Triathlon Training For Beginners: The Top Ten Questions

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There are some key answers to questions about triathlon training for beginners that you must know if you're just getting into the sport or you're trying to learn a few new tips to enhance your triathlon experience. Over at the Rock Star Triathlete Academy, at , we get questions every day from a wide range of beginner, intermediate and advanced triathletes, but these are some of the more popular triathlon training for beginners questions. Today's article will keep the answers quick and easy-to-digest!

10. Q. Is my bike saddle supposed to hurt?
A. Initially, yes. It generally takes 4-6 weeks for soreness and saddle discomfort to subside as you begin to form a “butt callous”. If you find that even after a couple months training, you're still constantly shifting in the saddle to find a comfortable position, then make sure that your bike is fit properly (especially noting whether or not your seat is too high), and explore some options such as noseless saddles, better bike shorts, and a good slathering of chamois cream.

9. Q. How should I eat while I'm running?
A. You're going to have the best luck with liquid fuel, so that you don't have to worry about breathing and chewing simultaneously, and your stomach doesn't have to worry about trying to break down food while you're bouncing up and down. Go for gels, or a small amount of carbohydrate based fluid – in the range of 200-250 calories per hour.

8. Q. Is it normal for my feet and calves to cramp while I'm swimming?
A. If you run or bike directly before you swim, this can happen. It can also happen if you swim for more than 45-60 minutes without water, or you're very low on electrolytes. Should you find yourself in a cramping situation, try to push off the wall very gently, or with just the non-cramping leg.

7. Q. Should I lift weights?
A. Yes, especially if you're a “skinny” or “small” person. Until 4-8 weeks prior to a big race, you should focus on gaining strength and building or maintaining lean muscle. This will help prevent injury. As your race approaches, begin to de-prioritize weightlifting and spend minimal time in the weigh troom, instead prioritizing swimming, cycling and running.

6. Q. How should I eat while I'm biking?
A. Unlike running, you can generally handle solid foods on the bike, and you can consume about 50-150 more calories per hour compared to running.

5. Q. Do I need a wetsuit?
A. If you're in a cool climate, like the Pacific Northwest, a wetsuit is recommended. If you're in a warm climate, you don't need it to stay warm, but it will certainly make you faster. There is absolutely no crucial need for a wetsuit, and most races don't require that you wear one.

4. Q. Should I stretch?
A. Before workouts, we recommend dynamic stretching, like leg swings and arm circles. After workouts, we recommend longer, static stretching, like yoga. Stretching will help elements like your shoulder mobility, your position on the bike, and your comfort during long runs.

3. Q. Is a road bike OK, or do I need a triathlon bike?
A. While you'll probably find that it's easier pedal faster, be more aerodynamic, and run more comfortably when you get off a triathlon bike, it is just fine to start on a road bike. If you do use a road bike, however, try to find some aerobars for it! This will make the eventual switch to a triathlon bike much easier.

2. Q. How long will it take me to get ready for an Ironman triathlon?
A. Our programs inside the academy range from 25-36 weeks for the Ironman. If you're fit and you frequently race, 25 weeks is completely possible. If you're really wanting to achieve a fantastic time, or you're not experienced at Ironman, closer to 36 weeks is ideal. If you're a complete couch potato, give yourself at least a year.

1. Q. How much protein should I eat?
A. Although everyone is different, a good rule of thumb for active individuals is to consume about 20-30% of your daily calorie intake from proteins sources like seeds, nuts, lean dairy, whole grains (if you can handle the gluten), healthy meats (like bison, fish and lamb), and hemp, pea, soy or whey protein powders that are low in additives and preservatives.

While the answers to the questions above are indeed brief, we hope they've helped give you some direction for your triathlon training for beginners! If you want more in-depth discussion, including a private forum and weekly live coach Q&A calls, then check out the Rock Star Triathlete Academy, at . See you there!

Ben Greenfield is recognized as one of the top fitness, triathlon, nutrition and metabolism experts in the nation. In 2008, he was voted as the Personal Trainer of the Year by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), an internationally recognized and respected certifying agency for fitness professionals. Ben hosts the highly popular fitness, nutrition and wellness website at, which features a free blog, wellness podcast, and fitness product reviews from Ben. Pacific Elite Fitness ( is an online portal where Ben coaches a wide range of triathletes and assists people from all over the world with personal training for nutrition, fat loss, muscle toning, and general fitness. Ben also oversees the physiology and biomechanics laboratory at Champions Sports Medicine ( which offers metabolic-based weight loss, bicycle fitting, running gait analysis, swim stroke analysis, VO2 max testing, blood lactate testing, resting metabolic rate analysis, and other cutting-edge procedures for weight loss and human performance. Ben holds bacheler's and master's degrees in exercise physiology and biomechanics, and is a certified personal trainer, strength and conditioning coach, sports nutritionist, and bike fitter.


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