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IRONMAN Training for Beginners

man preparing his bike for a race

Even if you aren’t in triathlon shape, there’s no shame in trying something new. A half-triathlon is fun and challenging without being overwhelming — and the Chattanooga 70.3 Ironman is a great place to start. It’s not until May 22, 2016, but first-time participants are preparing right now. Here’s what you should know before putting together your beginner IRONMAN training plan.

The Right Gear

If it’s your first race, you shouldn’t spend tons of money on top-of-the-line gear. For now, you only need the basics. The opening swim calls for a thin, snug swimsuit, goggles and swim cap. Make sure they all hug your body somewhat; you want to cut through the water as smoothly as you can.

For bicycling, you’ll naturally need a bike (a road bike is best, but any bike will do) and a helmet. You could ride in the outfit you swam in, but you may also stash a mesh t-shirt and cycling shorts with your bicycle. Consider taking your bike to a local shop for a tuneup before you start riding. Be sure to invest in a portable tire pump and spare tube to tackle flat tires on the road, as well.

Running comes last. Choose clothes and socks made of mesh-based wicking material, and a comfortable pair of running sneakers. Because you’ll be lacing up after your swim, pick shoes that are breathable and quick-drying. Mesh uppers, instead of leather, are a must.

If you’re unsure about which brands or products are right for you, consider asking these questions at your local sporting goods shop. There, the pros can help pick out the gear that’ll meet your needs without overselling you on equipment you don’t need just yet.

A Training Schedule

A triathlon consists of swimming, bicycling and running, so your training should prepare you for all three. IRONMAN recommends a breakdown that looks something like this:

  • 20% swimming
  • 50% bicycling
  • 30% running

You should strive for an equal number of weekly swimming, running and bicycling sessions, but the length of each workout should depend on the amount of time it takes up during the triathlon. So, swim workouts should be the shortest, bicycle workouts should be the longest and runs should fall somewhere in between.

Fueling the Healthy Way

Make whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables the mainstays of your diet. Even if you’re trying to lose weight, resist the temptation to cut back on your calories at first. You need the energy to get through your training, and the workouts alone might be enough to help you start burning fat. Keep in mind muscle weighs more than fat, so your bathroom scale may confuse you at first.

If you need extra fuel before your workout, try a small mix of complex carbohydrates and protein — like a slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter. And if you’re exercising for more than one hour at a time, keep a small bite on hand (like a handful of dried fruit) for a quick boost of energy.

Lastly, remember to stay hydrated. Mayo Clinic generally recommends up to an extra two cups of water for workouts that last a full hour, though you may need more if you’re exercising for longer.

How to Avoid Injuries

Most aspiring triathletes who get hurt during training develop injuries from pushing themselves too hard. Before starting or ending your workout, take the time to warm up and cool down. And remember to work rest days into your training schedule; they’ll give your body more time to recover so you can come back stronger for your next session.

Consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program.

Marygrace Taylor

Marygrace Taylor is is an award-winning health, wellness, and nutrition writer whose work has appeared in Glamour, Redbook, Prevention, and Women’s Health. You can follow her on Twitter @mgtylr, or at marygracetaylor.com.

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