Cycling your way into a triathlon

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image Contributing blogger Troy Meyers is a certified personal trainer and sports conditioner with more than 10 years of experience. He owns Atlanta-based and contributes to the site’s Lockerroom Blog.

Last week, we started your triathlon training with a discussion about swimming. Now we’ll finish up with some tips about cycling and you’ll be well on the way to training for your first triathlon. can get started on your way to your first triathlon.

(I won’t be focusing on running; just be sure to work that aspect into your training.)

imageBike Training

Six strategies you should know, plus workouts.

Learn something new. Though bicycling is a close cousin to running, don’t take it for granted. Cycling requires different muscles than running, and a fair amount of skill in terms of pedal stroke, use of gears, climbing, riding in groups, taking corners and navigating safely in traffic. And you need to learn how to fix a flat, though it’s easy with a few inexpensive tools.

Consider the bike. Actually, there are a couple of ways to go here. Some triathlon coaches suggest you fork out at least $500 for a lightweight, multi-geared road bike. A second camp says go for the so-called “hybrid” bikes that offer the smooth ride of a road bike with the comfort and versatility of a mountain bike. You can find a decent model for around $300. One big benefit of choosing a hybrid bike is you’ll be able to train on trails, thus avoiding car traffic.

Whichever bike option you select, buy a helmet, a pair of bike gloves to protect your hands, and a cyclometer to keep track of speed and distance. And remember, if the weather’s bad or you live in a high-traffic area, you can do some of your cycling on a stationary bike.

Train accordingly. In terms of training effect, 1 running mile equals around 3 cycling miles, but cycling can take considerably more time. For example, a 5-mile run may take you 45 minutes. An equivalent bike ride of 15 miles will take you at least an hour.

Spin your wheels. The most common cycling mistake that novice triathletes make is mashing big gears.” That is, using higher gears hoping that it will get you in cycling shape faster. But this can lead to knee injuries-and stalled progress. Instead, do what cyclists call spinning — stay in the lower gears at a cadence of at least 90 revolutions per minute.

Pull on the pedals. When pedaling, don’t press down with the balls of your feet, because that’s also tough on your knees. Rather, press with your heel, then pull back and up with your calves in a circular motion. This generates power and speed, but it can take time to master the motion.

Beware the saddle. Just as you need to gradually increase your running mileage, you need to gradually increase your time on the bike. Otherwise you risk painful saddle sores, knee injury and other setbacks. Don’t think you need to trash yourself to get a decent workout. Because cycling is non-impact, it may feel “too easy” at times. That’s fine. It’s doing the job.

imageSuggested cycling workouts

Once a week, go for distance. Work up to 2 hours or more, depending on the length of your upcoming triathlon.

Every other week, do 20 to 30 minutes of “tempo riding” at an equivalent effort to tempo running. Begin and end these sessions with at least 10 minutes of easy riding.

Every other week, or even every third week, do some speed. After 15 minutes of easy cycling, push hard for a minute, then go easy for a minute. Repeat 10 to 20 times, finishing with 15 minutes of easy riding.

Running adjustments

Here’s how to fine-tune your running during triathlon training

To keep your schedule as simple as possible, figure to do two runs, two swims, and two bike sessions each week, with 1 day of rest. Yes, you’ll be doing more cycling and swimming combined than running, but that’s as it should be, because they are your weak links.

This is how your week might look:

Monday: swim
Tuesday: cycle
Wednesday: run
Thursday: off
Friday: swim
Saturday: cycle
Sunday: run


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