What is a triathlete?

Perhaps, before we go any farther, I’d better talk a little bit about what a triathlon is and what it isn’t, for those who are really new to the topic. A true triathlon is a three stage competition which involves the attempted completion of three endurance sports.  It originated in ancient Greece, but the modern triathlon was popularized in France in the early to mid-1900s.  Although there are many variations on this theme, the current popular form of the sport is swimming, bicycling and running one right after the other (although distances vary, depending on the overall length of the triathlon).

The athletes compete for overall fastest completion time, so all triathletes may not start at the same time during the same competition.  

The transition time between components also counts in the overall time. A transition area is available to all of the athletes so they can change their gear for each section of the race. This is where they can store their bicycles, running gear, etc. This is also a social area where triathletes talk and get to know each other before each race, as they get their gear set up.

Almost anyone can be a triathlete. There are races for children (Kids of Steel), triathlons in the Paralympics, and everything from novice triathlons to Iron Man races and more. There is no age limit to being a triathlete. The only limit is your willingness to train and participate in the races. My friend Bill from www.excavationscottsdale.com has started up recently quite easily.

If you are interested in becoming a triathlete, there are a number of organizations that you can contact to get more information to help you along the way. USA Triathlon can be reached through teamusa.org. The International Triathlon Union can be reached at Triathlon.org.  There should also be local clubs and organizations to get you started.

I hope this has enlightened you a bit about triathlons, and you have a little fun with the information.

The triathlete’s nutrition

I spend a lot of my time on meal planning, thinking about my next meal or snack. Triathletes burn a lot of calories and they can’t be “junk” food.  I’m going to try to describe to you how to eat in order to optimize my energy and satisfy my hunger.  I hope that it helps you if you want to get started eating the way that some triathletes do in order to train well.

 

If you looked at a standard plate, you could mentally cut it in half. On one half, you would fill it with seasonal fruits and vegetables, raw and cooked, or even an equivalent amount of vegetable soup. On the other half of the plate, divide in it half yet again. In one quarter, you would see lean proteins, and in the other quarter whole grains. Now, if I were trying to lose weight, I’d cut back on the whole grains first. I allow myself 1 teaspoon of fat per meal, and my flavoring comes from salt, pepper, herbs and spices, vinegar, salsa, mustard and ketchup. To drink, I primarily use water but I also occasionally drink diluted juice, coffee, tea, or milk.

My standard shopping list looks like this: Whole wheat cereal (unsweetened), apples, milk (my roommate drinks almond milk), eggs, brown rice, whole grain rice cakes, whole wheat bread, protein powder, carrots, bananas, celery, cucumbers, fruits/veg in season, lean meats (fish, chicken, turkey).

Foods are cooked with no oil added, by boiling, braising, broiling or other fat free means. You have to look at portion control, too, and you can find the right portion size for the weight you WANT to be on the internet. If you’re already at your optimum weight from training, great. If you’ve just started training, keep an eye on things because your weight WILL change. Muscle weighs more than fat, but you don’t want to use that as an excuse. That’s why I advocate using portions for where you want to be, not for where you are.

I hope that this helps you. I’m no nutritionist, but taking a peek into how I eat as a successful triathlete might help you to get started. If you’re still a bit lost, or if you have any special dietary needs, please talk to a nutritionist. Also, please please PLEASE talk to your doctor before starting any new diet. Thank you.

Discipline and TRAINING

Today I’d like to discuss a little bit about the discipline and realities of training when you’re a triathlete. Well, any top athlete for that matter.

One thing I mentioned right out of the gate is that we need to balance an over-packed schedule. Because it doesn’t pay really anything to be a triathlete, you have a couple of options when you’re on the circuit. One of them is be a lawyer, heh. One of my friends is, he actually does his legal research while he’s on his indoor trainer. He can go from full out training to dinner date ready in 15 minutes… Flat.

Almost everyone has a full time job in addition to their training and social life. One person I know is allied with http://ElectricianBellingham.com. Anything that will help to reduce some of the stress. Finding backers can be a great help, but can also be a burden. You don’t want anything to bring into question your amateur ranking. It’s a fine line to walk, but worth it for a lot of people.

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So, you have to keep working, and you have to keep training. You can’t stop because it’s suddenly 30° outside, or 115°. You also can’t stop if the wind is gusting 50 and steady at 30, no matter what the temperature. Why? Because those might be the exact conditions during your next meet. So run, bike, swim…just do it. Whether you feel like it or not.

