Live Better

Expert advice to help you swim, bike, run

Danielle Stefano from the Victorian Institute of Sport shares some advice for your first triathlon.

Danielle Stefano, Sports Scientist at the Victorian Institute of Sport, sees triathlons as a great way to get fit and the diversity of training keeps things challenging and fun. If you’re thinking of lining up for your first triathlon, here are a few of Danielle’s training tips to keep in mind before you get going:

Start short

Triathlon distances vary from shorter ‘enticers’ all the way through to ultra distances. To start off, these ‘enticers’ are a good distance to begin with to give you a taste of multisport racing. They’re also good if you’ve had limited preparation leading into the event. These shorter distance triathlons are usually made up of a 200-300m swim, 8-10km ride and 2-3km run. It’s better to start off short and enjoy your first triathlon, rather than jump straight into an Olympic distance event and regret the whole experience. Once you’ve completed your first short distance triathlon, you can then begin to progress to longer distances with the confidence of completing a race and having consolidated a strong training block behind you.

Failing to plan, is planning to fail

Before you begin, make sure you have a training plan worked out to start you off on the right track. A plan will not only help you achieve your training objectives, but will also keep you motivated to train. You can ensure that you’re doing the right training and enough training across all 3 disciplines if you have a daily and weekly training schedule planned. If you feel as though you need some direction, there are a number of Triathlon Australia accredited triathlon coaches that you can contact in each state to provide a training plan for you.

Swim start

The first leg of a triathlon can be a little daunting at first. Mass starts, the actual swim distance itself, and having the skills to navigate and turn around at the buoys in open water can all seem a little overwhelming. The first task in preparing for the swim leg is to make sure you can cover the required distance comfortably in a pool. If you can’t swim the required distance for the race in a pool, then race day is going to be a lot harder (but not impossible!). Secondly, once your swim training is on track and you’re making improvements in the pool, you should also try to add an open water swim session in your weekly training. This will help you get used to swimming in different water conditions (temperature, currents etc) and is also a chance for you to get used to swimming in a wetsuit and practice navigating your way without lane ropes around you.

Transitions – the 4th leg

Most people don’t realise it, but triathlon actually has 4 legs; swim, ride, run and transitions. The transition from swim to bike and bike to run are skills in themselves and require practice. Just as you train the other 3 components, transitions need to be built into your training to allow for you to develop the skill and execute quickly.

Drink up

With all the excitement of training and competing, hydration can often be overlooked. It is important to not only stay hydrated during training and competition, but equally important to ensure you’re starting your sessions fully hydrated and replenishing the fluids lost post exercise. An easy way to assess your fluid loss and the amount to drink is to weigh yourself pre and post sessions. Whatever the difference in weight is, multiply that by 1.5 and that gives you the volume of fluid to consume Eg. 1kg weight loss = 1.5L of fluid.

Make sure the fluid you consume has both carbohydrates and electrolytes (most importantly sodium) in it as this will ensure absorption and rehydration – plain water won’t rehydrate you.

Have fun!

The most important aspect to competing in your first triathlon is to have fun. You’ll be surprised at how well you will perform if you stay relaxed pre and during the race and enjoy the whole triathlon experience.

Happy training!

Medibank members can access triathlon training programs via Health Hub

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