We’ve all been a little bored with running at some point. Running 4 or 5 days a week, week in and week out, can only last so long. With triathlon season starting, why not TRI something new? Triathlons can be intimidating . You mean I have to swim, bike, and then I get to run?! However, the cross training can lead to great advances in your running.
The swim – I hear more people voice concerns about the swim than any other portion of the triathlon. However, swimming is a great addition for runners. It is low impact, requires efficiency, and works different muscle groups than running. Triathletes typically swim freestyle, a stroke most people can already do at a basic level. Not a swimmer? There are swim clinics, like Total Immersion, as well as personal trainers, that can assist with perfecting your stroke. Gear required – a swimsuit and some good goggles (easy enough, right?). A sprint triathlon swim can vary in distance from 300 meters to 750 meters.
The bike – when I first got a bike, I thought “I’m a runner. I’m in shape. I should easily transition to biking, right?”. WRONG! Yes, biking requires a strong cardiovascular system and legs, but it is also very technical. It just takes practice! However, biking is a great way to improve your running. It strengthens leg muscles and improves cardiovascular fitness, but is low impact. ( I recently PR’d in a half marathon, while running only 2 days per week, but biking 3 days). Cycling requires considerably more gear and time than running or swimming. However, it is worth the investment, if you can do it. Not convinced you will like it? Consider borrowing or renting a bike for your first triathlon to make sure it is something you want to continue. Going to buy a bike? Ride them first! Don’t choose based on what you’ve read online or which bike has the best paint scheme. Be prepared to spend a couple thousand dollars. Put your money into the frame – you can always upgrade wheels and components later. Remember, most local bikeshops have weekly group rides for cyclists of all levels. And don’t forget your helmet! A sprint triathlon bike is often 12-15 miles.
The run – you are not going to be able to run 5 days per week anymore and that’s OK! If you are swimming and biking regularly, you will not lose running fitness. You just have to be more picky about how you will use your time to run. No more ‘junk miles’. Continue with one long run per week and make the other runs high intensity, like tempo runs or intervals. Gear – you already have this! A sprint triathlon run is usually a 5K.
There are a ton of great sources for information on getting started with triathlon, like beginnertriathlete.com, The Triathlete’s Training Bible by Joe Friel, and many local running stores will offer triathlon training groups.
Fight off those summer running blues and TRI something new! You’ll love the challenge and will be surprised at how much better you feel.
Next time: what to expect on triathlon race day!