Training for a Triathlon

By: Amanda Vogel, MA human kinetics

Whether you hope to train for your first triathlon one day soon or you’re already a triathlete gearing up for another season of training, it pays to plan for the how’s, when’s--and even why’s--of successful triathlon training early on.

Committing to train for a triathlon—which includes stints of swimming, cycling and running— challenges both your body and mind. “Triathlon training takes a ton of physical focus as well as mental preparation,” says Josh Crosby, Los Angeles-based creator of Indo-Row, an indoor- rowing machine and program. “You spend a lot of time taking care of your body and quieting your mind.”

First Steps in Training for a Triathlon

Crosby says the best jumping-off point for triathlon training is to assess where you’re at now. “You need to be honest about whether you’re already in great shape, middle-of-the-road shape or basically starting from scratch,” says Crosby.

Your answer to that question helps you determine how soon to begin training. For most people, allowing three to five months lead time before a race helps ensure smooth performance with less risk of injury.

Tips for Successful Triathlon Training

Before you hit the triathlon-training trails, consider these success tips from Crosby, an elite triathlete and Ironman competitor and coach who took first place in the 2004 LA Triathlon and second place the following year.

  1. Know why you’re training for a triathlon — Write it down and share your goals with others. “Having a clear mission really helps you finish strong on the days when one more lap in the pool or step on the road feels overwhelming,” says Crosby.
  2. Size up your self-discipline — Will you be able to keep yourself on track, or would you benefit from a training coach or mentor? You might even join a triathlon team; it’s harder to blow off an early morning workout if a “teammate” is counting on you.
  3. Avoid overdoing it with triathlon training — “Pushing through pain only leads to more pain and often season-ending injuries,” says Crosby. “Listen to your body when it says ‘step back.’ If you feel something act up around mile four of a six-mile run, it’s often best to walk home rather than push the last two miles and pay for it later.”
  4. As tempting as it is, don’t fall for the common mistake of spending too much time on your strongest triathlon discipline while neglecting your weakest. Says Crosby, “If you can’t swim well enough to finish the first leg of the race (swimming), it doesn’t matter how strong you are at cycling or running!”
  5. Cross train your way to triathlon success. When training for a triathlon, it might seem counterproductive to spend time on activities other than swimming, biking and running. But the opposite is true. Cross training is essential to your success—during triathlon training and the actual event.

Cross Training for Triathletes

Douglas Brooks, M.S, is the Director of Programming for BOSU® and Director of Athlete Conditioning for Sugar Bowl Ski Academy.“Complete and ‘balanced’ training for triathletes depends not only on improved cardiorespiratory fitness in the disciplines of swim/bike/run,” he says, “but also on joint stability, core strength, body control, dynamic flexibility and appropriate levels of muscular strength and endurance.”

“I use the BOSU® Balance Trainer regularly with my triathlete clients,” says Brooks, an ex- Ironman triathlete based in California. “Training balance on the BOSU introduces an element of instability that all triathletes encounter in the course of a race.”

Ready to give it a try? Step up your triathlon training and help reduce the risk of injury with this ankle-stability exercise from Brooks.

Exercise: Quick side-push around BOSU® Balance Trainer.

  How to: Stand with your right foot centered on the BOSU® Balance Trainer with your left leg to the side, left foot on the floor. Push off your left leg, lifting your left foot off the floor as you transfer your weight to your right leg on the BOSU dome. Hold your balance for three seconds then transfer your weight back to your left leg as your left foot returns to the floor. Repeat sequence as you also travel around the entire dome. Complete one full rotation then switch legs and rotate in the opposite direction. Do two 60-second sets.


More BOSU® Balance Trainer exercises.

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