How To Prepare For A Triathlon
A Triathlon is a sport which consists of swimming, cycling and running – essentially a 3 in 1 race!
It does sound quite overwhelming at first, especially if you’re a beginner but the sport has blossomed over recent years
, with an increase in participants for events all across the world. There are many different triathlons to take part in and it all depends on how ready you are to tackle one. You could set yourself a challenge for a Try a Tri, which is a 250m swim, 6km cycle, and 3km run or if you’re feeling ambitious, the sprint distance is a 750m swim, 20km cycle, and 5km run, but even we must admit, we don’t fancy taking that on without long-term training first!
Training and nutrition can make all the difference when it comes to performance during a triathlon which is why it’s essential you find the right nutritional strategy that can help you conquer triathlons one by one. We already have a few nutritional tips for swimmers. Let’s help you prepare you for a triathlon, as well as ensure you have the right kind of triathlon gear when it comes down to it.
In 3, 2, 1…
The Open Water Swim
So, the first of a triathlon is the open water swimming leg. This is where carb loading comes in handy because your muscles should already be well nourished. The swim leg is ultimately not so harsh on your body but, depending on the length you’re swimming, it might be worth taking on board a sports drink or gel. This does however depend on your personal preference and endurance which we’ll look at later.
It’s also essential to ensure you have the best triathlon wetsuit. Swimming wetsuits are designed to enhance your performance and keep you protected, which is why any triathlon athlete will tell you that investing in a high-quality wetsuit is a smart idea.
When you’ve completed the open water swim, the bike leg is when your body will start to get to work. It’s also where many athletes take the opportunity to refuel with solid foods, such as energy bars because it’s more convenient to eat and store food on the bike. According to studies, it’s suggested that you will only be able to absorb the calories you need during the race if you reduce your maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 max) to an estimated 60% - 70%. This is around two-thirds of your race pace, so it’s something to really consider before your race.
The run is the final leg in a triathlon and it’s where athletes will start to feel a bit of fatigue. Fuelling on the run, however, is a different story. While it was easier to consume solid foods on a bike, it’s quite difficult to nail the ‘eating while running’ as it can disrupt your running performance.
Don’t worry though, not all hope is lost – this is where transportable foods come in. Energy drinks, gels and dried fruit such as raisins are just a few of the popular foods and drinks athletes include in their nutritional and fuelling strategy.
Top 3 Triathlon Tips
1.Maintain a healthy balanced diet - We know you probably have your fruit and vegetables, but your focus should also be on carbohydrates, proteins, and fats – the trio of macronutrients. These have several functions in the body, such as energy and growth which is required daily. You can learn more about macronutrients and their importance here.
2.Focus on endurance - In sports nutrition, before any type of sports activity or race your body already possesses an estimated 90 minutes to 2 hours’ worth of energy – this is if you maintain a balanced diet. Because the body works wonders, this energy is stored in your muscles as glycogen and this is what powers your muscles and gives you a boost ready for the race. It’s essential to make sure your glycogen levels are stocked up to ensure peak performance.
However, for races that last more than 2 hours, it’s incredibly important to consider carb loading and consuming energy during the event. This is to maintain performance, rather than lose it altogether and not be able to finish. You don’t want to be the one with poor nutrition tactics so if it helps, produce a detailed nutritional plan on your food intake for the day and at what times.
3.Fuelling during a Triathlon - Having a little pick me up is quite common and needed in triathlon races, with many athletes choosing triathlon energy gels and energy bars. They provide quick energy and aren’t time-consuming during crucial moments. By consuming fuel during the race, it gives your body enough time to increase glycogen levels and therefore provide you with a boost that will improve your overall performance. Although energy gels and bars work differently on all of us, it would be quite beneficial to find something that is effective for you. Due to the three different sports throughout a triathlon race, it means you can adapt your fuelling in each leg of the race which you can use to your advantage if done correctly.
It’s important to remember with triathlons to go short before going long. This means to pace yourself and know what you can and cannot do. Training for triathlons should be taken seriously and the main things to always remember are – make sure you have suitable triathlon clothing, follow a nutritional plan that works for you and practice makes perfect!