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Getting back into triathlon training

Slow is the key when restarting triathlon training
Slow is the key when restarting triathlon training
Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images

Many times, people choose to take a break from triathlon training and competition. Whether you've started a new job, relocated, started a new relationship, had a relationship event such as getting married or having a baby, suffered from or recovered from an injury, gone on vacation or for any other reason, you may have chosen for your triathlon training and competitive life to take a backseat to, well, life.

At some point, however, you may decide to get back into the swing of things. Whether you've continued your workouts in all three sports - swimming, biking and running - or just two, one or even none, you want to ease back into your full training schedule. After all, no one wants to take an imposed break to recover from an injury sustained from doing too much too soon just when they've committed to getting back into it.

An article on the USA Triathlon website suggests applying the five 'F' principles — function, form, frequency, far and fast — when returning to triathlon training. These principles are:

  • Function - Recovering from and addressing pre-existing injuries (including determining why the injury occurred in the first place so you can attempt to avoid the same sequence of events) and beginning strength training.
  • Form - Ensure in a controlled environment such as a gym that you are performing the movements correctly. This means that your swim form, bike form and running form are where they should be.
  • Frequency - Start with short, frequent workouts to avoid injury.
  • Far - Slowly start to add distance with the 10 percent rule: increase your total distance or time by no more than 10 percent each week, particularly with regard to running.
  • Fast - To re-acclimate your body to speed, train with short duration intervals in which you increase your speed or heart rate for short limited time periods.

It may be easier to follow a prescribed training plan that is meant to ease you into a full routine or into full distance. Personally, I'm a big believer in the "Couch" programs, as they start slow and progress gradually to your goal, so you're less likely to suffer a sidelining injury:

  • Couch to 5k by CoolRunning - You can get the information off the website or download the app, which works with you through each day's routine.
  • Couch to Sprint Triathlon - provides a number of different training plans, from aggressive to less so, with week lengths of 16 or 20.
  • Couch to Olympic-distance Triathlon -, again, offers a number of different training plans, with week lengths of 16 or 20.
  • Couch to Half-Marathon - WomensRunning has a 14-week plan to get you ready for a half-marathon, while FitnessMagazine has a 10-week plan.

As someone wise once said to me, "You can't out-race your training," which is something that I, like other triathletes, as an "all or nothing" personality, need to be mindful of when restarting training.

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