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Triathlon Basics...Train All Of Your Body Systems In Texas

Aug 17, 2007
A triathlon is a grueling competition that includes running, biking and swimming distances. The races can vary in distances, with the shorter Tinman, which includes a .62 mile swim, 28.6 mile bike race and a 6.2 mile run, to the aptly named Ironman, which includes a 2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike race and running a marathon - approximately 26 miles.

Although triathletes from Dallas, Houston or anywhere in Texas come in various shapes, sizes and sexes, you have to be in excellent physical condition to participate in a triathlon. If you are participating in a race, or plan to do so, here are five key phases you should add to your triathlon training.

Hydration is the absolute, number one, most important training tip. Start off well hydrated, or even over-hydrated if you don't mind potty visits three times in the last hour of your pre-triathlon race or training sessions. Then, if the triathlon event is less than an hour, you will not need to take in liquids during the event.

Phase One
Fun exercise. Most of your triathlon training should be enjoyable. The post-triathlon race season, and the early build up for next year, should be even more fun. Include long gentle sessions, cruising at 70 percent of your maximum heart rate, plus plenty of speedplay.

Running element. Two hundred to 800 meter efforts on trails, grass or other soft surfaces. Run 10-20 percent of your mileage as speedplay at about 10K of your race effort.

Swimming. Time to switch your environment. Ocean, lake or pool...seek a change. Swim 30-90 seconds in moderate effort surges.

Biking - Go off-road or to the road. Ride hard up the hills or do 2-10 minute surges.

Phase Two
Strength exercise - You still keep your long runs and bike rides, but you're now in full triathlon training. Hill repeats for running and biking. Use resistance devices for swimming. In all the triathlon disciplines, keep your cadence and work on form. Also include weight training twice a week, until two weeks before your main triathlon races. Keep that relaxing speedplay exercise also.

Phase Three
Improve your oxygen delivery system or anaerobic threshold, while improving exercise efficiency. For triathlon running, you need to practice running at 15K to half-marathon race pace, with one to two mile repeats and 4- to 5-mile tempo runs. Run at 80-86 % maximum heart rate for these sessions. Biking at about one-hour time trial pace means 5- to 15-minute repeats at that pace. Swimming will require 3- to 5-minute efforts at 90 percent maximum swimming heart rate. Keep some strength and speedplay sessions too. Continue long runs and bike rides.

Phase Four
Improve oxygen uptake capacity (VO2 Max) and exercise form. Use a 5K pace for running (95 % of max VO2), usually as 1- to 3-minute efforts or 300-600 meters. If very experienced, use 5-minute efforts to perfect relaxed running form. Biking will also need 1- to 5-minute efforts at 15-minute time trial pace, which is closer to 100 % of max VO2 on the bike. One-minute efforts are more the norm for swimmers; form is so much more important against the high resistance of water. Retain some anaerobic exercise, strength and speedplay sessions too.

Phase Five
Peaking requires resting by 20-40 percent, but only in the last 2-3 weeks. The type of training that's most often neglected is long efforts at VO2 Max. Running 1,000 to 1,600 meters at 5K pace, biking 4-6 minute efforts, and swimming 2 to 3 minutes at high intensity, places the muscles, including the heart muscle, in the high training zone for a greater percentage of the exercise session.

The well-trained runner/triathlete will find 12 x 400 meters at 5K pace easy. Three times one-mile at 5K pace is more demanding, especially if you only take a two-minute rest between reps. Match each session of long efforts with a session of short efforts at 5K intensity. Keep some anaerobic threshold exercise, strength speedplay sessions too. Never ignore a strength while working on your weakness.

Four weeks of relative rest in phase one should be followed by about eight weeks in each of the other four, triathlon-training phases. These 36 weeks leave triathletes a 16-week racing season.
About the Author
Pat Carpenter writes for Precedent Insurance Company. Precedent puts a new spin on health insurance. Learn more at Precedent.com
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