Detailed training plans for a triathlon can be obtained from various sources. Here I have just noted basic outlines and targets for each month. The amount of preparation and time spent will vary greatly depending on the time available, your expectations and commitment to the cause.
June - Training guidelines:
With only a few weeks to go now until the big day I will provide guidance on a week by week basis rather than on individual disciplines. This is the time when all the previous training comes together to enable you to approach the triathlon with confidence.
Week 1: For the first week of June, train at your normal training volume. This is an ideal time to practice the whole event. The three disciplines don't have to be directly back to back or even on the triathlon course. Although, the nearer you can replicate the event the better. Pay attention to any little injury niggles that you may have. Now is not the time to encounter any problems. An injury at this stage of the preparation will be a big setback.
Week 2: Cut back your training to about 70% of your normal volume. The trick is to reduce the volume but maintain the intensity. Make sure all your equipment, especially the bike is in good order. Check brakes, tyres and drive system thoroughly. Buy any new gear you expect to use on race day and practice using it. The day of the triathlon is not the time to experiment with new kit or methods. If you have not done so before, try to practise swimming the 300m whilst ducking under the ropes. Practising this beforehand will save a little time and give you confidence. Do several short cycles with a 5 to 10 minute run afterwards. This will get you used to running with 'jelly-legs'.
The last few days are where all your preparation comes together. I hope to arrange a couple of training evenings during the last week. We meet at the swimming pool, divide into ability groups. First we cycle the triathlon route, then run the race course. Finally, if anyone wishes to stay they are welcome to swim with the Harwich Swimming Club Master at 21:00. Keep the training light and ensure you are well rested come Saturday.
Other Factors: Transitions: This is the fourth discipline of triathlon and one that is often overlooked. You can lose lots of valuable time in the changeovers. Practise the routine of mounting your bike, changing into your running shoes, etc. It can take a great deal of effort to shave a minute of your running time, but virtually no effort at all to save a minute in transition. Every year we see people putting there helmets on back to front, running up and down the rows of cycles looking for their bike. It is great spectator sport, but try not to be the one to provide this years entertainment!!
Finally: Enjoy the event. Good luck. I will see you all on race day.
May - Triathlon Training guidelines:
Swimming: With only a few weeks to go before race day your swimming should be more or less up to speed. It is important not to let the mechanics of the stroke deteriorate. This can happen on race day with all the excitement of the occasion. If you have an hour swim session, break it down as follows: 10 minute warm-up. 30 minutes main set, working on technique and stamina. Then, 20 minutes sprinting over either 1 or 2 lengths at above race pace. Try this twice a week if time allows.
Cycling: I still suggest you ride the triathlon route as often as possible as it is a tough course with plenty of hills and fast turns to test your endurance and bike handling. A good knowledge of the route will give you an edge on race day and probably several minute's advantage over those who have not checked out the area. To really make the most of your time on the course try an interval session. Ride steady for 5 minutes then flat out for the next 5. Repeat this until the end. The training benefit will be greater that just a steady tempo ride. Next time change the interval time to something shorter, say 3 minutes.
Try to run at least twice per week. As per last month, vary the training to give yourself different challenges.
Other Factors: If possible try to do two activities on the same day. They don't have to be directly after one another. Or simply run / cycle to your swim session. Include a little 'core-stability' work into some of your easier days.
April - Triathlon Training guidelines:
Swimming: Again it is important not to let your technique slip as you approach the final few months of training. Spend at least half of your pool time paying strict attention to the mechanics of the stroke. To get used to race day, increase the distance you swim for each rep. Try to replicate the first discipline by swimming a series of 300m intervals. Time each swim and with a rest of around 2 minutes between each rep, aim to maintain a constant time. The fitter you are the easier this will be. At this stage of training 5 reps will be a good test of your fitness.
Cycling: The cycle section is the longest of the race and probably the one where most time can be won or lost. For Essex the course is rather hilly. A long increasing gradient climb away from the seafront, a short sharp hill after Ramsey village and another tricky little incline as you approach Great Oakley. This circuit is a good training ride and prior knowledge will gain you valuable time on race day. If possible ride the triathlon route as often as time allows. Don't forget to enter a 10 mile time trial to really get the feel for what effort is involved in a cycle race.
Running: Keep running several times a week. Vary the type of training. Hills, intervals and longish runs. Aim to be in good form for the end of the month. Racing 5k will not only give great feedback to how your training is progressing, but will also enable you to get used to running the distance required at race pace. With a 5k handicap race, there will be slower runners ahead of you to chase and faster ones behind to keep you on your toes. A staggered start and a mass finish all add to the race atmosphere.
Other Factors: On race day you will have to run straight after the cycle. Running after your legs have been used to cycling is rather different to running when fresh. (I always say the first kilometre is like running with someone else's legs). After your bike, put on your trainers and run for 5 or 10 minutes to experience this effect.
March - Triathlon Training guidelines:
Swimming: If you have followed the last two months training guidelines, you should be fairly confident with your swimming at a basic level. We now need to gradually improve the effectiveness and speed of your first discipline. Keeping a careful check on your technique the aim is now to gradually increase the speed and power of your stroke. If you have committed yourself to a swimming club try to follow a more difficult 'set' as laid down the coach. Otherwise swim 10 ~ 12 x 100m reps (4 x 25m pool lengths) off a fixed time. Times to aim for are 2:00min, 2:15min or 2:30min. You should have around 10 to 15 seconds recovery time after each 100m swim. (If you swim slower you will have less rest)! Aim to be as consistent as possible. This will be a good test of your swim fitness.
