Tag Archives: swimming

Are You Ready to Tri? Series: Training for a Triathlon


Welcome back! This is the second installment of my, Are You Ready to Tri?, blog series. You can catch up by reading the Introduction and Triathlon 101.

This week the focus is on training for a triathlon. There are several things you want to keep in mind as you train for your triathlon; what distance are you racing, what’s your threshold, how many weeks/months before the race are you starting your training, etc. You want to establish good training rhythm, triathletes tend to be too intense and train too hard. This is very true for myself and I have to keep myself in check from developing training ADHD.

To train properly for a triathlon you want to use a systems approach; strengthen the chain, don’t break it! What I mean by this is you want to include your muscular, skeletal and cardiovascular systems in your training.

Let’s start with the stress/adaptation curve.


When you train you accumulate both fatigue and fitness. Many people don’t realize that the fatigue that accumulates over the course of a training cycle itself hides the fitness gains that are made. However, fitness persists about 3 times longer then fatigue. This means that when all traces of fatigue are gone from a bout of exercise or a cycle of training, the fitness gained will persist for 3 times as long as the fatigue. That’s why most people make gains when they take a few days off from time to time.

So how should you train in order to gain the most fitness?

Mesocycle-which means month, is your chronic training load. Here we train hard for the first 3 weeks three times per week so that we never ever are completely recovered from any workouts. Then, on the 4th week we train only once or twice the entire week at a low intensity and low volume. During the 4th week we’re allowing fatigue to dissipate so that we can display the fitness we’ve gained from the previous 3 week’s of training. During this low intensity/low frequency week, the physiological indicators we’ve stimulate the previous 3 weeks “rebound” back up and above where they were before.

Microcycle-which means week, is your acute training load. Each week you will want to find a balance for both volume and duration. I suggest taking at least 1 to 2 days off per week for rest and recovery.


When you are training for a triathlon you want to train at the zone that you are going to be racing in, so if you are doing a short distance triathlon, you should train in the zone you can maintain for the duration of your race. For a sprint distance triathlon this could vary from 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours depending on your fitness level. For Ironman distances, you would want to train at a lower zone since that distance is significantly longer. The first thing you will want to do is determine your target heart rate. To attain optimal cardiovascular fitness, exercise between 60-90% of maximal heart rate (50-85% of heart rate reserve). You can find a target heart rate calculator here:


Triathletes who are new to the sport, 1 to 3 years, will see the most gains when basing their training on endurance and form. Find your threshold and build your target intensity.

How many days per week should I train for each sport?

Ideally you should train for each discipline twice per week, that means running two days, swimming 2 days, and cycling 2 days. If you can fit in three days for each sport, that would be even better! However, for most of us, triathlon is a hobby, not a career. It is important to find balance and integrate training with your life, especially if you have a job and family to take care of as well.

What about increasing duration and intensity?

During the training season you should increase your duration and intensity about 10% per week. As always, listen to your body and don’t push yourself to do more than you are ready for.

What about bricks? When do I start those?

Bricks can be incorporated into your weekly training plan at any time. If this is a weak area for you, then incorporate them earlier on during your training plan.

I’m a weak swimmer (runner, cyclist), what do I do?

Swimming is my weakest sport for triathlon so I do an extra day of swimming each week. I run two days, bike two day and swim three days. If running or biking is your weak sport, spend extra time training for that portion.

What about transitions? Can I train for those?

Certainly. Choose one day that you are doing a brick workout and practice your transition between those two events. Simulate race day as closely as possible. There are lots of tips and tricks to make transitions as quick and seamless as possible. I can address those in another post if you are interested.

Most importantly, stick to your training plan! Don’t develop training ADHD!!

Any other questions? Did I miss something you’ve been wondering about?

Are You Ready To Tri? Series: Triathlon 101

Are-You-Ready-to-Tri | Herbivore Triathlete

Hi friends! This week’s post for my Are You Ready to Tri? Series is Triathlon 101.

