Professional racer shares tips on triathlons
By Liz Bennett, Senior Staff Reporter
You roll out of bed at 6 a.m. on a Saturday, punch down a high-energy breakfast and put on your favorite spandex. By 8 a.m. you’re on the starting line, ready to go. When the gun goes off, you jump in the river for an early morning swim, climb out for a grueling bike ride and then ditch the wheels to finish up with a run.
Sound like your kind of Saturday morning? More and more Americans are saying “yes.” In 2002, USA Triathlon— America’s governing body of triathlons—had about 40,000 members.
By early 2009, the number of annual members had more than tripled, not to mention the thousands of athletes who purchase one-day memberships so they can compete in USA Triathlon-sanctioned races.
At the top of the elite is Shannon Magrogan, stepmother of freshman Ivy Magrogan. Recently, Shannon Magrogan represented the United States in the amateur division at the Gold Coast ITU Triathlon World Championship in Australia, where she finished ninth in her age group.
“The sport is growing fast, and there is a large triathlon community so it’s actually very fun,” Magrogan said. “Triathlons are also easier on your body, because with running, you’re just doing one thing.”
Not all of us have Magrogan’s athletic credentials, but don’t be discouraged. With just three to six months of training, you too can be a triathlete. And your first race doesn’t have to be the Hawaii Ironman.
“A lot of people think real triathlons are only Ironmans, but that’s not true,” Magrogan said. “You can get great competition on shorter races.”
One of the most popular races among novices is the sprint distance triathlon, which usually consists of a half-mile swim, 12-mile ride and 3.1-mile run.
To kick start your training, Magrogan recommends swimming, biking and running twice a week.
If you have a background in any of these sports, that leg of the race will come easiest to you, so it’s important to focus on the other two activities. Consulting a professional can also help.
“It is really good to talk with a coach who can give you some advice,” Magrogan said. “Otherwise, you can waste so much time doing stuff you don’t really need to be doing.”
It’s also important to practice riding outside. Spinning classes can boost your fitness level, but only outdoor riding can teach you how to use your gears.
And while kickboxing and aerobics classes can be a great workout, they won’t provide the training you need for a triathlon; you’re better off sticking primarily to the swimming, biking and running.
Nutrition is another important factor to consider during training. Triathletes need balanced diets and adequate nutrients.
But just as important as what you eat, is how much you eat and when you eat it. Magrogan suggests that you figure out how soon before exercise your body can stomach food so you are prepared for race day. A major nutritional issue prevalent in high school athletes, warns Magrogan, is not getting enough to eat.
So train smart and eat right, and in a few months you could be headed to the World Championships 2010.
Liz Bennett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Printed originally on p. 23 of The Spoke’s Oct. 16, 2009 issue.