For the last couple months I’ve been trying to figure out what I would train for next and at first I thought it would be a summer half marathon (and it still might be), but now it is most definitely training for my first triathlon. The first hurdle has been to find a training schedule that makes sense to me, seems realistic with my life schedule, and that will give me a comfortable balance of swimming, biking, and running.
All my running schedules have always been in miles. (I hate to admit that I have yet to train with speedwork, hills, fartlek, etc but that is also in my future if I’m going to do all this the right way.) You slowly increase mileage balanced by some easier or rest days and then taper off closer to the run. I thought for sure that triathlon training would somehow be similar.
Well, wasn’t I shocked when I started to look at a variety of programs that vary from ones that are entirely time/duration based to ones that are a mix of time and distance to ones that focus on heart rate training to others that rely on each work-out being at either foundation, tempo, sprint, or time trial pace. There’s so much to choose from! A comforting line, however, in a Runner’s World article written for runners trying a tri said “it’s ok to experiment.”
Triathlon Training Options
Tri-Newbies is a great online resource for beginner triathletes. Their 11-week training program for beginners is incredibly comprehensive and is an almost 100-page PDF that begins with the training calendar, but then has chapters of information for a plethora of topics related to training. The document covers everything from heart rate training to the fundamentals of swimming, biking, and running to bricks and transitions to weight training and nutrition. For each work-out there is a detailed guide for the warm-up, training, and cool-down. I like the level of detail a lot but I also know that I am not great at following directions and I would rather just see the time or distance I’m supposed to complete and then just do it.
Friends of mine who run a fitness center in western Maryland have an 8-week sprint tri training program that is nicely laid out in a spreadsheet. It offers a combination of swims measured in meters (I’m still trying to learn yards, miles, and meters!), runs measured in miles, and bike rides measured in time. Their program integrates two days of cross-training which I like because if I’m going to keep up with strength training the best way for me to succeed is to just make it part of the schedule. I can’t tell, however, from the spreadsheet when the brick or transition days are, and now that I know how important those are, I need to make sure they’re on my program.
My brother-in-law who I’m doing the Cazenovia Triathlon with is using a schedule that is entirely time based but like any other schedule slowly builds on time for each sport and tapers down closer to the race. Another friend creates his own training schedule and manages it on Google calendars. I have found tons and tons of resources online that to try to digest all at once is way too overwhelming. First step is to get the training down and then move on to learning how it all comes together.
The schedule I think I’ll use I found in an older article on the Runner’s World site and measures the swims in distance and running and biking in time. For some reason I prefer to know how far I’m going rather than how long I’ve been going so this will be a good mental challenge for me to overcome. What I like about the schedule is the way the 12-week plan has two levels–one for beginners and one for the more advanced so you can combine from those two levels the work-outs that best meet your skill level. I also like that it defines the type of work-out each one should be: drills, foundation, tempo, sprint, hills (and in Cazenovia there will be hills!) because I think this will help me evolve my training runs to be more effective as well.
I am excited and anxious all at the same time. I know plenty of people who don’t want to train for long runs because it takes too much time. I have to admit when I look at a triathlon training schedule it does seem like it takes a lot of time, but I think once I make it part of my routine it will fit right in. Soon enough, I won’t feel so much like the fish out of water that I do today.