One of my favorite aspects of triathlons is the atmosphere and the people. I’ve found that triathletes are some of the kindest and most approachable people I’ve ever met. If you are new to the triathlon scene, seasoned triathletes always seem more than happy to answer any questions you may have or offer advice to help you have a great triathlon experience. I think that part of the reason for this friendly atmosphere is that triathletes are not experts. We all have our strong event and our weak event. My strongest/favorite aspect of triathlon is the biking portion and my weakest/least favorite portion is the swimming leg. But most of all, I just think triathletes are genuinely awesome people! 🙂

There are several different triathlon distances. The most common distances include; sprint, Olympic, Half Ironman and Full Ironman. There are super sprints and Ultraman Triathlons as well. The distances for a sprint triathlon are typically as follows; 750 metres (0.47 mi) swim, 20 kilometres (12 mi) bike, 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) run. An Olympic triathlon (also known as intermediate or standard distance) consists of; 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) swim, 40 kilometres (25 mi) bike, 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) run. A Half Ironman is; 1.2 miles (1.9 km) swim, 56 miles (90 km) ride, 13.1 miles (21.1 km) run. A Full Ironman is the longest of traditional triathlon races and is the following distances; 2.4 miles (3.9 km) swim, 112 miles (180 km) ride, and a full marathon: 26.2 miles (42.2 km) run.

Triathlons are not necessarily restricted to these prescribed distances. Distances can be any combination of distance set by race organizers to meet various distance constraints or to attract a certain type of athlete.

In order to participate in a triathlon, an athlete is required to register and sign up for the actual race, usually this is done in advance but sometimes athletes can register the day of the race.

On race morning you will have to check in and pick up your swag bag and your race number, colored swim cap, and a timing chip. Volunteers will write your race number, age and distance on your arms and legs. The timing chip typically goes around your ankle. There will also be a bib number that you can either attach to a race belt or pin on your clothes as well as a number for your bike.

After registration is complete you should set up your transition area. athletes will generally be provided with a bike rack to hold their bicycle and a small section of ground space for shoes, clothing, etc. In a point to point triathlon, there are two transition areas, one for the swim/bike change, then one for the bike/run change at a different location.

Once you’ve got your transition area set up it is time to head to the pre-race meeting where athletes will be briefed on details of the course and rules.

The swimming leg is the first part of your triathlon experience. There are three types of swimming starts. The first type of start is the mass start. This is when all triathletes run into the water at the same time. In my experience this type of start has the most potential to cause swimmers to panic. Wave starts are more common in shorter races where a large number of amateur athletes are competitors. In wave start events smaller groups of athletes begin the race every few minutes. The final type of start is time trial starts, where athletes enter the water one at a time, a few seconds apart.

The swim course is usually marked off by buoys. There are kayaks and life guards out on the water for safety purposes. If you begin to panic or need to rest, you may stop if you need to without penalty. You may not use the kayak to assist in forward motion however. Make sure you wear the swim cap provided for the race, this will help make you visible to safety personnel.

After you exit the water you will enter transition one (T1). In T1 you will remove your wetsuit (if you are wearing one), cap, and goggles and pull on your helmet and cycling shoes. Make sure that you put on your helmet before you get on your bike!!

Remember, transition times count towards your overall race time, so you want to transition as quickly as possible.

After T1 it’s time for the cycling portion of the triathlon. Typically the cycling portion is on public roads and not closed to traffic. However, there is usually traffic control in place to help control traffic. The cycling portion of triathlon is my favorite! I would recommend that prior to race day you take your bike to the local bike shop to ensure everything is in working order and safe. I highly suggest that you have a seat bag with repair kit just in case you get a flat tire. It would be in your best interest to learn how to change a tire and practice before race day.

Once you’ve completed the cycling portion of the race, it’s off to transition two (T2). After getting off your bike you will enter the transition area, rack your bicycle, and quickly change into running shoes before heading out for the final stage.

There may be aid stations on the bike and run portions of the race, typically this consists of water or energy drinks. For longer distance triathlons there may be other food available such as coke, gummi bears, energy gels, etc.

The race ends once you cross the finish line! Typically there is a post-race party for all athletes. The celebrations vary from race to race but normally there are refreshments such as food and adult beverages. I’ve been to events where there was a band and raffles and other triathlon themed activities.

Next week I will talk about how to train for a triathlon.

Do you have any questions about triathlons? Anything in particular you would like to see addressed in more detail?

Introduction to: “Are You Ready to Tri?” Series

Are You Ready to Tri | Herbivore Triathlete

The triathlon season is quickly approaching! Are you ready to tri? Every Monday starting on April 1st I am going to be blogging about triathlons. This series is designed to provide encouragement and education for athletes that are interested in running a triathlon or have ran a triathlon and would like to enhance their knowledge of the sport.

