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Beginner's Triathlon! Nutrition & Training Advice Appreciated.

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  • Beginner's Triathlon! Nutrition & Training Advice Appreciated.

    I've just signed up to do a beginner's Triathlon in June & I'd really love some advice from the more seasoned fitness gurus on here :-)

    I'm 38, eating primarily since last September but have been eating a relatively low-carb diet since 2003 (not always, but mostly on the wagon). I'm 5'6" and weigh 150-154lbs so I can still afford to burn off more fat. I am coming at this after more than a year of virtually no exercise & tbh I have never been a big fan of exercise & sports. But I have found some enthusiasm from somewhere - probably a mid-life crisis!!! I am back in the gym, doing a bit on the bike & treadmill, a circuit class and have started using weights. I have just started a Couch to 5km app.

    The Triathlon is 400m open water swim, 16km cycle & a 5km run. So it really is a beginner's course.

    I'm hoping that some of you might be willing to offer some advice on training for me. I would also love to know if you think I can stay low-carb & train for this & complete it on the day while still low-carb. I average somewhere around carbs of 40-60g a day usually. Should I've changing my food intake? I am definitely sensitive to putting on weight with carbohydrates.

    I'd love to hear your opinions/advice. Thanks very much!

  • #2
    I would suggest a lot of hiking / trail walking in nature if possible to get you and your body used to "covering ground" again.

    Hills have been really helpful for me to build up my stamina and get my body used to progressive workload

    Good luck on your Triathlon!


    • #3
      swim. swim swim swim. 400m may not seem like much, but swimming in open water takes practice, and you want to be extra prepared to swim in open water with a bunch of people around you. this doesn't necessarily need to be the center of your training, but you do want to be ready for it.

      you don't really need to train a lot for a sprint tri, unless you plan on trying for a competitive time. you should throw together a good mix of cardio (swim, bike, run...hiking is a great suggestion, missblue), strength training (PBF or Simplefit...stick with simple body weight work) and sprinting (swimming, biking and running). just like mark suggests, strength train twice a week, sprint once a week, and let the cardio be your moving slowly, so aim for 3 days per week.
      do not worry about this being chronic cardio; it's not. start off slow and just get yourself in shape. look up a program called couch to 5k, give it a try, and adapt it to biking and swimming as well. you won't be doing cardio for any length of time that would be considered cardio.

      as for food, keep eating a low carb version of primal. you'll have plenty of energy. i ate primal for a while before i did a sprint tri, with very little training, and had some sweet potatoes the night before the race, then a banana the morning of just for a little extra fuel, and it was great. if your body is used to eating low-carb primal and you like it, keep that going. you do NOT need extra carbs to train for something like this.


      • #4
        I hadn't thought about hiking at all missblue, so thanks for the suggestion. I live in a very flat part of Ireland, so the hill walks might be tricky! I think I can find some hikes locally though - through woods, which could be good training.

        I'm just back from the pool & I totally understand what you're saying primalrob. I was just saying to my husband that although I did 25 lengths (500m) I was stopping & starting in the pool & the thought of doing it in open water is scaring me. I also need to learn to breathe better. I'm thinking that I'll need at least one swim a week - probably two, if I'm to build up to 400m in open water. Thanks for the thoughts on the cardio side of things - I'm going to try & keep within Mark's guidelines. The Couch to 5km will be a great help I think. Good thoughts on the food - its what I was hoping I might hear. I've been upping the exercise from zero to a reasonable amount over the last month and so far I have managed to keep it primal & low-carb. Happy to hear you think the training is doable while eating like this.


        • #5
          Since most of your training sessions will be less than an hour I see no reason to ditch the low carb. I am training for an ironman and even with two sessions a day of an hour each I feel pretty fine just having a sweet potato and some protein after my sessions to make restitution better. If your going very low carb you will probably feel a bit tired in the first few weeks, but after 2-3 weeks that should disappear. I am a big fan of coconut oil to get some extra energy and avoid snack attack and ravenous hunger, I'll put a teaspoon in my coffee or even eat it alone (sounds gross but I keep it cold and it just has a small coconutty taste about it - kinda like ice cream.
          Last but not least, on race day I would think you could get through the entire race without drinking their energy drinks just eat some sweet potatoes the night before as suggested earlier and some in the morning along with your eggs. I did my first half ironman on nothing but primal foods (watered down juice with a pinch of salt as my drink and a bag full of raisins, and the above sweet potatoes) and that went really well, even though we are talking more than 5 hours of racing. Hope some of that helped a little... Last but not least, have fun with it, triathlon is a fantastic sport!
          Last edited by TriGirl; 01-30-2012, 12:26 PM.


          • #6
            The other posters have provided good training and nutritional advice, the one thing I would add is practice your transitions very hard, you can save a lot of time with quick transitions.


            • #7
              Thanks very much for the advice Trigirl. I've been low-carb for a long time & so far training hasn't been too tiring or difficult on a low-carb intake - probably coz I'm used to it. To hear your experience is great though - as already I'm getting "you'll have to up your carbs to do a triathlon". I'm thrilled to hear that even tougher triathlons don't require CW levels of carb intake! Really good advice on food & training - thank you!

