Exercise! - triathlon advice for beginners?

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09-29-2008, 05:58 PM
I'm considering signing up for a beginner's triathlon which is in April. It's a 400 meter swim, 10 mile bike ride, and 5k run. I'm doing couch to 5k right now, repeating each week twice because I am still recovering from knee injuries.

My question is this -- how would I even BEGIN training for a triathlon? Right now I do c25k MWF in the morning (it's getting harder because it is so dark outside!). I need to work in some time for strength training somewhere to help me avoid getting re-injured. How do you schedule three different types of workouts each week and still progress on all of them?

09-29-2008, 06:12 PM
Check out www.beginnertriathlete.com. They have beginner training plans there that are pretty good. For me, I'm doing my own thing because I just want to get used to all 3 sports right now.

For me, I swim Tuesday and Thursday mornings and also generally Sunday morning. I do weights on Tuesday and Thursday evenings as well as either Saturday or Sunday. I do bike and/or run on the other days and Wednesday evenings are now slotted for running. Fridays are my planned off/light days.

Honestly, practicing in all 3 sports will just help you get progress in all 3 of them.

09-29-2008, 10:23 PM
Hey guys!!! This topic really excites me. As it stands, I don't really exercise at all. I'm in school working my way to being a dietitian so I've got the eating down (not that I don't cheat but at least when I cheat, I know I'm doing wrong). My boyfriend is a long distance runner. He is 5'9" and 125lbs. With that kind of runners body (close to my weight) and that runners devotion, it's hard not to want what he has. I'd love to start running and possibly do a mini triathalon someday but my problem is I get so overwhelmed and try to do everything at once and then just end up quitting and sleeping in everyday. How would you suggest starting running for someone who is a chronic projector when it comes to exercising

09-30-2008, 10:16 AM
ohman - check out the Running FAQs sticky, it has a link to the Couch To 5K program, which is a great way to get started with running!

Nelie, thanks! I looked at that site, but it seems like none of the sprint triathlon training plans are quite right for me. They either expect you to not be able to do any exercise, or to be able to do at least 30 mins running straight, 30 mins swimming, and 30 mins biking. I'm in better shape than not doing any exercise, but not up to the level of the others. I can probably run for 10 minutes (or do walk/jog intervals for 40), bike for 20, but I haven't swum laps in so many years that I probably would only last about 1 minute in a pool.

I'll try to pick and choose pieces from their plans, but I'm worried I might make a too-aggressive plan. On the other hand, I do want to be able to do it by April. Hmmm....

09-30-2008, 12:51 PM
Well one useful thing I've read is that you can make great gains in the first few months but it may take many years to get up to your peak performance. I had never swam laps before and I hadn't been in the pool in years. I had gone snorkeling and stuff but I never swam for exercise. To my surprise, I was able to swim laps pretty well and its been about a month and I can swim about 40 laps (not continuously).

I'm not following an official plan, I'm just working the best I can on each sport. I would say I'm probably concentrating more on swimming and running but I do fit in biking.

Pink Geranium
09-30-2008, 03:30 PM
Hi, I'm a swimmer and I've been working with a friend who wants to do a triathlon, and the swimming is his problem (between us, he started off not even being able to make one length of the pool though he's otherwise in good shape). We've worked on his stroke to get some more efficiency so he doesn't work so hard (Total Immersion Swimming has been really helpful) and now the idea is to go along the same idea as the Couch Potato plan for running - swim, rest, swim, etc. First it was one length at a time and a pretty long rest, then less rest, more lengths in a session, etc. Now he's doing 50's (2 lengths at a time) pretty well - the idea now is to cut down the rest and then up the lengths. He has improved pretty fast and as I said, was not coming from much as far as swimming ability about a month ago.

So you might try this method rather than just straight lap swimming - you may find yourself doing more yardage quicker.