Here is what I will be covering:

Triathlon 101

  • Culture of Triathlon/Multisport
  • Race layout
  • Gear
  • Race Day

Training for a Triathlon

  • Stress/Adaptation
  • Mesocycles/Microcycles
  • Endurance/form/strength triad
  • Generic training
  • Specific Training

How to Get to the Start Line… Healthy

  • Biomechanics
  • Swim Technique
  • Cycling Technique
  • Run Technique
  • Diet

Race Day

  • Putting it all together
  • Getting mentally ready
  • Tapering training for a race
  • What to expect at a triathlon

Benefits of Adult Swim Lessons for Open Water Swim Success

OWS start // https://herbivoretriathlete.wordpress.com

{Source: everymantri}

Do you panic at the mere mention of open water swimming? Do you feel frustrated and get that “wanting to quit” feeling after the swim portion of your triathlon? Would you like to get comfortable, confident, and feel calm in the open water? Developing an inner confidence can make all the difference, not only in how well you perform, but in your enjoyment of your race.

{Photo: Rich Cruse}

{Photo: Rich Cruse}

Even if you are a confident swimmer in the pool and maybe even a strong swimmer in open water, the swim portion of a triathlon can be intimidating. Many triathlons start with hundreds of swimmers either on the shore ready to run into the water and some triathlons start with everyone waiting in the water to start. I’ve been lucky and had one triathlon start swimmers one at a time at 10 second intervals!

There you are, one swimmer among tens or hundreds of other swimmers. There’s legs flailing and you’re getting kicked in the head. Swimmers are on both sides of you, in front of you and behind you, someone may even be trying to swim over you. The water is cold, the wind is creating chop, all the other swimmers are adding to the chop of the water. The water is dark and murky, there’s seaweed to contend with as well.

It’s normal to feel a sense of panic at the start of the swim portion, but there’s a lot you can do to ease your worries and frustration.

I learned how to swim at an early age. I remember going to the pool around 4-5 years old and swimming across the pool, back and forth. I took swim lessons for many years of my childhood. I spent summers at the local pool and at the lake, I was a lifeguard, on the dive team and even did synchronized swimming for a while in my teens.

I felt comfortable in the water, both in the pool and in open water such as a lake or the ocean, so when I started training for the swim portion of my first triathlon, I was very frustrated and upset that it was not easy for me. Running came easy, biking came easy, I had spent countless hours in the water from an early age, why was this so hard?

{Source:  Men's Fitness}

{Source: Men’s Fitness}

For a couple of weeks I swam on my own in local open water but each time I felt frustrated and out of shape. After some soul searching I decided to take adult swim lessons. I was embarrassed and nervous about what the instructor would think, I mean I knew how to swim. I went to swim lessons twice per week for 45 minutes each time for one month. The first few times I left feeling exhausted, out of breath, and sore. But as the weeks went by, I slowly gained confidence and stamina in the pool. My instructor was patient and understanding. Instead of just having me swim lap after lap, he broke the stroke down into each separate portion. I focused on just my kick, then just my arms, establishing good muscle memory to ensure proper stroke form and technique. I spent a lot of time on my breathing techniques. My instructor moved onto more specific open water swim techniques, such as sighting, and learning how to deal with other swimmers and water chop.

By the end of my month long swim lessons, my confidence had soared. I continued swimming on my own once the lessons ended. I went to the YMCA twice per week and swam laps, using a program from Beginner Triathlete. I am lucky that on Sunday evenings the local multisport endurance club would meet to practice open water swims. There would be at least one person in a kayak out in the open water. I am privileged to know the owner of the local triathlon store who let me borrow a wet suit for several weeks.

