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Help with training for non-athlete

Hi all -

Am enjoying discovering the message boards and the help & encouragement - keep it up :-)

Quick question (I hope!) I am just starting training for my second triathlon, the London sprint distance. I'm 29 and normally train in each of the sports a little bit (the odd 1/2 hour jog/swim) and enjoy taking part. I'm determined to beat my (novice) 2005 Blenheim time of 2:02 (I walked a chunk of the "run" and swam most of the swim breaststroke as I always end up gasping for breath after 70m crawl, but nonetheless felt very proud). I have been a couch potato in the interim (was away for London & Blenheim last year), apart from jogging/walking Nike 10ks. I commute nearly 3 hours a day (total) to Oxford from London. Hence am entertainedly reading my book that talks about 5-7 days a week of training and doing 1500m crawl in week 2 of an 8 week program and trying to figure out how to use it without ending up in hospital!

I'm just planning my training, and am trying to figure out how to get up to speed. Can anyone recommend a good, simple training programme for well-intentioned couch potatoes like me? (e.g. I like the idiot proof Nike 10k programmes for running). Where do I need to spend money (heart rate monitor/gym membership/swim coaching/bike accessories like tri bars - bear in mind I'll happily spend time shopping, reading about tri and measuring my pulse if it's an excuse not to go for a run!)? I live by a big London park and a good, cheap, council pool so am hoping I can keep it cheap and simple and mostly outdoors. That said I don't mind spending money if it's going to pay off (have booked on an open water day for example and did swim lessons to learn crawl and the Blenheim novices day in 2005).

Secondly, I have two weeks long-haul holiday booked at the end of May (9 and 8 weeks before the race), where I'm unlikely to keep up a proper training regime, and am wondering if that means I need to start the 8 week training in week 10. What happens if you have a break in your regime?

Sorry for all the questions and detail; all advice most welcome. And if there are any other non-athlete novices out there, good luck. I got into this as a bet and hope one day to be good at it. In the mean time, I'm having a ball. :-)


  • rpopper65rpopper65 Posts: 171
    Well, you seem pretty realistic about your training capabilities and your goals, and you seem to have a lot of free time to read, think and plan, all of which are very good things. I would recommend that you buy a book called "The Triathletes Training Bible" by Joe Friel (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Triathletes-Training-Bible-Joe-Friel/dp/1931382425/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/202-0954481-4671044?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1177050735&sr=8-1) to start with. I would then recommend that you read some of the first few chapters that explain the whole concept of planning out an annual training schedule, until you get to the point where you can break it down to a week-by-week plan.

    You see, my reaction to some of your statements, which at first sound kind of negative, such as "I have been a couch potato", is to suggest that you are being honest and so you ought to be able to come up with a realistic training plan that reflects your honest level of commitment to training than that expressed by other more serious triathletes. If, in the end, you produce a plan that is true to your levels of commitment, reflects your current level of activity and makes the best use of whatever time you have, then it will be a sustainable plan and get you to your goals in the way that best suits you.

    I think the key here is not to compare yourself too much to other people, who probably train more than you do, but to find a plan that works well for you. There is nothing wrong with taking breaks in your training schedule (indeed, rest periods are a necessary part of any good training plan) or in reducing your training volumes. I think, though, that it would be helpful for you to make sure that those rest periods and reductions are constructive rather than just just procrastinations.

    So, the best recommendation that I could make in terms of you spending money would be for you to seek out a personal coach to help get you started and maybe check in with you every week or two, especially in this period running up to the London Triathlon. I certainly would not recommend that you spend any money on any other pieces of equipment or gadgets until you sort your most important piece of equipment out (you, your head and your training plan).