              Sjmusic2 - that's something that hadn't crossed my mind - thanks. I am just learning about the logistics - googles, sighting, transitions etc. It's a steep learning curve for a newbie! I think if I can complete it & not be the last in the field I'll be pretty thrilled :-)


              • #8
                I'm sure you'll complete it just fine and then you'll be bitten by the bug !

                There are many aspects to look at during transitions, eg. if it is biggish race, then make sure you have something distinctive to make your bike easy to find when it is surrounded by many other similar looking bikes. I had clipless peddles, so I would attach the shoe to the pedal so I could actually start riding before putting my foot in the shoe (velcro shoe straps help). Use Body Glide under your wetsuit (assuming an outdoors race) for quicker removal and elasticated laces on your running shoes also speed things up. By practising ahead of the race you will find your personal preferences for everything and that will help to give you confidence on race day.

                Another area to focus on would be to become familiar with the sensation of running after cycling (wobbly leg syndrome !) - you can do brick training to help this, ie. bike, then run, then bike, then run etc... (Mark Sisson is actually credited with naming 'Brick' training from his triathlon days).

                Finally, make sure that the first time you do the entire event is not on race day, do a few easy practice triathlons first.

                Feel free to google these points for lots more good info.

                Good luck and enjoy !


                • #9
                  Thank you sjmusic2! That is great advice. Putting something distinctive on the bike is a brilliant idea. At the moment I am just beginning training & have been doing runs (if you can call them that), cycles & swims on different days. It is a really good idea to try to do them together as I get better. Wobbly legs worry me!
                  I'm pretty amazed at myself for doing this at all, even though it probably seems very basic to other people - if I get bitten by the bug - my husband will think I've been taken over by aliens. I have challenged him to do the first Warrior Dash in Ireland with me, this summer so the bug may have been nibbling already! Thanks for the advice.


                  • #10
                    Yeah I second the brick part. As soon as the spring comes along and I can start doing outside biking I'll have one brick a week (even though it might not be as important on the long distance as on the sprint). It looks like you don't have a program your following? I would look at - Triathlon Training for Beginners, they have a bunch of free programs for the different distances. Having followed something like that will ease your mind on the day since you'll know you put in the work. Also it is a great site to log you workouts, which is ALWAYS a good idea to avoid injuries etc...


                    • #11
                      That is a fab site Trigirl. Thank you - I think I may have found my new online obsession after having a quick look around there!

                      I also found this on the Irish Tri website for beginners. Beginner’s Triathlon Training Plan | Irish Triathlon - Your base for all Triathlons, Duathlons and Adventure races in Ireland
                      Just wondering if anyone has any opinions on it as a training schedule. I will also check out the plans on I reckon I am better off following a proper programme than just trying to muddle through myself.

                      I really appreciate all the help and suggestions so far (even if you are rolling your eyes at my cluelessness!)


                      • #12
                        Well I guess it depends on your goal. I would definitely find a program (or modify this one) with a bit more speedwork in all the disciplines in stead of just going at the same pace for different lengths of time on all your sessions. Also I would probably change the brick so that it is just bike and then run, since this is the most tricky situation. How long do you have to train for this? And just keep asking if theres anything!!!


                        • #13
                          It's on in early June so I have roughly four months from now. I was thinking about the speed thing today when I did one of the C25K runs - that I will need to increase my speed over time as I get a bit better at running (but that is some way off still) So that suggestion about varying the speed struck a chord tonight! My goal? Honestly - it is to actually finish it & even better if I am not last :-) I have never done anything in my life like this - I was so unsporty in school - I was that girl sitting on the sidelines in PE Class, muttering about hating sport & rolling my eyes. Part of the reason for doing this is to just see if I can - a personal challenge, I guess. I had a viral illness last year which knocked me for six - and after a long recuperation I am really enjoying having enough energy to do some exercise.
                          You could end up bombarded with questions over the next while!


                          • #14
                            Well 16 weeks should be plenty of time, so don't overdo it to begin with. Enjoy being able to mix 3 different workout types and have some fun with it. When I help people out with a running program I would say spend 3-4 weeks getting into just being able to run the distance/time prescribed without any breaks. Then when your somewhat comfortable with that I would do one day of easy speed work every week, doing a mixture of intervals, fartleg and temporuns. Always spend 10 minutes or so warming up (running at your normal pace), and remember that speed work doesn't necessarily have to be "all out puking after your done" pace, it should be an increase in pace such that you are feeling uncomfortable, but am able to keep up the pace for the entire interval and the next one too. The same approach can be translated to the bike where you can do sprints or hill climbs to increase the intensity. Just use the gears (or resistance if your on an indoor spin bike). I actually find that even though the speed workout is togher than the base workouts, they are a lot more fun to do and the time flies by much faster.
                            As for swim I would probably spend more time on drills to improve technique rather than speed, since technique is everything in that discipline. As mentioned earlier if your not a great swimmer, it's a good idea to spend some extra time in the pool improving your crawl technique (or breast stroke if thats your level).


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by TriGirl View Post
                              As for swim I would probably spend more time on drills to improve technique rather than speed, since technique is everything in that discipline. As mentioned earlier if your not a great swimmer, it's a good idea to spend some extra time in the pool improving your crawl technique (or breast stroke if thats your level).
                              Yes! Technique is extremely important! Little corrections in technique can go a long way. Especially if you get "bit by the bug," which is very easy, you'll be happy you didn't spend months ingraining bad habits.