Here are some tips for open water swim success:

  • Practice swimming in a crowd.  During a triathlon swim, you are likely to get jostled about and be hit with hands, arms, or feet, so practice swimming at close quarters.  
  • Triathlon swimming can be a contact sport, so you may have your goggles knocked off or out of place.  Prepare for this.  Practice putting your goggles on in deep water while you tread water or float on your back.  Don’t dread this happening, get ready for it.
  • In open water, lack of visibility can be disorienting, especially if you are a beginner.  During an open water swim course, you must “sight” to aim toward the buoys marking the course.  You need to learn to sight quickly and efficiently because lifting your head causes your body to drop and creates more drag.  Sight often enough to stay on course, no more.  Lift your head just enough so that your goggles are above the surface of the water, then resume your swim stroke.  
  • The start of a race can feel overwhelming. To deal with these feelings, have a plan.  Pick your spot; if you’re not confident swimming in a pack, then aim to start at the side of the pack but not at the back. If you’re at the back you’ll have to swim through all the competitors who swim breaststroke, which is an easy way to receive a kick to the head.
  • A very common mistake is to go out too hard, too fast.  You will be excited about the event, so you will likely be swimming faster than you realize.  Pace yourself at the beginning, you still have a bike and run ahead of you.

Finally, the tips above help, but nothing can simulate an actual open water swim.  While the pool is the perfect place to do most of your training, it is important to practice in open water.  If possible, swim at the site of your race.  Overcome the fear factor so you are ready to race!

Weekly Rewind~Fitness Edition

rewindHoly cow this week has flown by! TGIF means it’s weekly rewind time here at Herbivore Triathlete!

The 2013 triathlon training is in full swing for me and I’m starting the year strong with big goals and high expectations for a fantastic year.

Today I’m going to share what I’ve been reading this week on the web that is related to health and fitness.

Here’s a few articles that are helpful, motivational and inspirational:

New-to-me Blogs I’ve been enjoying:

I’ve always been interested in health, nutrition, science and medicine. I spent my teenage years as a vegetarian; I studied and received a minor in Sports Medicine during my undergraduate years. For the past couple of years, and even more so lately, I’ve felt stuck and burned out in my current job/career choice.

I’m seriously considering going back to school to pursue certification in a field related to nutrition and fitness. (It may also have something to do with the fact that I will be turning 35 next week, yikes! Mid-life crisis or something like that…) I’m looking into the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to be a health coach as well as the Plant Based Nutrition Certification through Cornell. In high school I had dreams of going to Cornell for veterinary medicine, ah memories.


Click the contest poster above for the link to enter the contest.

A Year of Change~2012

Looking back over the past year, I’ve made a lot of changes! I started 2012 feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. I was heavier than I’d ever been in my life (besides when I was pregnant). None of my clothes fit and going shopping was depressing. I spent my free time on the couch, eating and drinking beer. I was depressed and generally miserable.

adventure run

I had decided in the fall of 2011 that I would change the direction my life was going…in January 2012. I signed up for the Biggest Loser competition at my place of employment as a way to hold myself accountable. I began to track my daily intake of calories, in the beginning I was close to 3,000 per day! I began walking on the treadmill my husband had purchased for himself.

I changed my diet from eating anything and everything, drinking 6+ beers per day to eating clean and not drinking at all. I lost about 15 pounds by the end of the Biggest Loser competition in March.

raccoon rally

March is when I began to run outside, during my kids’ soccer practices. I was slow and ran short distances at first, but I was hooked on the endorphin rush very quickly. I ran a few races during the spring and summer months. I also did a cycling road race, 2 adventure runs, and 2 triathlons. I was able to improve my 5K time from 32 minutes to less than 25 minutes.

On May 1st, I gave up eating all animal protein as well as any food containing any kind of animal products (dairy, eggs, etc.) The learning curve was steep and there were many times that I ate animal products without realizing until later. I still strive to eat 100% vegan, but if there are no alternatives, I always choose the vegetarian options. I’ve lost a total of 30 pounds and dropped 4 pants sizes.

willow creek

In 2012, I ran 312.85 miles, in 61 hours & 30 minutes, and burned 31,119 calories. I biked 263.5 miles in 21 hours & 13 minutes and burned 8,823 calories. I swam 15,,406 yards in 11 hours & 53 minutes. I spent 32 hours & 10 minutes at spin class and 4 hours & 50 minutes on the elliptical.

The above numbers are not 100% accurate, they don’t take into account times I exercised and didn’t have my phone to track. None of the races I did are included in those totals either.


Looking ahead to 2013, I plan to continue down my current path. I have hopes to improve my race times as well as add more races to my schedule. I plan on continuing to eat a vegan diet and maintain my current weight. I am in the best shape physically and mentally that I’ve ever been in my adult life, I plan on carrying that into 2013.

What was 2012 like for you? Any New Year’s Resolutions as you look forward to 2013?