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Q: Ironman triathlon performance improvement ( Answered 3 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Ironman triathlon performance improvement
Category: Sports and Recreation > Training
Asked by: zyzzyvas-ga
List Price: $60.00
Posted: 01 Aug 2006 02:11 PDT
Expires: 31 Aug 2006 02:11 PDT
Question ID: 751371
I've signed up to do a first Ironman and have approximately a year to
train. I'd like a list of possible things I could do, buy, eat, drink,
etc., that could significantly reduce my final time. For significant,
let's say something that might save me 10 minutes plus, ideally
including cost/benefit. Let's assume to start with that without
following this advice I could do the swim in 2 hours, the cycle in 7
and the run in 5 and I currently weigh 70 kg/154 lb with 18% body fat.

For example, if I had two punctures, that could easily cost me 10
minutes, so a way to reduce the likelihood of punctures might be
worthwhile. Some people spend 10+ minutes in transition, so learning
how to speed  that up could help. aero wheels might help at a certain
cost. Losing 5% of my body weight would certainly help. So many 100+
mile bike rides might save me so much time as might so many 20+ mile
runs, but at the risk of increased injury. Swimming coaching might be
able to speed me up by 20 minutes, but would 20 minutes be easier/cheaper
to save elsewhere?

In case it's relevant, I'm male and mainly a runner with a 10k pb of
about 42 minutes. I've never run a marathon, or taken part in a
triathlon, swim or cycle race.

$100 bonus if I complete it under 12 hours :)

Request for Question Clarification by keystroke-ga on 01 Aug 2006 05:09 PDT
The first thing I could advise to counter act punctures is Pneumatic Tyre Gel.

Good luck in the race!


Request for Question Clarification by keystroke-ga on 01 Aug 2006 05:18 PDT
I know it says motorbike but I was thinking about the bicycle equivalent.


Clarification of Question by zyzzyvas-ga on 01 Aug 2006 08:15 PDT seems to be something
similar for bikes. I'll consider it for my shopping list :) Thanks

Request for Question Clarification by czh-ga on 02 Aug 2006 10:48 PDT
Hello zyzzyvas-ga,

Promises, promises.

"$100 bonus if I complete it under 12 hours :)"

You'll be back in a year to tell us how you did and pay up on your promised tip?

Sure you will. 

If you don't make it can we audit to see if you adhered to our
suggestions and regimen? ;-)

~ czh ~

Clarification of Question by zyzzyvas-ga on 02 Aug 2006 12:18 PDT
I'll provide my race number for Ironman Austria to the answerer. I
assure you the $100 bonus is genuine.
Subject: Re: Ironman triathlon performance improvement
Answered By: boquinha-ga on 02 Aug 2006 21:39 PDT
Rated:3 out of 5 stars
Hello zyzzyvas-ga!

This was a challenging question but I was thoroughly educated about
triathlons in the process. One thing that was made abundantly clear
early in my research is that there are NUMEROUS pieces of equipment
that are marketed directly to the triathlete. But even with all of the
technology out there for triathlons, most articles discussed training
and technique as two very important things for improving your race
times. Equipment can be extremely expensive, but improving training
and technique is essentially free. Plus, it will yield more
improvement for the beginning triathlete. For these reasons, I?ve
chosen to focus on these factors in this answer, with a few
exceptions. Here is the information that I found.

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Increasing swim speed results from becoming stronger or reducing what
is known as ?drag.? Drag is essentially the resistance that your body
meets when attempting to cut through the water. Doing an open water
swim (as is typical in many triathlons) is extremely tiring so
anything you can do to maximize your efforts can help.

?The swimmer must decrease the impact of that drag or apply a great
deal more muscle power while swimming. Swimmers find it difficult to
get results from applying more muscle power to the water if they are
not doing it the right way. The first steps to faster swimming are
positioning, grabbing, pressing, and rotating, things that everyone
can learn.?

Here are some highlights from the tips offered in this article.

* You need to have your body in the best possible position to both
minimize drag and increase the potential muscle power available. Get
your body straight and long, parallel to the water surface, as you
* Check what you see. You should be looking down at the bottom,
sideways or almost up to the side as you breathe, but never forward.
If you look forward, your legs will tend to drop towards the bottom,
and you will lose your parallel alignment with the water.
* The top of your head always points towards your destination. 
* Imagine that you are swimming in a long tube. Keep yourself within
that tube as you move forward. It may require a gentle kick, it may
require looking a little more backwards than down, but practice your

* You must grab or catch the water so you have a way to transfer your
muscle power from your body to the water.
* You need to put your hand and arm in a position that allows this to
happen. Trying to grab the water with just your hand and you will be
losing a lot of your grip.
* Try to use your hand and forearm. 
* Imagine that you are reaching forward and down over a wall as you
swim, with the edge of the wall at your elbow. Point your fingertips
towards the bottom of the pool, point your elbow up towards the sky or
out towards the side, and think of everything from the elbow joint
down your forearm and through your fingertips as one large paddle.

