What triathlon training has taught me

I’ve just begun week 8 of my ironman training and despite having done a triathlon before this is the first time I’ve really, properly trained for one rather than just doing it as a bit of fun. Training for a multisport race is so different to just running, not least because of all the extra equipment needed, you can barely see the poolside at the triathlon club swim sessions for all the many paddles, floats, snorkels and fins. I thought therefore I’d share the top 3 things that triathlon training has taught me so far.

1 – You can’t run in bib shorts

Well you can but it isn’t very comfortable and as I found out can make for some interesting chaffing. One of my weekly sessions is a 45 minute steady turbo ride and then a quick transition to a 15 minute run. At this time of year that means sitting in your house (in the glamorous surroundings of the utility room if you’re anything like me) on the turbo with sweat dripping off your nose. You then jump off, heart racing, mop up some of the sweat, throw on a few layers plus a hat and a head torch and then head out into the freezing black night. If you do this wearing bib shorts as I did the first time it means you are at high risk of your nipples turning into bullets and the perfectly positioned bib short straps rubbing on them. Lesson very quickly and painfully learned!

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Like a pig to water

Water is not my natural habitat, I’m confident enough in the water, happy to be there, but I’m distinctly lacking in any real skill or grace. I lack the coordination needed to move 4 limbs at the same time in a way that is conducive to efficient forward movement. I’m so right side orientated that my left arm just flops over in an awkward ark before splashing into the water and attempting to perform a good pull.

all-ready-at-the-pool

There is so much to think about when you’re swimming, which is probably why I enjoy running so much. With running you can switch your brain off and just enjoy your surroundings while your body moves your legs and arms perfectly in motion. In fact you run better when you do this rather than trying to think about what you’re doing.  Which is the complete opposite of swimming where you have to focus almost 100% of the time on your stroke to stop it falling apart. Or at least I do, maybe one day it’ll become second nature but for now the conversation going on in my brain while swimming goes something like this:

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Big hairy audacious goals

I’m a structured person, I like plans, lists, goals, meeting minutes, good queuing etiquette. I’ve tried the ‘take it as it comes’ approach and honestly it makes me uncomfortable and stresses me out. I can cope with freedom within a framework as my corporate colleagues would call it, some rules and limits to guide with freedom in between but that’s it. This applies in particular to running and training, I love setting some big goals and then building a plan to try and achieve them. Just drifting along without some structure for when/how far/how fast just makes me feel I’m wasting time and not achieving anything. Sure I have periods of training where I don’t have a training plan and instead just enjoy being out running/cycling/swimming but those periods are planned and designated as ‘holiday’ periods, you see, freedom in a framework!

I’m also not a prolific racer, I like setting a big single goal and then focusing everything on that rather than flitting between races. Setting that s There is something so interesting about the process of developing your fitness in this way, trying different approaches to training to see which gets the best results and fine tuning with each iteration. I think it also helps that a big part of my motivation for training is mental health, this is my time for reflection and de-stressing, so I don’t mind the long periods of training alone.

quadzilla medal

Day 1 of the Quadzilla done

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jersey pocket bars

Jersey Pocket bars review

Nutrition is one of the few areas of endurance sports products that seems to have genuine innovation in it at the moment. Not only that but innovation from small British companies who are delivering some excellent products and who are able to compete with the bigger brands. I’ve never really enjoyed the traditional gels/bars/drinks from Powerbar etc; not something I stomach easily and it didn’t sit well with my approach to eating in general where I try to eat fresh food that is organic/free range. Feels odd to be eating that way during the week and then stuffing sugary gels into my body whenever I run or ride.

That’s where companies like Jersey Pocket come in with products that use quality ingredients with little processing and no preservatives or refined sugars. If I was a Fitspo Instagrammer I’d be tagging all my photos of these bars with #cleaneating or #realfood but that’s just a stupid way of saying eating properly. But whatever you call it these bars are excellent, not all to my taste as you will see but I cannot fault the quality.

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How to do a triathlon on a budget

Triathlon surely has to be the ultimate sport for gear junkies? Most sports provide an opportunity for you get gear obsessed and be sucked in by marketing pitches that guarantee to improve your sporting performance but triathlon trumps them all with 3 sports and lots of shiny gear. Which means doing triathlon on a budget can appear, from the outside, to be impossible as you look at the gleaming carbon on display in any transition area.

But it is possible with some sensible decisions and use of second hand sites like eBay so I thought I’d share my top tips for doing a triathlon on a budget.

Clothing

 I wore cycling shorts and a cycling top for both my triathlons, don’t assume you have to have a tri-suit, I did a half ironman like this and worked perfectly fine, just make sure you test out running in it of course. Also as recommended by Cathy Drewbies look out for last seasons kit that has been reduced, you can get some real bargains and let’s be honest this seasons colours aren’t going to make you faster no matter what the company tells you.

The swim

Thankfully not too much kit needed here; googles are cheap and most races provide a swim hat. For a wetsuit I thoroughly recommend taking a look at eBay, there are plenty of good suits on there that have had little use after people do one race and then lose motivation. I picked up my suit for less than £70 and it’s in near perfect condition and retails for almost £200.

Triathlon on a budget

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