So, you've taken the plunge and committed yourself to your first triathlon, what next? With four sports in one (swim, bike, run, transition) its easy to see how this is a daunting prospect. Add in the amount of tight-fitting kit required from the off, and the apparent reputation as something only suitable for male city-workers or olympians, there is a general 'fear of judgement' in the female sporting world relating to triathlon.
In this blog I would like to offer the first timers some solutions on kit, training, food etc to dispel some of the fears you might have.
Those initial concerns........
1. Lack of fitness
You don't need to be super fit to compete in a triathlon. Stand and watch a few and you'll see there are all shapes, sizes and abilities that get to the finish line in ine way or another. Don't be afraid of taking a break for breastroke during the swim, pushing your bike up a hill or taking a walk during the run. Just do your best according to your fitness level, be proud of your achievement and stick with it. You'll soon see the improvements that will inspire you to tackle even tougher challenges!
Its tough enough just doing one sport, but three??? And having to seamlessly go from one to another???
There are many sources of information out there: 220 Magazine, online forums, shows, books, clubs and triathletes themselves love to talk about the sport. Our own first-timers try a tri course will undoubtedly help you work out these technicalities and give you all the skills and knowledge you need.
Triathlon can be expensive, but doesn't need to be. Until you know what you want and like, borrow or rent kit from friends and bike/tri shops. You can do your first on your happy shopper bike with a basket if thats all you have. And as long as you have some decent trainers, a swimsuit, a cycle helmet and some cycling shorts, you are good to go. Entries can also be expensive so look out for early bird entry fees.
4. The scary swim
If you are a little nervous about swimming, train in a group. It might seem daunting jumping in with more experienced swimmers but this can be one of the best ways to learn. Many clubs have slower lanes for technique sessions too.
Alternatively get some 121 coaching sessions to introduce you to the basic techniques.
5. Body image & living in Lycra
Running around in tight lycra can be intimidating and awkward even for the fittest amongst us. But if you hang around the tri scene long enough, you'll soon see that no-one notices - its just normal attire! And if you stick with your training plan you'll also soon reap the rewards of the sport, such as increased health & fitness and effortless weight loss. You'll likely feel so confident that body image issues will fade into the background, replaced by the knowledge that your body is a powerful vehicle for adventure and accomplishment!
1. Working week time constraints
Its tough to fit it all into your schedule when you have to get to work every day. If you are a morning person try setting your alarm 90 mins early to get your working in before you head out. I used to find that lunchtime was a great time to get a 45 min run in. If you don't have showers at work, baby wipes work just fine, perhaps don't plan your run on a day you have an important afternoon meeting!
If you are a mum who takes kids to after school activities, can you plan your workout whilst you wait?
2. Weekend balance
Most triathletes do tend to get out on their longer bikes or runs at the weekend, which has the downside of cutting out family/loved ones time. Train with your partner if you can, even drag the kids out on their bikes whilst you run. Pushing baby in a buggy during your run is a sure way to build up your strength and keep junior happy too.
Close friends of mine who are keen cyclists and runners take it in turns Saturday and Sunday to be with their two sons. She'll do her sport on the Saturday whilst he has the boys, vice versa on the Sunday. Seems to work pretty well.
3. Dark nights in the Winter
Just be safe. Avoid unlit quiet areas. Always wear high-viz jackets and lights, and take a phone with you. Forgo headphones and ideally train with a friend if you can.
4. Food glorious food
Just because you are active, doesn't mean you can get away with stuffing junk food in your mouth at every opportunity. Your body needs a balanced diet more than ever, for energy and muscle repair.
Active women need to make sure they get enough protein, iron and calcium, you are also more likely to need more water, sodium, potassium, and vitamins, including vit B, than your sedentary counterparts.
Include red meat & poultry, shellfish and leggs, lots of fruit and vegetables, healthy fats such as olive and coconut oils, avocados, uts, and seads, and natural full fat dairy foods. Avoid refined and sweetened foods that can sap energy, increase inflammation and reduce ability to recover from hard training.
5. Training and periods
There are no set rules for this, but I've read that certain phases of our cycle that are better suited to peak performance. In the first two weeks of the cycle oestrogen peaks and you might experience elevated energy and mood. This is the best time to schedule your races and harder training sessions if you can.
In the second phase of the cycle, water retention and lethargy is better suited for non-weight bearing activities such as cycling and swimming. In the last phase you might suffer from backaches, headaches and breast sensitivity, during which time its best to sit in a dark room, away from everyone and everything!
6 Training during pregnancy
What you do during pregnancy really depends on what you did prior to pregancy. Don't start doing new exercises or increase the loads/intensity. Energy levels can be low in early pregnancy as the placenta is developing and hormone shifts are extreme.
Realistically you want to replace the theory of 'training' with that of 'keeping well' daily and listening to your body.
7. Post pregnancy and return to sport
Be guided with how you feel. Walking is a good place to start, but wait at least your 6 week check before starting exercise. Swimming is a no no until bleeding stops due to the risk of infection.
Swimsuits are best for pool workouts and also a possibility during the event, under your wetsuit. You don't have to buy a tri suit - it just makes transitions easier. These can come with integral bra if you prefer. My favourite brand is Funkita, they are Australian and really well made.
These are one-piece suits that you swim, bike and run in. They will have a small chamois to make the cycle less painful and sometimes have built in bra support. Chose one that fits you well. I usually wear a sports bra underneath my trisuit.
Essential for running training anyway, you can also wear it under your tri suit, as mentioned above. Shockabsorber do a great range for all bra sizes and levels of support.