triathlon_article_The_Progression_to_Longer_Distance_Triathlons

The Progression to Longer Distance Triathlons

By Tripp Norton, USAT Certified Coach, Owner of Endure 3 Sports, www.endure3sports.com.

Triathlon Event At my last triathlon of the season this past year, I was standing at the waters edge waiting for my wave to start and was reflecting on the athletes that I coach and my own triathlon season. I took a look around me and could not help but notice that everyone was in their own world, some were talking to themselves, some were very quiet, while others were laughing and talking to there fellow competitors. I could not help but to think of what was everyone’s motivation for being here. Some were here in honor of a fallen love one or in support of a worthy cause, while others were living out a life long dream of doing something great and others were life long triathletes that caught the bug at some point in their life. This got me thinking that there are really three types of Newbie Triathletes,

  1. Those who will compete in their first triathlon and never compete again,
  2. Those who will compete in their first triathlon and continue to do shorter distances because that is all their busy schedules will allow and
  3. Those who will compete in there first triathlon, catch the Tri-Bug and progress to longer distance races.

This poses the question of when should you make the jump or rather when are you ready to make the jump from Sprint to Olympic, Olympic to Half Ironman, and finally from Half Ironman to a Full Ironman. In many cases this is personally preference in terms of goals and motivation.

Many of you will never compete in an Olympic, Half or Full Ironman, but if you do, when is it ok to make this jump to longer distances. As a rule I tell my athletes that they should do at least a full tri season at one distance before moving up to a longer distance. While at my last Half Ironman race, I was astonished when the race marshal asked athletes to raise their hand if this was their first triathlon. Honestly I thought that no one would raise their hand but the results surprised me. One in three people raised their hand to say this is their first triathlon. I feel this is a huge recipe for disaster. Not only were they putting their selves at risk but they are also putting other athletes and race officials at risk. The fact of the matter is that the sport of triathlon is growing and so is the number of new people competing in their first event so there always has to be a first for everything but my advice is to make a slow progression so that you allow your body a slow adaptation to endurance sports.

The real issue is safety and responsibility. Think about it, would you put your 16 year old child behind the wheel of Ferrari or Porsche the day they received their license? Probably not, so why would you put yourself in the position of competing in endurance even such as a Half Ironman if you have never competed in a triathlon before?

If you allow your body to adapt to the increased training loads year over year instead of jumping to the longer distances you will not only protect yourself against the possibility of injury but will also help to make triathlons a safer sport.

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