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2010/10/13 - Newsletter

How to start when you are brand new to the sport

What to do when the first triathlon is half a year away

Welcome again to the tri-strides newsletter.
Let's say you have watched a friend finishing a triathlon race and want to try this, too. Let's also say you found a race next May or later which you really would like to try. Then starting into full fledged training right now might be not a good idea, no matter what distance you set your eyes towards. Come May and you might be totally worn out. Structuring training is always a good idea, for example to fight boredom.

This edition is for everybody who lives in a Chicago style climate - Winter looming close ahead and a few last day of Fall calling to the outdoors. Everybody who wants to get into the sport, that is. Around here, there are no more triathlon races in sight, but still a few footraces and maybe a duathlon. So, what should you do? It seems too early to start to train for a May race when you read this letter. Or is it really?

Before you start anything, talk to your doctor and make sure there are no medical obstacles against you starting a training regimen.
After having done that you could dig out your bike (or a bike you could borrow for the time being), polish and lube it up and start exploring the surrounding forest preserves. You do not have to go fast, you just have to get outdoors. Once you are out there, you might want to practice going around corners, avoiding obstacles, stopping the bike, all the bike handling skills you might have had as a kid. Remember, your bike goes where you look at. If there is a heap of shards on your path, don't stare at it - you either will ride directly over it or swerve away in the last possible second. Rather focus on a path by the side of the obstacle.
Ride as long as you want to, as often if you want to, but make sure you are carrying water (you can mount a water bottle on any bike - ask your local bike techinician) and make sure you are visible to the traffic. Other things to carry around would be a cell phone and a flat kit. You will need to learn how to fix a flat. REI offers clinics in many of their stores. Hands-on learning to fix flats also is part of my coaching program.
Last, not least but absolutely most important: wear a helmet as soon as you start moving the bike. If your helmet is very old, get a new one. The material can decay with time. My godmother once rode with a low speed somewhere leasurely not wearing a helmet. Just a lack of focus led to a crash with her breaking some skull bone. You really don't want this.
By starting cycling you are getting yourself a head start into triathlon, even when Winter will force you to take a long break from outdoors cycling.
Another thing you can do, is to slowly start running outdoors. If I say slowly I really mean slowly. A couple of one minute runs, followed by two-minute walks are adequate if you have never run before. Really take it easy - running carries the highest injury risk of the three triathlon sports. If you can, find a trail - soft ground is better for your joints.
Last, and most important because you easily can do this throughout Winter, you should do strength exercises. Lunges, squats, pushups, crunches, diagonal crunches, front and side planks and supermans all only use your body weight as resistance, so you can do them anywhere you want. Select four of those exercises. Do two sets of maximum 15 repeats each (planks as long as you can hold them - but also twice) and rotate them, doing different exercises each time you train. Do them after a short run or bike workout so your muscles are all warmed up. Make sure you do the exercises properly to avoid injuries. A personal trainer in your local gym or a coach can help you with this.
With the combination of cycling, run-walking and strength training you have a good start into the Winter. Later you can replace your bike outings with spin classes or pool sessions and your run-walks with workouts on the treadmill, but we are not there yet.

This is the second of a series of bi-weekly to monthly newsletters. Ideas on how you can spend the last few days/weeks before the off-season if you already have done some racing this season will be discussed in the next newsletter. Stay tuned for the next issue.

Greetings from your coach's desk
Dr. Sylvia Zinser
USAT Certified triathlon coach