Triathlon is the sport of the moment, and the growing public appetite for its individual activities (swimming, cycling and running) is only serving to skyrocket its support. Brands are on board – statistics from the Triathlon Industry Association show that the UK’s triathlon business increased by 57 per cent between the past two Olympic events in 2012 and 2016 – and last year, approximately 19,000 people took part in one of England’s triathlon races. More women than ever are taking up the sport, with experts expecting participation levels to rise again this triathlon season. Of course, triathlon is so much more than a trendy sport – it’s great for the body, providing a whole-body workout that will not only improve health markers such as blood pressure, but also reduce injury risk through training for three sports. Tri training is fantastic for the figure – swimming sculpts the upper body, while running defines the legs and cycling tones the tush. So, whether you swim, run, cycle or have never tried any of the three sports before, there are plenty of reasons for you to join the masses.
Want to Join The Triathlon Ranks This Year? Be Brave and Take The First Step it’s easier Than You Think Says Ironwoman and Author Meredith Atwood Photo Gallery
If you’re still worried that you’re not up to the task, you’re not the only one. At a point in her life when she was busy juggling motherhood with a full-time job as a lawyer – ‘tired, fat, isolated and angry’ – author and now four times Ironman triathlete, Meredith Atwood decided to sign up for a triathlon. The way Atwood tells it, she wasn’t sporty at all and had no real experience in any of the three disciplines. So why do it? She decided to become a triathlete not because she felt ready for the task, but because she needed something to shake up her life and increase her confidence. ‘I was very tender to the fact that I was completely out of shape, teetering on depressed and repulsive in my own eyes,’ says Atwood, author of new book Triathlon for the Every Woman (Da Capo Lifelong, £13.99). Here, she reveals the tried-and-tested steps that any woman can take to becoming a fully-fledged triathlete. Notepad, ready?
1 MAKE A COMMITMENT
‘Making a decision to change is always the first step to actually changing. As such, the first step in my long list of brilliant advice about becoming a triathlete is to decide to become a triathlete. (And that means no matter how you look on the outside. No matter how badly you hurt on the inside.) First, you might want to know more about triathlon to make an informed decision about whether you want to join the sport. You might have a few questions before you put on a hideous wetsuit and jump into a cold lake on a Sunday morning with a bunch of neoprene-clad freakazoids. You might want to know exactly how difficult those early-morning wake-up calls actually are – especially on days that feel more suitable for brunch than blisters. Alas, I am telling you too much already! I should not scare you away at this early juncture! So, I am asking that you trust me. Trust me and believe that triathlon is something you need in your life.
2 SET THREE GOALS
The tiered approach is basically a three-part triathlon goal management system. Because research has revealed people like things in threes (swim, bike, run; peanut butter, jelly, bread; Moe, Larry, Curly), the three-tiered goal system feels harmonious. The three tiers of goals are: Quick Goal Race – one to three months; Main Goal Race – six to 12 months; Crazy Goal Race – two to 25 or more years. The Quick Goal is a race goal with a two- or three-month turnaround. You will want to have several Quick Goals during the year, to keep you moving and shaking. These might be known as the ‘B’ or ‘C’ races. The Main Goal is the big deal race of the year—also known as the ‘A’ Race in the triathlon world. This is your big race, the semi-scary goal. Ideally, this would be the end-of-the-season or end-of- year finale. The Main Goal is the thing that motivates you during training. When people ask you what you are training for, the Main Goal is the race you shout out. Finally, the Crazy Goal is just that. Absolutely huge, mind-boggling and seemingly ‘never-gonna-happen’.
3 TRI WITH OTHERS
Join a triathlon club or team. As a beginner, a local triathlon club or team may be just what you need to get moving. For starters, you will immediately meet some of the craziest people in your area (the triathletes). Once you join a club, you may have access to coaching, training programs, group rides and events (oh, and fancy triathlon suits for races!). Joining a triathlon club will give you the accountability factor that otherwise might be missing. Additionally, if you can’t stand the thought of training alone, this is definitely the way to go.
4 JOIN A MEGA GYM
You need a gym to do this triathlon thing, I’m afraid. If not, then you need the outdoors or a treadmill, a bike or a bike trainer, and access to a lake or lap pool. If you do opt for the gym route, sounds obvious, but make sure you sign up for a membership that includes use of the pool A mega gym is one of those giant chain gyms. If you live near and can afford the mega gym, go forth and be a mega gym member! I promise you won’t be sorry. First, the mega gym will have a large pool with lap lanes. Waiting on a lap lane for swimming may remain a necessary evil, but the mega gym lanes rotate more quickly. With the resources and staff to tend to pool maintenance, the mega gym is also less likely to have the infamous ‘Pool closed for cleaning’ sign propped up at random times when you turn up for a training session. Plus, mega gyms often have swim equipment, such as kick boards and pull floats, readily available.
5‘MAKE TIME FOR TRAINING
The logistics. How can I make this appointment between these hours? Who will pick up the kids? When can I find time to run? And forget swimming, who will do the laundry? At some point, we have to take responsibility for our health, our sanity, our jobs and our families – and stop sacrificing ourselves for everyone else. Is life a sacrifice? Of course. But we need not be martyrs. If you have put yourself in a position of martyrdom, lay down your shield. Time to rejuggle things. This is about you and your journey to yourself. To make triathlon a part of your life, you must begin to look at things differently. Instead of ‘How can I possibly get this done?’ you need to say, ‘I will get this done, and here’s my plan for how to juggle it all today’.
Aim to swim 1,600m to 2,200m each session. Incorporate speed, kicks, drills, continuous swims and added distance. Practise sighting, lifting your head to check your direction. Add a long or open water swim every other week before your bike ride. Take to the open water once a month and learn to feel über-comfortable in the water. Join the master’s swim class at your gym. Incorporate drills such as fist, catch and backstroke and others. With care, try introducing the pull float and other swim aids.
EXAMPLE SWIM WORKOUTS WORKOUT 1
Warm-up: 100m easy Kick: 100m Drills: 25m superman, 25m fist, 50m fingertip drag Main set: 100m; 4 x 50m descending (go faster each 50m); 100m pull; 8 x 25m fast; 2 x 200m, 30 btw (i.e. swim 200m, rest 30 secs, swim 200m); 3 x 100m, 30 btw (i.e. swim 100m, rest 30 secs, swim 100m, rest 30 secs, swim 300m) Cool-down: 100m easy.
Warm-up: 100m easy Kick: 100m drills: 25m superman, 25m fist, 50m fingertip drag Main set: 100m, 200m, 300m, 400m, 300m, 200m, 100m, w/:30 (i.e. 30 secs rest between each rep) Cool-down: 100m easy.
On Wednesdays, preferably get outside, but if you can’t, take a Spin class. Get there early or stay for 20-30 minutes and ride a little longer. On Saturdays, hit the road with your bike. Add some hill repeats and speed work starting in month two, depending on the terrain of your race. Try and train on the course or like-course terrain. Add an extra day of cycling if you are feeling feisty.
You will want to incorporate speed work (or track workouts), hill running and longer, slower runs. The long runs are key for building endurance (these are slower runs). The speed work and hills will serve you well on race day. So, remember to mix it up and include both!
The brick workout enables you to add a run workout to a cycling day once a week, or more if you are feeling great. Ride your allotted time for your cycling workout, then add one to two miles of jogging immediately after the ride, building up gradually until you feel ready to race! Ab and core workouts are on a run day and a swim day. Add one to two workouts for strength: upper body (for example, push-ups) and lower body (such as squats, lunges and bridges).
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