10-01-2008, 06:17 AM
If I were training for a triathlon--which I'm not and know almost nothing about, so my opinion probably isn't worth much--I would just devote different days to the three different components. E.g., I'd swim one day, run one day, and bike one day. Then also mix in some strength training for good measure and maybe double up on the activities where I am weakest. For example, I'm pretty strong at swimming but haven't biked since I was a teenager, so I might swim one day a week but bike two days a week.

I currently swim one day a week and even miss a few weeks here and there and I've still made significant progress with my swimming with that program (and progressed very quickly in the beginning--now I've sort of stalled out but it's because I'm not pushing myself enough). I run only three times a week and have also made significant progress there. So I think you could make pretty good progress with all of the triathlon activities even if you only did each one, say, twice a week.

One word of caution is that if the swim in the triathlon is in open water and you've never swum in open water before, make sure you do a couple of practice open-water swims before the race. Open-water swimming is night and day different from pool swimming and you don't want your first experience with it to be in a crowd of other swimmers.

10-01-2008, 07:58 AM
I've done two triathlons about those lengths and both times started training when I was pretty out of shape (the races were five years apart). I echo everyone else's advice to just practice all these events often. I'd recommend working out at least 5 times a week. The first time I would try to do a couple different events per day -- run 2 miles and then swim, even though that is not how the race goes... the second time around I usually did one event per day.

As for lengths... well, the swim only took me 25 minutes to complete so I always went the regular swim distance and just tried to improve my time. It's a short race, each event should only take you 20-40 minutes each. I finished close to last with a time of 1:45 and 1:35 for each. If you can't run the 5k yet, just keep going the 5k and try to run more and more each time.

When it gets closer to race day, try to do at least 2 trial runs of the whole thing... don't worry about transition times, like trying to get from swimming to biking quickly--just do all the exercises as close together as you can.

Oh and definitely practice open water swimming before the race if that's part of it. It is the biggest shock to most amateur triathletes who train in the pool. And spend more time on your weakness. A friend of a friend is an amazing runner and signed up for a triathlon on a whim--I don't think she trained other than her regular exercise routine. She was dead last swimming... not just last but like.... wayyy behind everyone! She just assumed she could swim and didn't give it effort.

A final thought--honestly those sprint triathlons are not that hard. My motto was "Complete not compete." If you have injuries, I can't speak to that. But if you're body is in working order, albeit out of shape, you can definitely finish one! And the more effort you put into training, the faster and easier it will be.

10-01-2008, 11:15 AM
Thanks for the advice! The swim is not going to be open water, it's in a pool, luckily! They did it that way partly to encourage more beginners to sign up. This triathlon's goal is really to get more people interested in triathlons -- they have the events I described for the adults, then they have a shorter route for 11-16 year olds, and an even shorter one for 7-10 year olds. Then there are two awards per age group, one for first-timers and one for people who've done triathlon before. They also have a special pre-race meeting for first-timers to go over details of how the triathlon works.

In any case, I can actually train in the pool that the triathlon is in - it's at our local high school, and is something like $3.50 for a day pass.

How does this sound for a training routine?
Monday: AM run, PM bike
Tuesday: AM strength training
Wednesday: AM run
Thursday: AM strength training, PM bike
Friday: AM run
Saturday: swim
Sunday: swim

Then in all of them I would gradually increase distance until I could go the whole route of the triathlon? Or do I need a complete rest day? It would be way easier for me to get to the pool on the weekends, so that's why I put it there . . .

10-01-2008, 11:25 AM
Is there any way you can get to the pool during the week? I probably wouldn't put 2 swim days back to back.

10-01-2008, 11:37 AM
Well, the high school pool has public lap swim from 7:30-8:30pm on weekdays, which is a pretty short window (they do 12-3 on weekends). There's a longer lap swim time at the local rec center (but it's twice the $$), which I might be able to do (but there also they have more time on weekends, 7-7 about). I don't think I could get myself to the pool at 5am which is my other alternative. It's in the opposite direction from work and I'm supposed to be at work at 8:00 or so.