Harlech Triathlon Training Tips

  Swim  Bike  Run    

Winter Cycle Training Advice for Novices

Beginner to Finisher by Anne Fuller

Anne Fuller has competed as a member of Thames Valley Triathletes and Harlech Triathlon Club for over 20 years.  She has represented GB in the age group team on a number of occasions and has successfully completed seven Ironman triathlons.  If you have any questions you can email Anne at the address novices@harlechtriathlon.org.uk

What are we aiming to achieve? 

Harlech triathlon takes place on April 9th 2017, so by then you need to be able to swim 400m (16 lengths) in a pool, immediately followed by a 21k bike and a 6k run.  The bike includes the climb to Upper Harlech and the run covers Harlech sand dunes and beach and also the 1:4 climb up Castle Hill.   The aim is to have fun and complete the race without half killing yourself.  In the process you can also become fitter, healthier and leaner – what more can you ask?

Improving your swimming 

How well do you swim at the moment? 

Question 1 - can you comfortably swim a length of the pool?  If your answer is ‘No’ then your priority should be to arrange some lessons. 

 Question 2 - can you comfortably swim a length using front crawl?  If your answer is ‘No’ then you have a decision to make.  Swimming breaststroke is always allowed in triathlons but if you can master front crawl it will be faster and easier in the long term. 

 How can you swim faster? 

Work on three areas – technique,  stamina and speed. 

Technique – ideally work with an instructor but here are two things that you should be able to improve by yourself:

  1. Concentrate on keeping your body horizontal in the water – i.e. keep your legs close to the surface and your head down.  This reduces the resistance of the water.

  2. Travel as far as possible each time you push off.  Grab the wall and push hard so that your body travels under the water.  Your hands should be touching and your arms straight out in front - think ‘fish’ as you glide though the water.  Kick your legs for propulsion and finally surface and use your arms.  You should travel up to 5 metres before using your arms.

Stamina - gradually increase the distance that you swim without resting and also the total distance swum in a session.   Build up the distance until you can swim at least 20 lengths without stopping and 50 lengths in a single session.

Speed - swim fast for a short distance – between one and four lengths – then rest until your breathing has recovered.   Aim at building up to 6-8 repetitions - e.g. 8 times 2 lengths fast with a minute of rest between each.  Make sure that you start with some easy swimming to warm up and also warm down at the end.

Training sessions are easier when the pool is organised for length swimming – contact your local pool and find out which sessions are designated for lane swimming

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Focus on the cycling

The cycle stage of a triathlon is organised as a time trial – meaning that you ride a measured distance by yourself as fast as possible.  Don’t be confused by races you might see on TV where athletes ride in a group – these ‘drafting’ races are only for elite competitors.

Taking a typical novice competitor the ratio of time spent during the race swimming / cycling / running would be something like 10 / 45 / 30.  It is worth bearing this in mind when you allocate your training time although you should also focus on your on weakest areas.

Indoor training

When the weather is cold and the nights dark, training in the gym is a very attractive option.  It is possible to develop pedalling technique and strength using a stationary bike.  When you start your session it is best to have a clear programme in mind – for example:

 Always include a warm up and warm down – 10 minutes spinning the pedals with a light resistance

 There are two problems with indoor training.  The first is boredom – it is difficult to keep motivated for long sessions.   Two suggestions for avoiding monotony: 

Unfortunately the other problem is not so easy to solve.  You cannot practice technique – cornering, descending, climbing, gear changing - without getting on your bike so wrap up warmly and get out onto the road.

On to the road

You can use any bike for the race but perhaps best to get it serviced if it has not been used recently!  If you plan to use a mountain bike try changing the ‘nobbly’ tyres for ‘slicks’ – these are much faster because they offer less resistance. 

When planning your training rides try to build in one or more of the following aims for each ride:

 Joining a club is one of the best ways to improve. Look for triathlon and cycling clubs in your area and try to find a club that encourages novices.  You can learn from experienced athletes and find friends to train with. 

 You may notice that some cyclists ride without a helmet – their excuse will usually be ‘it is too hot or uncomfortable’.  I NEVER ride without a helmet – my head matters to me – and on race day a helmet is compulsory.

For further advice on Winter Cycle Training click on the link.

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Get running!

Think technique

If you watch the world’s top runners you could be forgiven for thinking that perfect running technique is not an essential pre-requisite for success.  Paul Radcliffe is famous for her nodding head whilst Haile Gebrselassie began his athletics career by running 10 kilometers to school and back as a child and still has an uneven arm action from holding his satchel under one arm.  This said it is still important to develop an efficient running technique – it will minimise the effort required and reduce the risk of injuries.  There are many aspects to good running technique but the main things to concentrate on when you start are:

Go the distance

When you first start running your initial aim should be to increase the length of time for which you can run.  Very few people can go straight out and run for more than a few minutes but by mixing running and walking it is possible to cover a reasonable distance. 

Fast and strong

Once you can comfortably run for 40+ minutes you can start thinking about improving speed and strength.  ‘Quality’ run sessions fall into 3 main categories:

VERY IMPORTANT – do not increase your volume or speed too quickly.  You can avoid injuries by gradually building up the amount of quality running.

Injury prevention

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