How to go from zero to triathlete

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Here’s your complete guide to swimming, running and cycling your way to the finish line.

Photo: Hamilton Island Triathlon 2016 by Delly Carr

In November every year, nearly 400 people head to Hamilton Island to partake in the island’s annual triathlon. For those who love a little bit of endurance with their island escape this one's for you. The ocean swim is in the iconic Barrier Reef, the mountain ride provides unparalleled scenic views while the run is better than any buggy-ride around the island.

And Hamilton Island isn’t the only charming backdrop for triathlons – nowadays the adventure seekers can head to Queensland’s Noosa, NSW’s Trial Bay or the Goondiwindi outback to partake in many of the tri events Australia has to offer.

So, if you’re ever said to yourself “I should do a triathlon one day” – it’s probably time to stop thinking and get training. Here, we chat to top Australian triathlete and Rio Olympian Ryan Bailie about how to go from your everyday punter to triathlete (it’s easier than it looks, we swear).

How far out for the event should you start training?

It all depends on the competitors fitness level and how much experience they have racing a sprint distance. If it's your first time I would say a 6-10 week program if you’re starting from scratch would be plenty of time to prepare for course on Hamilton Island [note: this particular course includes a 750m swim, 20k bike and 5km run so is a shorter course than others.]

For the more experienced who have generally been training through the winter months in Australia may only need a couple of weeks of specific work to prepare for the Triathlon.

What should a training schedule actually look like?

For the everyday punter, swimming three times a week, riding two-three times a week and running two-three times a week would be good training.

For someone like myself who is a professional and this is my job I'm training anywhere from 20-35 hours a week. Kilometre wise you’re looking at 20-30km a week of swimming 150km-400km a week riding and 60-140km of running a week with three gyms sessions in there too and plenty of afternoon naps.

What other exercises should complement your training?

Regular massage and rolling out any sore spots post training is a must. With triathlon it loads the body quite a lot so staying on top of injuries is a massive part of it. The right strength and conditioning sessions a few times a week can also compliment your training and aid in injury prevention too.

Hamilton Island Triathlon 2016 by Delly Carr

Hamilton Island Triathlon 2016 by Delly CarrSource:BodyAndSoul

What's the most common mistake people make when they do a tri?

Trying something new they haven't used in training pre-competition. Whether that be a new article of clothing or a new nutrition product they have never used before.

What about the gear – what do you actually need to be able to complete a tri?

All you really need is a mountain bike, some running shoes and some sort of bathers to compete in and a helmet. You don't need the flash road bikes and the snazzy gear to give a triathlon a go.

How important is nutrition in the training process? What do you recommend beginners to eat?

Fuelling the body is vital. We are like a car you don't want to put diesel fuel in an unleaded car. It's not only important to fuel during so you avoid the dreaded bonk but it is vital to be refuelling properly post so your body can absorb the work that’s been done and recover for the next session. Trial and error you have to see what works best for your body. I like to keep things as simple as possible and try eat as many natural things as possible and stick to sports specific gels and bars for the more physically demanding sessions.

Hamilton Island Triathlon 2016 by Delly Carr

Hamilton Island Triathlon 2016 by Delly CarrSource:BodyAndSoul

What should the days leading up to the tri look like to maximise your performance?

Hydration and fuelling for your race is important. Plenty of rest and sometime off your feet where possible is a must too to give your body time to rest. There is a saying we always go by coming into a race “Why stand when you can sit. And why sit when you can lie down!” Though my biggest bit of advice will be to enjoy the build-up and have fun with the experience.

What does your daily workout and meals look like?

8am: wake up – morning coffee then a 30-60min jog or gym session.

Breakfast: Come back for a bowl of oats, which will have a mixture of fruit yoghurt and sometimes nuts for added protein and goodness.

10am: 4-6km swim followed by a protein shake for recovery.

Lunch: Generally two rolls with a good source of protein and mixed salad with another source of protein i.e. a yoghurt/chocolate milk and sometimes a sweet something too like a chocolate bar.

Hamilton Island Triathlon 2016 by Delly Carr

Hamilton Island Triathlon 2016 by Delly CarrSource:BodyAndSoul

Afternoon nap and a coffee to get the body going. With a crumpet or bit of toast with peanut butter.

4pm: A bike ride of around 2-3hrs which would have an hour of interval training or 10-16km run.

Dinner: Will be a mix of protein and carbs. I'm a big fan of the slow cooker and minimising time cooking and love doing a risotto in the cooker, which gives that good mix or carbs and a protein.

Desert: Ice cream or cream rice that I make.

Pre bed snack: Some yoghurt or a glass of milk.

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fitness | body+soul

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