Cycling: With the worst of the winter weather hopefully behind us and much more daylight in the evenings now. The time has come to turn the endurance fitness hard won during the last two months into speed. Try to get some riding done during the evenings with your training partner(s). Hit those hills hard. Race each other to the top or race to the 30mph road sign as you approach a village or town. This will sharpen your competitive instinct. If possible enter some 10 mile time-trials. (A 10 mile cycle race where riders set off separately every 1 minute). This is great way to hone your racing credentials. Colchester Rovers Cycling Club organises a 10' TT most Wednesday evenings. See Colchester Rovers website for details.
Running: With two months of consistent running under your belt, your legs should now be used to the rigours of running and ready for the next stage of development. It is still important to be running two or three times each week, but now is the time to introduce some more specific training schedules. My suggestion for March is to add a 'hill session' or two during this month. Pick a hill with a reasonable incline. One of my favourites is the bridle-path beside the church at the top of Ramsey Hill. It is away from traffic, has a good running surface and an incline of 10 to 15%. Attack the hill whilst running on the front part of your feet. Once at the top, jog back to the start for the next repetition. Start with 8 to 10 hill reps and build up to 12. As with swimming have a set time to work off. This will keep you focused and ensure there is no slacking off during the session.
Other Factors: Injury prevention: After a hard session it is important to wind-down and help the body recover, so that it will be ready for the next training workload. After a hard cycle or run session, either spin the pedals in a low gear for a few minutes or have a gentle jog. Next I like to stretch out the muscles that have suffered the most. (Quads and hamstrings if cycling or calf muscles if a hill session has been your training objective).
February - Triathlon Training guidelines:
Swimming: Last month the goal was to swim at least once a week with the emphasis being on swimming technique. To judge how efficient your technique has become, count the number of strokes it takes to complete one length of a 25m pool. A good swimmer with an efficient stroke will take as little as 14 strokes per length. Others may be more than double that. Note how many strokes you need to complete one length. During the month make an effort to lower your swim stroke per 25m by concentrating on the mechanics of your swimming. Remember, swim long and streamlined. Only turn your head enough to breathe (try to keep one lens of your goggles in the water as you turn to breathe). Accelerate the hand speed as you perform the arm action.
Cycling: As for January we are still aiming to cover as many miles as possible. This month try to pick some more challenging routes that involve some hills. The hills will help develop power and push your heart rate briefly into the higher ranges required for racing. If possible find a training partner who is similar in ability to you. Riding with someone else is more enjoyable and provides a mental stimulus to try that little harder. Take it in turns to set the pace. When riding behind use the slipstream effect to rest up in preparation for your turn at the front.
Running: Having spent most of January building up your running distance and hopefully staying injury free, you are now in a position to gradually increase your distance and tempo during February. Marginally increase the distance of your run, but still allow plenty of time to recover before you venture out again. Try a 'fartleck' (Swedish for speed-play).session or two during this month. This could involve running your normal route but alternating a fast sprint with a recovery jog using lampposts or other objects as markers.
Other Factors: Continue to eat a healthy diet. A bowl of porridge in the morning is both filling and has plenty of slow release carbohydrates to fuel a busy training schedule. Check out the web for some 'core stability exercises'. They will help you perform better in all 3 disciplines. Try an exercise called 'The Plank'. It looks deceptively easy and requires no equipment to perform.
January - Triathlon Training guidelines:
Swimming: Depending on your previous experience you will be approaching the swim with either confidence or trepidation. If the later, the sooner you start the easier it will be. For January, you should aim to swim at least once per week, preferably twice if time allows. If possible join your local swimming club. Most clubs have a Masters section, where you will have pool time available without the general public getting in the way. Coaching is provided by most clubs. The swimming technique is the most important aspect to work on. A good technique makes the whole process so much less effort. If you cannot make a coached session the next best thing is watch a couple of video clips on You-Tube and see how the experts execute their strokes. Remember you only have a choice of two strokes, either front-crawl or breast-stroke. Harwich Swimming Club Masters swim 21:00 ~ 22:00 Monday & Thursday. £3 per session.
Cycling: Most people have little fear of the cycle section, although it is the largest part of the event. The breakdown is generally 20% swim, 50% cycle, 30% run. So a good bike leg is important to your overall time. The plan for January and February is simply to get some miles in. This will give you the base fitness to build on later in the year. With the weather likely to be indifferent to say the least you may not wish to venture out on your best bike. Not to worry a mountain bike is just as good and will withstand the punishment better anyway.
Running: Again depending on you background you will have to approach the run differently. If you are a regular runner / jogger you just need to keep putting in the miles. If you haven't run for a while, the sooner you start the better. Take it easy at first. Running is the simplest of all exercise, but the one most likely to give you an injury. Go to any running club and you will hear endless tales of who has which injury and who has that. Buy a good pair of running shoes. Allow time to recover from previous runs before pushing ahead with the next stage. Remember there is still 5 months to go. (Tortoise and the Hare). Try to run on softer surfaces if you can. Vary your training route to add variety and different challenges. Join your local running club. They are not all super athletes and all will welcome you into their strange world. Harwich Running Club meets on Tuesday evening see about us for details.
Other Factors: Eat well, but cut out the junk. The great thing about training for a triathlon is you can eat more than the average person as long as you remember the golden rule. Rubbish in rubbish out! If you are over your ideal weight try to gradually shed those extra pounds. It will make a great difference when you attack the hills on your bike and run section of the event.