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Five mistakes to avoid while you're training for a triathlon

Training for a triathlon is a great way to boost your fitness. However, to benefit from the process, you must avoid these mistakes

Training for and participating in a triathlon is a great way to boost your fitness.
Training for and participating in a triathlon is a great way to boost your fitness. (Istockphoto)

If you are bored of doing the same run every day, or cycling along the same route every weekend , then may I suggest you take your routine up a notch? Maybe even two or three notches? I suggest you try the triathlon format.

A triathlon is every bit as exciting and invigorating as it is claimed to be. It is also, unfortunately, even more exhausting than we could imagine. Now there are a variety of triathlon formats of course. And beginners should seriously consider which format they want to go for depending on their fitness level and how much time they can dedicate to training. The sprint triathlon has a shorter duration, where participants swim 750m, cycle 20km and then run 5km. The standard Olympic triathlon involves a swim of 1.5km, 40km of cycling and a 10km run. The half ironman or triathlon 70.3 (named after the total miles covered) starts with a 1.9km swim, followed by 90km of cycling and a 21.1km run. The full ironman, or the triathlon 140.6, has a grueling swim of 3.9km, followed by 181km of cycling and a run of 42.2km.

It’s important to know that even the shortest triathlon can be quite overwhelming the first time. It is also important to remember that it’s normal to make mistakes, and no matter how hard you’ve trained, things could still go wrong. Sometimes, preparing for the unknown can help. Here are a few common mistakes first time (and even seasoned) triathletes make. Be aware of them and plan your training and race day likewise.

Practice swimming in open water before the race.
Practice swimming in open water before the race. (Istockphoto)

Not practicing sighting

“Many people think they can swim fine in a triathlon just because they know how to swim. But there are various factors which come into play. Your posture—with your head out but not towards the sky—a balanced body can be important. But it is also important to remember that there can be sudden undercurrents or a high tide and that may change your swim style completely,” says Abhishek Mishra. He is a veteran of several ironmans, and he also did the full Ultraman Florida. The founder-CEO of Tabono Sports and Events, which organised the recent HercUlean ITF Triathlon in Konark, Odisha, Mishra has had the time to observe how triathletes compete. Observing the 160 participants of the HercUlean, Mishra realised that many looked like they’d practiced their swim section solely in swimming pools. While this might help you build the stamina to swim the distance, it does not prepare you for open water swimming.

Not investing in a proper tri suit

Most triathletes buy a new bike for the race, looking to get the best time out of their rides. But often, many overlook the role a proper tri suit can play, believes Kaustubh Radkar. Radkar is a 25-time Ironman finisher and a Pune-based coach and founder of Radstrong Coaching. “A proper tri suit can help you to avoid chafing, which is a pain to deal with. Also, you might think its fine if you have cycling shorts and a great swim suit. But changing after the swim is not that easy. Invest in a tri suit, which helps you save time and is comfortable and efficient,” he says. It goes without saying that one should wear the suit in training sessions too, and not to break it in directly on race day.

Refueling without thinking

Many who are not used to swimming in open water end up gulping in plenty of salty water. While they don’t necessarily feel uneasy during the swim, this can cause problems if they eat immediately afterwards. “Often, people try to get their nutrition needs filled during the transition between swim and cycle. But if you have had a lot of sea water, then food will make you throw up. Instead drink lots of plain water, flush out the salty water from your body. And after a gap of at least 30 minutes, you can start consuming other things,” says Mishra.

Again, the kind of food you eat should be well thought out. The HercUlean ITF Triathlon served fruits, including watermelon on the racing track. “While it feels great to have cool watermelon when you are running in the heat, it does get heavy. So you cannot, or rather should not, have too much of it. It also takes time to digest,” explains Mishra. So think about what you want to eat before and during the race and add this routine to your training sessions as well.

Combine different activities, like running and swimming or swimming and cycling, during your training sessions.
Combine different activities, like running and swimming or swimming and cycling, during your training sessions. (Istockphoto)

Not doing enough brick sessions

A brick session is one where you combine two or more different activity in your training session. For example, combining running with cycling, or cycling and swimming. “Most people tend to do long runs on one day, or take their cycle out for hours. This might make you strong in one discipline but it does not help you get used to transitioning from one part of the race to the other. You must realise your muscles will be overworked when you start cycling and especially when you begin your run after the cycle,” explains Radkar. The positioning and balance of the body also changes depending on the activity. You go from a horizontal position while swimming to a sitting position during your ride, and then to a vertical position during your run. This is a dynamic that you need to get extremely comfortable with before your race.

Not researching the route and weather forecasts

It is intelligent to read up about the place where your race is going to be. Just like if you train in Delhi, and then do a full marathon in Mumbai, you would take into consideration the latter’s humid weather, you should also check if the race venue is going to be vastly different from the site where you have done the major chunk of your training. If possible, train in a similar climate for a few weeks leading up to the race.

“Konark’s temperature changed during the day. So those who were doing the half ironman distance had to run in the extremely bright sun. It was easy to get dehydrated if you had not prepared for it. If it is a place which is hotter or more humid, your pace will naturally fall 20-30 seconds for each kilometre. You must likewise train and prepare yourself mentally,” adds Mishra.

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