To properly train for a triathlon, you need to put life in perspective. It’s that simple. No secrets, just an honest look at what you can afford to do physically and mentally. Thinking that you can lead the life you do now and somehow splice in fifteen hours a week to train is inconceivable and an overall recipe for failure. Sacrifices will be commonplace, but the end result is well worth it.
Give these topics some thought before you set your goals.
Your job: Does your employment allow for you to dedicate the time to train? Almost any would if you were willing to make a few sacrifices, but does yours? If you have a high stress position that requires you do be “on” all the time, giving up too many job hours for training could work in opposition to the standard belief that exercise reduces stress; instead, it may increase the stress. Think logically about what you can do and set your triathlon goals accordingly. Don’t plan to do your first Ironman if you are a first-year associate at a major law firm that expects 80 hour weeks.
Your family: Married with three kids? Well, you have some important responsibilities that could easily outweigh the three-hour bike ride on Saturday afternoon. You better be willing to get up early or stay out late, when the family is “not in session” so to speak, if you want to commit a high number of hours. If not, maybe your husband or wife will give you a pass on some normal responsibilities for you to prepare for that “dream” race. But, if you’re single with no family obligations, then you can obviously do much more in a more flexible manner.
Athleticism: Be honest about what your natural talents are, as this will let you gauge just how much you can handle. If you spent the majority of your life as a competitive athlete, then you’ll adapt easier to the demands. On the other hand, if you have no real athleticism and triathlon is a new challenge for you, something that you want to branch out into in order to prove something to yourself, then keep that in mind. You want to craft a program that keeps your body moving and does not put you in a situation that causes unnecessary injury.
Fitness history and current health: Different from athleticism, your fitness past implies how healthy you have been. Have you had some type of hamstring issue since you were a teenager, or have you recently developed asthma? Reflect on your body’s condition and make a real judgment about what it can handle.
Diet: While this ties into your job and health status, you need to look at how you eat. If your job has you dining out often in scenarios that allow you to ingest some heavy foods, this will make keeping energized and fit difficult. If your daily lunch ritual involves a cheese steak and a milk shake…well, you may want to think about how that will impact what you try to do as a triathlete. Basically, you need to be willing to and capable of making some changes.
Age: I know most say age doesn’t matter, but it really does. Sure you can accomplish any task, as we see each year an 80-year-old crossing the finish line out in Kona, but the truth is you have to take into consideration your body’s ability to put out and recover. You can’t defy or run from age, so your best course of action is to properly assess your status and make decisions that reflect your ability. As you get on in years, you need to give more time to recover.