A triathlon encourages all walks of life to participate. Sure, most participants are tried and true seasoned triathlon veterans who have been competing and racing for years. However, often times there are just as many fitness novices in the mix who are just looking to kick-start their health and fitness with a new and exciting race goal. As if combining the three disciplines of swimming, biking and jogging wasn’t challenging enough, there are a ton of other training, preparation, and race day mistakes that many newbies tend to me. Today, we’re going to go over just a handful of these common mistakes and how to go into your race completely prepared instead!
1. Not taking the time to develop true skill and technique.
Many beginners rush into the sport with a training plan in mind and become obsessively concerned with logging in the proper mileage with regards to biking and running, and then making sure just as many hours are spent in the pool. Instead, spend some time initially consulting professionals in the sport to ensure what and how you do things is the safest, most appropriate approach there is. Work with a swim coach to develop proper stroke and technique. Find a bike coach who can educate you on proper bike set-up, gear selection, pedaling, riding in groups and of course, bike maintenance! Lastly, a running coach is super helpful when developing your running plan, as well improving overall speed and technique.
2. Using triathlon training as a ‘free pass’ to eat and drink whatever you like.
Some beginner triathletes have never worked out this hard in their life. Naturally, food and drink become used to reward themselves for their hard efforts. ‘Reward food ‘often times doesn’t involve lean proteins and nutrient dense fruits and vegetables. Instead, processed carbohydrates, sugar and alcohol are the preferred go-to’s. And while these food items might taste good going down, they are doing nothing but destroying all of your hard work and efforts on the road and in the water. Triathletes, especially, need to be cognizant of eating as clean and healthy as they can. Fueling your body right is paramount!
3. Increasing training duration too quickly.
There’s an old adage that more is always better. Not so when it comes to training for your first race. Just because you may be experiencing some sort of runner’s high, or are feeling really strong after each road ride doesn’t mean you need to immediately go above and beyond the call of duty. Stick to the plan. The racing plan you have researched or have been given is constructed that way for a reason. The quickest way to injury is doing too much too soon.
4. Trying out something ‘new’ on race day.
Race day is by leaps and bounds the WORST day to make any additions, changes or modifications to your routine. New shoes, the addition/deletion of wetsuits, and consuming some bar or goo you’re not used to can and has for many people resulted in complete disaster. This principle is not limited to products. For example, going out really fast during any leg of the race is a sure way to shock your body and could possibly end with failure. Always stick to exactly what you have been doing during your training.
5. Not taking the time to adequately recover and/or taper come race day.
Getting enough sleep, allowing rest days, eating healthy and scheduling the occasional massage are all very important in the recovery process. Without attention to recovery, you shall not be able to train as hard as you would like or as long as you may like. Additionally, the week before your race should be spent tapering off your training. Proving to yourself you can run 13.1 miles without stopping is a great feeling, but that sort of ego boost cannot be done a couple of days before the big race. Even if you haven’t met the exact mileage you were hoping to log in, better to be safe and take it easy than to cram it all in the days right before your big race.
As I mentioned earlier, these are just a mere handful of the mistakes first-time triathletes make. Please feel free to chime in and add your own mistakes; mistakes you’ve made while training or on the actual race day. Knowing what to do and what not to do is very important. Train and race smart.