By Bridgett Hernandez

Whether you’re looking to get in shape or challenge yourself, training for a triathlon is a great way to move toward your goal. The event combines swimming, cycling and running, and can require weeks of training and preparation. However, training for a triathlon doesn’t have to be intimidating. Lee Plamann, lead physical therapist for Parkview Sports Medicine, and Brian West, senior program director for the Skyline YMCA, shared some tips to train, avoid injuries and plan for the big day. Here’s a breakdown.

Before the triathlon
• Ask yourself what kind of triathlon is best for you. A standard or Olympic triathlon involves a 1.5-kilometer (.93-mile) swim; 40-kilometer (25-mile) bike; and 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) run. If this is your first triathlon, a sprint triathlon, which is half the distance as a standard triathlon, might be the best way to get your feet wet.
• Give yourself enough time. Plan for at least three months of training, especially if this is your first triathlon.

In the weeks leading up to a triathlon
• Research sample training programs. The internet is a great place to start, but it can be overwhelming. Consider working with a USA triathlon certified coach or certified personal trainer who has experience with triathlons.
• Schedule time to train in your calendar. “It’s important to set aside time each week to train in each specific sport, ideally twice a week,” Plamann said.
• Practice transitions from the swim to the bike to the run, including changing gear.
• Eat a balanced diet of whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and lean protein.
• Stay hydrated. During workouts under an hour, water is sufficient hydration, West said, but when doing workouts over an hour, have water or sports drinks.

In the days before a triathlon
• Get plenty of sleep. Ease off the intensity so that your body has time to recover before the race.
• Do your homework on the triathlon’s course, so that you can avoid any surprises during the event.
• Prepare for the unexpected like weather changes or a flat tire.

After a triathlon
• West stresses the importance of sleep: “During sleep growth hormones work to help repair muscles and bones stressed during training and the race.”
• Get a massage to help relax muscles broken down during the race and reduce the stresses the body endured during the event.
• Stretch. “Regular stretching will help maintain good flexibility and range of motion. Will also reduce the effects of muscle soreness,” West said.

Gear checklist
• A mountain or road bike that’s the right fit for you and in proper working order
• A bicycle repair kit in case you get a flat tire on race day
• A comfortable swimsuit; you don’t have to splurge on a wetsuit, said Plamann
• Goggles
• Swim cap
• Towel
• Bike helmet
• Sunglasses
• Appropriate running shoes; consider going to a running specialty store to ensure a good fit so that you can avoid injury, said Plamann
• Sunscreen
• Anti-chafe balm

Triathlon Do’s
• Get used to the environment you’ll be practicing in. “Often times, you’ll be swimming in open water instead of a pool, you’ll be biking a group of people instead of just on your own,” Plamann said.
• Consider training with a partner. “Having support from others will keep you accountable during your training schedule,” West said.

Triathlon Don’ts
• Don’t ignore pain. “You’re not going back to square one if you have to miss a day or two of training, but if you have to push it too much and fight through pain, that could be harmful and you might really set yourself back,” Plamann said.
• Don’t fall into a static routine. “Training the same way each time and not challenging yourself will keep you from progressing and fully preparing for the challenges of doing a triathlon. Either follow a training program or work with a coach or trainer,” West said.

Find a triathlon near you
• Fox Island Sprint Triathlon, June 2: //
• 25th Annual Optimist Triathlon, June 23: //
• Jury Kids Triathlon, July 7: //
• KPC Sprint Triathlon, Duathlon and 5K Trail Run, July 21: //
• Spirit Mind Body Kids and Adult Triathlon, July 28: //
• Wawasee Kiwanis Triathlon and 5K Run/Walk, Aug. 11: //
• Fox Island Sprint Triathlon, Sept. 1: //