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Today’s post is brought to you by Devin! Devin is sharing some triathlon training tips for teachers (or anyone with a super busy schedule). Read on to discover if triathlon training might be right for you!
Is Triathlon Training Right for You?
Working out can get old, stale and boring. Plus, doing the same thing over and over can result in overuse injuries or an imbalanced body. Whether you’re bored or burnt out, it may be time to switch up your workout routine.
Goals are a great way to motivate yourself into learning a new skill, and triathlons are the perfect way to convince yourself to learn three new skills. Whether you’re an avid runner, a dedicated swimmer, or a bike-riding weekend warrior, changing up your schedule by adding two new activities may be just what you need to reinvigorate your sweat sessions.
It seems like a lot, though, right? How can you hold a full time teaching job and train for something as intensive as a triathlon?
The good news is that it’s a lot more accessible than it may seem. Workouts are completely customizable and on your schedule, which actually gives you a lot of freedom. If you’re intrigued, read on to find out what training for a triathlon takes.
Bear with me, because we’re about to get super simple for a second. A triathlon is an endurance athletic event wherein a participant completes a swim, a bike, and a run, in that order, with no break. Sometimes triathlons are completed as relays with a different person completing each leg.
There are traditionally four distances:
- Sprint: 0.5 mile swim, 15 mile bike, 3 mile run
- Olympic: 0.93 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike, 6.2 mile run
- Half Iron: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run
- Ironman: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run
There are also a couple variations on the multi-sport endurance race. Aquathons and duathlons are popular, with participants completing a run-swim-run or run-bike-run, respectively. There have even been a few kayak-bike-run races advertised.
Training for a Race
As you might imagine, training for a triathlon is an intensive commitment, influenced by what distance you’re aiming for and your baseline fitness level. That does not make it unattainable, however. Triathlons are accessible to anyone willing to put the hours in — though you may have to get creative with a teaching schedule to balance.
Generally speaking, you’ll want at least 12 weeks to prep for a triathlon. Many triathletes train over the winter months to get ready for a spring season, though there’s no hard and fast rule about when to train and when to race.
When you’re in serious training, you’re looking at 9-12 hours per week, split between sports. It can be difficult to find the time to train while teaching full time, so you have to make a schedule that works for you. Starting with a small amount of weekly training in winter may make it easier to ramp up your training in the spring and summer months, and save you some time as the race gets closer.
If you only have 4-6 hours a week to train, no problem, just use them wisely — focus in on technique or efficiency. It’s possible to make a difficult training schedule work for you as long as you make sure to hit every leg of the triathlon each week.
As race day approaches, you’ll want to put some workouts back to back to simulate the race transitions and try to hit each sport twice a week. As a teacher, these workouts will be more accessible during summer. Selecting a summer race date will let you feel more prepared and less rushed coming into race day.
Before you get started, you’ll want to purchase a swim cap and goggles, as well as a suit designed for swimming, not just sunbathing. Many triathletes race in wetsuits as open-water courses can be very cold. Where your race is held will help you determine what kind of wetsuit you need.
Practice sessions will primarily be in a lap pool. Memberships to a gym or local YMCA are usually necessary, but one of the perks to being a teacher is potential access to a school pool. If your school has an aquatic center, touch base with the administration about getting a pre- or post-school workout it.
You’ll want to practice in open water as well so that it’s not a new experience on race day. Swimming in a pool is important and convenient for overall conditioning, but nothing prepares you for open-water swimming better than open-water swimming — just make sure you have a buddy or three with you.
Training for the second leg of your triathlon will obviously require a bike. For most first-time triathletes, a road bike will work just fine. If you have the ability to bike to school, commuting can be a great training opportunity to get a daily ride in without having to commit to a time-consuming route. Whatever you use for your commute will likely be fine for your first few races. No need to splurge on super fancy gear just yet.
Along with your bike you’ll need a helmet and a race kit to have with you in case something goes wrong with your bike. Usually included are a spare tire tube and a patch kit for flats, as well as a hand pump for inflating the tire. You’ll also need to know how to change the tube in your bike tire.
Optional gear includes cycling shoes and aero bars for your bike. Whether or not you opt for these perks will depend on how your bike is equipped and how comfortable you are with biking.
For running, all you really need is a good pair of shoes.Well, and maybe headphones — I can’t run without my favorite podcasts. If you’re already a runner, you probably have a good idea of what works well for you.
If you’re training over the winter months, depending on where you live, you’ll need an alternative to road or trail running. If you have a gym membership for access to a pool, your gym will likely have treadmills or an indoor track. At-home treadmills are another option to save on commuting time or to make early morning runs easier. You may also find a treadmill or two tucked into corners of the weight room at your school — use what’s at your disposal!
Tips for Tri-ing
If you’ve decided that this will work in your schedule, great! That’s super exciting, and crossing the finish line will feel like such an accomplishment. As you’re starting out on your journey to race day, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Equip yourself with the gear you need to be effective. Setting yourself up for success is critical.
- Schedule your workouts — they won’t magically happen in between lesson plans. Plan swims first, as those are the hardest workouts to get in, then bikes, then runs.
- Pick a race date that works for you, even if it means being a little patient. You’ll be happier with your race if you’re not stressing about getting training in.
- Practice transitions — these can be the hardest, most stressful part of race day.
- Remain flexible in your training. Listen to your body to avoid injury and burnout; if that means skipping a workout or changing the plan, don’t beat yourself up.
- Make sure that training isn’t adding more stress than it’s taking away. Teachers are in a job that requires a lot of emotional energy, and like social workers, nurse practitioners, and counselors, you need to make time for self-care.
- Enjoy yourself! You’re trying something new and conquering a beast — you’ve got this!
Devin writes from his garage in Daly City, CA. He stops occasionally to fix his Wi-Fi connection and coach rugby. Follow this pretty cool dude on Twitter. You can also read up on Devin’s tips for healthier teacher lunches!