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QOTW: What Are The Most Important Training Sessions Before My First Triathlon

“I’m training for my first race and I’m excited. The problem is, things have been crazy at work and I’m only getting in about half my training. Where should I cut?”


Many athletes have asked a similar version of the above question. Say you’re training for your first race (or first longer distance race) and things are going well. Pretty well, that is. We all have days that things crop up and sometimes that planned swim becomes a schedule impossibility. You may even worry that you haven’t done enough training to finish your first tri? You hate to ask this question, but if you have to cut some training where should you skimp?


Let’s start by saying in an ideal world, you will complete 90% of everything on your schedule, however sometimes that goal is just not realistic. Let’s talk about some of the most important sessions before your first triathlon!


The( weekly extra) session in your weakest sport –  Okay, I’m cheating a little bit already because this isn’t a one time session, it’s a weekly session. Most of us have our weak leg, aka our “third best sport.” Consider those training sessions the most important ones on your schedule each week. For many ‘adult onset’ swimmers, that workout is often the swim. But it can also be the bike or run. The ironic thing is your ‘third best’ sport sessions are the ones easiest to skip. Don’t fall into this trap and make those workouts must- dos.


A Swim Lesson or Clinic– Since successful swimming is so technique oriented, a swim lesson or clinic to target stroke flaws is a must for newbie swimmers. Whatever habits you ingrain at the start of your swim ‘career’ will be extremely tough to break later. Particularly if you’re a new or nervous swimmer, sign up for a few one on one lessons, then commit to practicing your drills and swimming three times a week for the duration of the training period.


(Multiple) Open Water Swims- Swimming in the pool is different than swimming in open water. You want to have this experience before race day and preferably as many times as possible. Make it happen even if it involves a long drive and inconvenience.


Frequent Sessions– To save time, perform more frequent short sessions rather than skimping on the absolute number of sessions each week.  Take the example of running. If you’re going to run, say, 15 miles per week, it is vastly better to split those miles into four or five runs versus run once or twice. Frequency improves durability and is the first step to improving your running. Running easy (and frequently) comes before any long runs should be added and certainly before adding intensity (like track) into your program.


Fueling Practice– Notice we didn’t say practice ‘your nutrition.’ There is nary a place where newbies get more stuck in the weeds than nutrition. Keep it simple for your first and make sure you’re having some sort of quick energy high carbohydrate snack and fluid with electrolytes during the race. An example for a sprint triathlon would be a bottle of water with a nuun tablet and a gel consumed during the bike portion.

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