Triathlon is one of the fastest growing sports in the Philippines. From being relatively unknown back in the early 2000’s, it has boomed into a huge community with thousands of triathletes spread out across the archipelago. In testament to its popularity, there is even a telenovela about triathlon in one of the main local TV channels.
So how did this all begin? While there were several notable local events in the late 90’s, triathlon formally set its foothold in our country, thanks to the arrival of the Ironman brand, in 2009. To those unfamiliar with it, it’s the most recognizable brand in the triathlon world. Often dubbed as the holy grail of triathlon, an Ironman consists of a 3.8km swim, a 180km bike, and a 42km run in rapid succession. Our country has been hosting a variation of it called the “Half Ironman” or “Ironman 70.3” for the past 8 years. This event involves swimming for 1.9km, biking for 90km, and running for 21km; it’s arguably the most popular distance around the world.
Looking at the sheer distances involved, some would probably wonder “How can you finish that?” It’s definitely not easy, but with the right mindset, training, and knowledge, it’s actually very achievable. The challenges this sport offers are both exciting and intimidating at the same time. To any person who wants to get into the sport but is having second thoughts about whether they can do it, let me help you out by giving you some valuable tips.
Start With Shorter Events
A lot of aspiring triathletes get caught up with chasing the distance prematurely. Oftentimes, we have this false notion in our heads that “longer is more difficult, so it must be better.” This is coupled with the idea that “I’m wasting my time doing short events.” These mindsets are absolutely false; each distance ranging from the sprint (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run or something similar) all the way to the Full Ironman has its own set of challenges and its own unique appeal. I often tell my athletes to master the shorter events before they attempt to go up in distance. This will help build your foundation as an athlete as well as help prevent injuries or overtraining along the way.
Focus on Form and Technique
If you want to gain “free speed” without adding a whole lot of training, consider focusing on swim technique, a proper bike fit, and run form. Apart from preventing injuries, we can increase our body’s efficiency through these things. This means that more energy is translated to actual speed. You can go faster with less effort!
Aim for Consistency over Volume
A common pitfall for newbies is the volume trap. The “more is better” concept is very dangerous given that it has curtailed the progress of a lot of people I know. Doing too much too soon often results in injuries and/or burning out. It would be best to ask for guidance from a credible coach as you prepare for your races.
Choose Your Gear Wisely
Getting into the sport means buying the necessary gear that comes with it. Things can be overwhelming because of the plethora of options. My advice is to read up on articles and reviews about equipment. You can also ask advice from a seasoned veteran who is more familiar with the necessary gear. Ask for advice from different people before you choose the right-sized bike, the proper kind of running shoes, and other relevant gear. Remember that more expensive doesn’t always mean better!
Fuel Yourself Properly
Another common misconception is that exercising means you can eat anything. This can be further from the truth. “You can’t cheat a bad diet.” No matter how disciplined you are in training, bad food choices will set you back a whole lot. This is not just in terms of weight management but also in terms of performance. As an athlete, we need to fuel our body with the right kinds of food in the right amounts. This ensures we’re able to realize our gains from training better!
This is more than just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. To ensure longevity in our racing careers, we need to make sure we’re healthy, injury-free, and that we enjoy what we do. A lot of times, we get caught up in chasing the destination that we forget to enjoy the journey. Instead of being too hard on ourselves when we miss a workout or underperform in a race, take everything in stride. Remember that we do this not because we have to, it’s because we want to! Never lose sight of why you got into the sport in the first place.
About the Author:
Don Velasco of FlyingDonV Coaching aims to help beginners and veterans alike through smart and scientific training. By understanding that most athletes are limited in terms of time, experience, and physical prowess, he designs customized training programs that cater to their individual needs and schedule. He has also helped hundreds of athletes through lactate testing, metabolic testing (VO2Max), bike fitting, and other sport-specific tests. His strong belief in data and evidence-based methods stay true to his popular slogan #KnowYourNumbers.