By GALE BERNHARDT, Fort Collins Coloradoan / Triathlon is an exciting sport catching the attention of athletes at every ability level.
The sport – swimming, cycling and running – offers common distances such as sprint racing (450-yard swim, 11-mile bike and 3.1-mile run), Olympic events (0.9-mile swim, 24.8-mile bike and 6.2-mile run) and Ironman events (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run.) Along with varying distances, participants have options for triathlon participation, competing as an individual or as a member of a three-person team.
Here are four valuable lessons that can transfer from triathlon to any sport:
1. Set a goal: A goal event, whether it is a sanctioned race or a self-designed outing with your buddies, gives you a good reason to get into shape or to maintain good fitness. Goal events provide purpose for training, a motivating reason not to miss a workout. How far out should you set a goal? The answer depends on your current fitness and ability to complete the goal event. Some goals are appropriately set a short six weeks away, while other goals may be a year, or more, away.
2. Pace your training: There is good news and bad news about your body. The good news is your body adapts to training stress. What seems difficult today, like a 6-mile run, will seem easy after the appropriate amount of training. The bad news is your body adapts to training stress. If you are looking to take your fitness to new levels, change is necessary. Training variables to change include overall training volume, workout intensity, individual workout session duration and the frequency of training sessions. By carefully planning change, new levels of fitness can be achieved.
3. Rest: Carefully planned training stress cannot be converted to new levels of fitness without rest. You need to plan rest days and rest weeks. Too many athletes get trapped in the ever-increasing-volume-by-10-percent syndrome and drive themselves to injury. Plan days of rest within a week where physical training is reduced or totally eliminated. The rest category includes adequate sleep. Good athletes know that cheating on sleep night after night is inviting fatigue, illness and injury risk. Vary the training load so that volume and intensity is decreased every three to four weeks. Rest following a workload builds high performance.
4. Health first, performance second: Optimal performance cannot be achieved with an ill or injured body. In addition to exercise, good health is achieved and earned by eating nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, poultry, low-fat dairy products and whole grains. An athletic body requires a mix of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), antioxidants and phytochemicals found in minimally processed foods. Try to avoid highly processed foods. Generally if a food is packaged in bag or box, along with a long list of ingredients and chemical compounds on the label, it is highly processed.
Whether or not you decide that training for a triathlon is in your future, utilizing some of these training principles can improve your fitness. Perhaps you want to go longer, faster or simply improve your health or appearance. If so, set a goal and take your fitness to a new level.
Gale Bernhardt has coached at two Olympic Games. You can find out more information at www.active.com/gale.