What you really need to train for a Triathlon

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I am going to need a Mary Poppins sized bag..

By Coach Chris Hague

Believe it or not the triathlon season is almost here! While the weatherman and the thermometer may indicate that it’s winter, my “Poor Triathlete’s Almanac” is saying that the race season is only months away and therefore it is not only time to start to get back into the swing of training but also time to think about training gear.

Now is the time to buy. Shops are desperate to clear out their old inventories to make room for 2013 models and items. They therefore are lowering prices to almost cost. Another good reason to buy and stock up now is that it will give you enough time to experiment with new products, try out a different flavor of nutrition, and get comfortable with the equipment instead of making drastic changes closer to the race.

Now, triathlon can be an incredibly expensive BUT ONLY IF YOU MAKE IT! You can drain your bank account and mortgage your house to fuel your triathlon addiction, but it’s not necessary. In fact, it may hurt you since you are so focused on looking good you will not have enough time to get good. Here are my top five training essentials and my top five training “non-essentials” that you need this winter:

  1. Pool membership and/or Masters class: this is obviously an essential given this is one thrid of our sport. If you do not currently belong to a pool, find one in your area that has good hours and a good pool that is clean, heated, and is not too crowded.
  2. A good bike: Especially if you are just starting out in triathlons and not sure whether you will continue in triathlon, you do not need a high end TT bike. A standard road bike will do. I could do a whole post (and will down the road) on what to look for in a bike, for now, let me just say that all you need is a bike that you like, is comfortable, and will get you from point A to B efficiently. However, if the bike has streamers and a wicker basket, you may want to upgrade–baseball cards in the spokes though are completely respectable.
  3. Goggles: Once again these are not necessary; my old coach would go on for hours about how “back in his day” no one wore goggles. They will protect your eyes though and keep them from looking like you just got out of Cheech and Chong’s car
  4. A quality pair of running shoes: Running in old and/or improperly fitting shoes is playing with fire. Worn out shoes will put stress on your body and can lead to bad form. For those you want to go barefoot, I hope  you are well adapted.
  5. A training plan: Whether it is investing in a coach (well worth it!) or buying a training plan off line, you need a plan. Not having a plan will most likely lead you to injury and burnout. Especially if you are new, asking for help from someone who knows what they are doing, will pay off significantly.

Now onto the non essentials. These are not necessary, but they can make training easier and/or more enjoyable:

  1. Waterproof iPod: It helps keep you motivated during long training rides
  2. A rear wheel trainer: Some people hate  the trainer, but for people like me, I love it! They allow you to get a quality workout in without having to worry about visibility, cars, stop lights, or getting a flat tire while 60 miles from home. It does not have to be a computrainer but a good one that will last some time
  3. Bars and gels: Believe it or not, you do not need bars and gels to train but they are convenient and effective. Natural alternatives like trail mix, nut butter packets, and sweet potatoes will work just as well if not better. However, if you are in a pinch, a semi-natural bar like those from Hammer or Bonk Breaker, get the job done
  4. Pool toys like paddles, pull buouy, and fins: I am not a huge fan of them put they can help if used wisely, with purpose, and sparingly. Paddles, for example, will make your stroke stronger and more powerful, but over use them or use them incorrectly and they can lead to injury. Fins and a kick board, too, can be addictive and weaken your kick but can be helpful if you have a long kick set or need to work on kicking form  Make sure you use them no more than necessary!
  5. A fancy tri watch: I personally have a Garmin 910XT and love it, but it’s not needed. You do not need to know every bit of data, and if you don’t know what it means, then why stress out about it. A good, old fashioned Timex watch will do just as well; it’s also easier to tell the time of day.

Remember training gear is a tool; it works only if you use it properly. A $10,000 like the Cervelo P5 will not make you Pete Jacobs instantly. You still have to put in the work! While geeking out on gear is cool and fun, your primary focus should be and always be on training

2 thoughts on “What you really need to train for a Triathlon

  • ryan m says:

    What about clothes? i am a runner and dont have a bike but belong to the Y. i like this list and it eases my mind about some but what clothes do i need? i see special tri shorts and tops, i understand the wetsuit but will hold off on that for now.

    • admin says:

      Great question! Here are the basics on clothing: 2-3 Tri shorts, which you can swim, bike and run in. It is good to have a couple pairs so that you can train in them and get used to the minimum padding. They also are great for brick workouts so that you do not have to change when you hop out of the water or off the bike. 1-2 pairs tri tops: Great for bike and do no chafe like a cotton t shirt will. It’s a good idea to train in what you will be racing in so find a brand that you like and stay with it.

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