Editor’s Note: A blog series on the journey from short distance triathlon to Ironman 70.3
This is a short introduction article in a series on triathlon training and competition. My purpose is to share some of the key topics in the sport of triathlon from starting out in the sport, keys to training, and competition. The topics that are outlined below will be covered in detail by me in future articles. The information I will present is based on my own experience in the sport and from treating and working with many triathletes ranging from amateur age groupers to elite level triathletes over the past decade or so.
After treating literally hundreds and hundreds of triathletes, several hundred IM finishers, I decided to take the plunge and up
the distance to the Ironman 70.3 at IM 70.3 Timberman. Here are some of the topics I will be covering in future articles. Each topic will be covered in detail.
What I learned first from training, competing and treating athletes
Get a proper bike fit!
I just can’t say enough about the importance of preventing neck and lower back pain with a proper fit.
Learn how to fix a rear flat and be able to do it under stress.
Why it is important to establish a proper training base
I like to think of myself as a hockey player and former collegiate baseball player trying his best to compete at endurance exercise. Get to know your body and make regeneration and corrective exercise a major part of your training. The key to longer distances is getting to the start line healthy. That said, take your time when starting off. Sign up for sprints and Olympic distance races and do a few before you make the jump to half and full Ironman distances.
Get good quality coaching
A coaching program is essential. Even if you use it only as a guide, it is helpful to have a structured plan to go off of. You can then tailor it based on your needs, the need for rest time, the need to work around injury.
Yes, endurance athletes need strength training
Having a strong core and good leg and upper body strength developed by years of proper training is a huge help. Off season strength and conditioning is essential to preventing injury and optimizing performance.
Utilize your discipline to your advantage
For me my strength comes from a background as a competitive swimmer. That allowed me to get by with only two swim sessions per week and allotted more time on the bike. Get to know where your strengths are. That will free up more time to train in your weaker sport. If you have a strength, you can train to exploit that or… dial back on the training for that discipline in order to focus on a weaker link. That said, NEVER sacrifice a strong discipline by under training. Knowing your body and what level of training you can do to maintain your strongest discipline is key.
How to deal with aches and pains
You are going to hurt, and hurt all over. What exactly does that mean? In a future article I will discuss soft tissue injuries and how they occur. They are often the result of repetitive motion and overtraining. I will discuss self treatment strategies you can employ to help prevent them. Proper base training can prepare your body for the coming increase in volume. Give your body ample time to adapt several months before peak training volume begins. By the time peak season arrives and the volume of training rises sharply, your body will be better equipped to safely handle the stress by better adaptation of the soft tissues and joints. Otherwise overload occurs resulting in decreased performance and injury. You will learn to know the difference between hurt and injured.
Get to know your body
The biggest single key to full Ironman and half IM distance racing is being able to get to the start line healthy enough to compete. That is to say, that mileage that you can save on the training side can often pay big dividends on race day or during your “A” race, and over the course of 4-6 months or longer of training.
If the body needs more recovery and it is a long run day, being able to deal mentally with tweaking your training by adjusting your days,
decreasing volume or just being able to take a rest day can be vital to your success. This strategy can play a major role to helping prevent overtraining.
Recovery and nutrition
In this article I will be discussing how to utilize the following: Ice and compression socks. How to use a foam roller. What is ART? What about chiropractic?. Functional training, especially core training. Balance training. Why foam rolling body work and stretching are essential for recovery, injury prevention and optimizing performance. Why Yoga is great. Why ice baths after long rides and runs are a great way to decrease inflammation and speed recovery.
This article will detail important supplements. The following is a short but essential list of supplements: magnesium glycinate, glutamine, a good B vitamin, essential fatty acids, vitamin B12. Why proper gut health and nutrition are critical in optimizing health and human performance. How to ensure you get plenty of plenty of hydration. Why you need to make sure to consume 0.8-1.0 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. How to increase your calorie count to match the demands of training. Why pro cyclists need to be as lean and light as possible, as does the bike, without sacrificing strength and power output or stability. And don’t forget the beer. I recommend Samual Adams Boston Lager, a great recovery drink after those long, long rides to nowhere.
Keep stats and crunch numbers
What should you track and why? Triathletes love to track stats, like WATTS to measure power output on the bike, Heart Rate (HR), what HR zone you are training at ( zone 1- zone 5), LT, VO2Max. These stats could rival those kept in a high level collegiate human physiology and sports medicine rehabilitation research project funded by the NIH. We will discuss what is important and why.
Tracking sleep I think is by far the most important. You can’t measure what you don’t track. By tracking sleep, you can stay on top of
overtraining. Inadequate sleep predisposes overtraining, and injury. The downfall to tracking sleep is that after a poor night sleep, knowing
you didn’t get enough sleep and still having to go through the anguish of tracking that number down on an excel sheet.
Learn How to Box Your Own Bike
I decided to opt in to package my own bike. Thanks to a good friend who travels with his bike for races such as RAM I was in luck.
He graciously lent me his bike case from TriAll3Sports. I was told the freight should be about $ 75 each way. When I arrived at Reagan on
Friday morning the attendant informed me it would be $200 each way. Hell that was about what I paid for my ticket. At this point I am cursing myself for not having it shipped UPS or TriBike Transport. I informed her that was not what I was told and her reply was “it is in our brochure”. I can’t remember the last time I had the need to read an Airline brochure. I may have read the emergency plan brochure a time or too, just in case “Sully “ wasn’t my captain on a flight requiring an emergency crash landing.
Anyway I made my way to the counter where a nice gentleman asked if I was a member of a bike club and I told him I was a member of DC Tri. Five minutes later my bike box was stamped and I rolled the box around to oversize check in for just the $25 baggage fee. I lucked out for sure.
Nutrition needs during training and race-day nutrition
There are several great articles out on the web on nutrition for race day. I will just say, train with the food you choose beforehand. Get to know if your body can handle gels, if so, how many before getting nausea. Can you safely eat a Cliff bar on the bike? Gatorade and electrolyte tabs
are essential for hot days. Don’t make the mistake I made. The day before IM 70.3 Timberman I picked up the New Gatorade Recovery drink, which has 230 calories and 16 grams of protein. I thought I was so smart to have a protein drink on the bike. Had I drank it before the race I would have realized it was very thick and sweet. Not what you want when it’s hot and you are climbing hills after a 1.2 Mile swim. Lesson learned. Test out all nutrition including drinks before your race.
You need to hit the Athlete Post Race food tent and chow down. You need to replenish those glycogen stores and the body needs protein to start recovery. Dont forget the beer.
Ice baths really do work
It sucks big time, but getting into an ice bath for about 10 minutes within a few hours of crossing the finish line can drastically reduce
recovery time, by up to as much as one week. Place two (20 pound) bags of ice in the tub with cold running water. Fill tub enough so the water covers up to your lower back. You can slowly add a third bag if needed. See more in our article on How To Take Ice Baths.