to a single sport.
The hardest part will be adapting your body to doing progressive quality workouts in all three sports during each training week.
You’ll also need to identify your weak disciplines and improve technical skills in those weak areas while concurrently building fitness.
Using the above-mentioned 90 days as a framework, a good approach is to structure your training program into four distinct phases: adaptation, endurance, intensity and peak/race.
Phase 1 (adaptation) takes place during the first 3-4 weeks of your program. During the first week or two, you should do a baseline assessment of what your fitness and skills are in each of the three disciplines to identify strengths and weaknesses, and begin doing one or more workouts per week in each area (bike, run and swim).
The first phase of your training program is when you should start developing skills in your weaker disciplines. If you are a poor swimmer, then now is the time to start working with a coach or swimmer friend to improve those swimming skills.
You’ll also want to gradually increase the length of each workout by 10 percent or so during Weeks 2 and 3, and then take a ‘recovery week’ with total weekly volume reduced by 25-30 percent compared with Week 3.
Your weekly schedule should include easy days to let your body recover from hard days. For example, your schedule might have a long bike workout Sunday; a shorter ride Wednesday; running workouts Tuesday and Thursday; low-impact swimming sessions on Monday and Friday; and then wrap the week up with a bike/run combination (brick workout) Saturday.
Bricks are important since they help prepare for the difficult bike-to-run transition at the end of a triathlon. These can initially be a normal bike workout followed by a short, easy five minutes or so of running, but as your training program progresses you’ll want to start doing longer off-the-bike transition runs that mimic the run distance in your selected event.
Phase 2 (endurance) will take place during Weeks 5-8 and will be a continuation of Phase 1 with the goal being to gradually increase the length and pace of workouts in each discipline. Ideally, by the end of Phase 2 you should be comfortably doing the races distances for the bike, run and swim of your target event at an easy to moderate pace.
You can also substitute occasional single-sport cycling and running events to get in good hard-effort workouts.
Just as in Phase 1, the final week of Phase 2 should be a recovery week with reduced volume and more recliner time.
Phase 3 of your triathlon training program (intensity) will cover Weeks 9-11 with the last week also being a recovery week. During this phase, you want to start doing at least one bike, run and swim workout each week at a faster pace. The goal will be to develop your ability to go faster, tolerate a higher heart rate, and improve your body’s ability to process and clear lactic acid.
These faster workouts are hard but also more fun since you’re simulating ‘race pace.’ You don’t have to go hard all the time — try starting with two 5-10 minute intervals in each sport with a five minute easy-pace recovery between hard efforts and then increase the interval length the following week.
The final two weeks are the ‘capstone weeks’ of your 90-day training program. Two weeks out from your goal event you need to reduce your workout volume by 25-30 percent while keeping the intensity high and making sure that you are fully recovered before the next hard session.
The final week before your event should have even less volume — cut back to only about 50 percent of the previous week. During this final week, concentrate on short, fast intervals every other day with full recovery between efforts. Take a complete day of rest (no workout) two days before your race and then do a very short session the day before your triathlon to ‘open’ the legs and lungs.
If you start now and follow a program similar to what is described above you’ll be ready to rock, roll and splash come triathlon season.
April 25: Lone Wolf Run, roadlizards.org
April 25: Ballinger Bikefest, ballingernoonlions.org/pages/bikefest.html
May 30: ECVFD Stop, Drop and Roll, roadlizards.org
July 12: Lake Nasworthy Triathlon, roadlizards.org
July 25: Goodfellow Triathlon, roadlizards.org
Aug 9: San Angelo Triathlon, permianbasinevents.com/san-angelo-tri.html