At the same time, you don’t want to over-train. You need to keep a clear mind, and focus. That’s where a social life comes in. So, much like the triathlon itself, you also need to balance work, training and your social life. You can’t make one a priority over any of the other two, or something’s going to go wrong. Ask any trainer, and they’ll tell you.
I don’t mean to make this sound all doom and gloom. You can do this. Hundreds of triathletes, and athletes in other disciplines, do it every day. With lots of success. So, keep up the good work and I’ll have another topic for next time.

Triathlete Injuries

I think it would be useful if we touched on the subject of triathlete injuries and what to do about them. Everyone who knows a triathlete knows that we pretty much just suck it up and keep going during a competition or during actual training, despite the pain that we all experience. However, you can’t keep doing that because what happens is that you get the basic set of overuse injuries.

In other words, you repetitively stress the bones, tendons and muscles, and the tissues around the joints. This is not a good thing. Little injuries (microtrauma) leads to bigger injuries, and the tissue eventually breaks down, which results in pain and inflammation and weakness.

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Ignoring all this and continuing to train can lead to permanent tissue damage and the possible end of your career. If you have ignored your little problems too long, I hope you’ll seek professional advice. Choose wisely. Poorly diagnosed and badly managed injuries can interrupt both training and event schedules. This can lead to weeks or perhaps months out of your training and competition schedule while you recover fully.

Just to touch on the subject, here’s a little standard advice for injury management:

Acute injury: RICE….rest, ice, compression, elevation

Soft tissue injury: acupressure, acupuncture, massage and muscle stretching. Pretend you’ve just cleaned a HUGE pool like my friends at Anaheim Pool Cleaning Service. Then imagine what you need to do for your recovery!

Control of muscles: core strength/stability training to correct any muscle imbalances

Biomechanics: Have someone evaluate your cycling position, relative leg length for possible correction, swimming style and running gait. Also check to make sure your bike is set up optimally.

It’s really important that you make sure you have the proper team in place, from your trainer to your sports medical/therapy professionals, to assure that you minimize injury and maximize training efficiency. These are some of the things that have helped me to become a world ranked triathlete, and I sure hope this helps you, too.

Of course, pain and injury management have to be only part of the plan, you also have to exercise properly, eat a balanced and nutritious diet, lead a well-organized life and a few other tips and tricks.

I really don’t mean to be vague on these points. I’m not always totally sure exactly what I do because it’s become so routine. I have to re-analyze my life, dissect it so to speak, in order to relay to you what I do in order to give you at least one idea of what a successful triathlete does.

Who Make the Best Triathletes?

Who makes the best triathletes? As a participant in the sport, I find myself asking that question. I have to assume that most triathletes come from a cycling, swimming or running background to begin with and picked up the other two sports in order to compete in tri’s. I know this isn’t necessarily so, and some people just started out as triathletes. However, I think they’re the rare exception. So, I asked around, and here are some of the answers I got.

First, there’s this fellow who is a novice triathlete. His background is as a swimmer, and a pretty darn good swimmer at that.  He thinks that triathlons are geared toward cyclists and runners. He gives pretty good personal experience data for his opinion, and I can see where he’s coming from; it’s hard to make up time, even if you’re a good swimmer, if you’ve lost time on two of the other legs of a race when you’re a novice bicyclist (even if you’re a decent runner). He calls it like he sees it, and he doesn’t see swimmers winning.

Of course, it was a round table discussion, and others contended that at the more elite levels of the race it’s the swimmers who take the lead. The fastest, most competitive swimmers take the day because they have the best lung capacity/stamina and can take on the running and cycling sports and develop them better than vice versa. In fact, they contended, national teams try to recruit from these master swimmers for their teams. Interesting, I thought. I don’t know if that part’s true, but it sounds good.

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Then, of course, there are those who thought that the race is mostly won via the run. Good support for that theory, too. The caveat being that you have to balance biking and swimming, of course. That part, I agree with. You have to balance all three legs if you’re going to make it through the race.
So, I still don’t know. No one really spoke up for cyclists being the best triathletes, but they weren’t well represented at the argument…er…discussion. Everyone has an opinion, and people from all three basic disciplines have definitely won at some time or another. The awesome thing about being a triathlete? You really do have to perform at an amazing level at all three core sports, because a triathlon is a single sport, not three.