    I say all this as a Triathlon Coach-in-training (Level I certified, not yet qualified to work with individuals, but eager to get there) whose goal is to work with people like yourself some day who show an interest in this sport and maybe need some positive encouragement and support. I love triathlon and am one of those people who train pretty much 7 days a week, but I also know that is not the way for other people (and, indeed, I have a family who occasionally request/demand that I give it a rest for a while and ease up on the training). So, I really hope you get it sorted out and find a way to make it work for you.
  • securriesecurrie Posts: 2
    Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I'll definitely check that book out. My husband's got it, so that'll be a good place to start. Good idea about the low frequency coaching too, that would definitely be a motivator.
  • BoycieBoycie Posts: 189
    Not going to highlight too much on the previous answer, all good advice. Another good place to spend some money is joining a tri club. Hopefully you will get some good advice, motivation and enjoy the social aspect.

  • rpopper65rpopper65 Posts: 171
    And, if you are absolutely jonesing to spend some money on new kit that will improve your time in the races, here are the first few tri-specific purchases I made, and they have stayed with me for 4 seasons now:

    - triathlon laces for your running shoes, they are springy and don't require tying up, just pulling on a little device on the laces with tighten them up, saves valuable time in transition and don't cost a lot

    - race belt, just attach your race number to the belt (either by slipping the elastic strings on your belt through the holes in the race number or just pinning the race number to the belt) and then you don't have to worry about your race number showing correctly - slide it around onto your back for the cycle ride and then slide it around onto your front for the run - and not expensive

    - triathlon suit, mosre costly than either of the above (although I just picked one up on sale for about £45, so maybe now is a good time to find some sales), but I find it soooooo useful to come straight out of the pool/river/lake and onto the bike without having to put on any other clothes (well, aside from helmet, sunglasses and shoes) - tri suits are made from quicker drying material than cycling clothes, and have a little less padding in the seat (also to accelerate drying), and it helps if you practice training in it a little at home first to get used to the idea of riding the bike when you're dripping wet. Also, you can get a one-piece tri-suit (annoying if you need to take bathroom breaks before a race or a training session, but I like the comfort of them and the fact that you get two tiny little pockets on the back which are useful for packs of gel and stuff for the bike and run sections) or two-piece tri-suits (no pockets on the back, but some find it more comfortable).

    Because, let's face it, some of us get a huge thrill out of all the cool equipment and gadgets that you "have got to" buy to improve performance.
  • stusystusy Posts: 6
    Hi, I'm new to triathlon too and am in the same age group as you.

    Firstly, planning and training is completely individual to your personal lifestyle and its demands (ie work, commuting, family commitments, attraction to the sofa etc).

    My view is that you should start with a realistic plan, one that is easy to follow, because anything too intensive and complicated will become hard to fulfil in weeks 3, 4 and onwards - especially on holiday, unless you are committed and have lots of free time and can then be demotivating.

    I'd aim to start doing at least 1 session per week for each disciplne, plus on a weekend combining two together (ie Cycle then ride), or swim and run. If you manage that, you should be able to complete the course no problem.

    I'd start off trying to cover the distances needed for the main event, then building up by increasing distances or improving time or technique week on week.

    If your commuting allows you to fit in 2 sessions for each discipline each week, then that would be better, but if doing that, make sure you build in a rest day. According to the May edition of 220, the week 2 weeks before your event should be your most intense week and the week before should be your least intense, with rest days built in for the two days prior to the event (something about giving the body time to recover, repair and improve for the event).

    I guess there are so many approaches that other people will disagree with some or all of this, but I hope it helps.

  • AndyAAndyA Posts: 14
    Have to disagree with the recommendation of Joe Friel's book ( to a beginner at least). I've got this book and i found it far too complex for at least the first season of Tri. It's top heavy with science and the theoreticals of a years plan, but is too light on practical advice for building training sessions day in day out.

    A better (and cheaper) option is 'Starting out-Triathlon' by Paul Huddle and Roch Frey (ISBN 1-84126-101-7). This is a 130 page A5 size handbook which contains everything you really need for your first year. It has training schedules for different distance events, chapters on strength training, flexibility, nutrition and race day tips.
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