* You must press on the water with the largest muscles available. For
most swimmers that means the muscles in your chest and back, not in
your arms or shoulders.
* You should feel a pocket develop in your armpit as you apply force to the water. 
* As you press on the water, your back and chest muscles pull your arm
from ahead of you to under and behind your chest (but do all you can
to maintain the fingertip down, elbow up "grab" position).
* Imagine yourself grabbing the water first, then pressing on the
water. Feel your body surge forward over your arm as you press.

* To fully use your position, your grab, and your press, you must add
body rotation.
* Your body should rotate about an axis defined by a line from the top
of your head through your neck, back, and legs.
* When the arm is grabbing, the body is rotated so that the grabbing
arm side is under water and the opposite side is above the water - or
at least closer to the water's surface than the grabbing side.
* The body rotates as one unit, from shoulders through hips, with the
hips and shoulders in line with each other (this means you need to use
your core muscles to hold it all together).
* After you have grabbed the water you are going to press on the
water. As you press, you also rotate your body, moving the body
slightly ahead of the press. moving the body so that the side that was
lower is moving up towards the surface and the side that was up is
moving lower (and that moving lower side's arm is moving into the
water ahead of you, sliding forward and extending, but not moving into
the grab or catch yet).
* Imagine a string going from your hip to your palm. Move the hip to
start the press by pulling on that string when the hip begins to
rotate from a deeper to a shallower position.?

The Netfit website has a great training program designed to improve
your strength, especially as it relates to swimming. It has three
different circuits designed for the beginning, intermediate, and
advanced swimmer. The total length of the swim sessions are 1000
meters, 2200 meters, and 4100 meters respectively. It is recommended
to do these sessions twice a week ideally.

There is also a swim-specific weight-training program aimed at
strengthening key muscles and muscle groups used most frequently in
swimming. You can do these exercises once a week in addition to your
twice-weekly swimming sessions. has an article with the ?Top 10 Ways to Swim Faster.? Here
are those tips. The article explains each in detail.

1. Improve your technique
2. Practice speed work 
3. Kick
4. Gain strength
5. Improve race starts
6. Perfect your finish
7. Taper
8. Sleep
9. Visualize
10. Carbo-load the right way!

A few triathlon articles that I read referred to the Total Immersion
swimming program. They have workshops held in various locations,
including triathlon classes. They also have a U.S. and International
directory of Total Immersion instructors. Here is a description of
Total Immersion from the program itself.

?Though swimming is an essential life skill, traditional teaching and
coaching methods have made it difficult to master because they teach
an awkward, exhausting style of swimming. Total Immersion?s foolproof
approach to teaching can help any student master a fluent, beautiful
and economical style and brings results far faster than conventional

* Only TI teaches Fishlike Swimming. Traditional instruction focuses
on pulling, kicking and endless laps. TI teaches you to swim with the
effortless grace of fish by becoming one with the water. You?ll feel
the difference from your very first lap of intelligent, purposeful TI
practice and get more satisfaction from every lap that follows.

* Only TI teaches the qualities of beautiful swimming as well as the
mechanics. Swimmers come to us with the goal of swimming faster. They
quickly learn that it?s far more helpful and satisfying to swim with
grace, flow, and economy?and that speed will surely follow when they
master ease.

* Only TI teaches transformation along with fluid strokes. TI, alone
among all swimming-improvement programs, teaches swimming as a
practice ? in the same mindful spirit as yoga or tai chi. Our students
tell us that by swimming the TI way they sharpen the mind-body
connection and achieve heightened self-awareness and self-mastery,
leading to greater physical and mental well-being.

* Only TI teaches you to master swimming as an art. TI teachers
emphasize the same patient precision and refinement taught by martial
arts masters. We start with simple skills and movements and progress
by small, easily-mastered steps. Our students thrive on the attention
to detail and the logical sequence of progressive skills.?

Here are links to their directories of U.S. and International coaches respectively.

Here is an article with some swim drills you can do to vary your
routine and still improve your technique.

This swim coach suggests that many triathletes do not spend enough
time improving swim technique and speed. He also says that this is a
relatively easy area to shave seconds and minutes off of your time if
you take the time to train properly.

I saw triathlon swim suits and wetsuits mentioned frequently when
researching swim equipment that may improve your swimming speed.
Depending upon the specific rules of your particular triathlon, a
wetsuit may be something you may want to consider if you haven?t

?Triathlon suits are available in one- or two-piece varieties for both
men and women, and generally consist of a form fitting triathlon short
and a sleeveless top resembling a singlet or cycling jersey. They are
made out of fabrics which do not hold much water and which dry quickly
to reduce the weight the athlete is carrying while running or cycling.
They are tight-fitting both to reduce drag and to allow them to be
worn under a wetsuit, and have no sleeves to improve comfort while
swimming. . . .?

?Because most triathlon swim stages are conducted in open waters
(lakes or oceans) which are often cold, many early races allowed
wetsuits. However, typical wetsuits manufactured for snorkeling or
water skiing are not optimal for triathlon, because the sleeves
generally restrict the range of motion too much for comfortable
stroking during the swim. Modern triathlon wetsuits were invented by
Dan Empfield in 1987 and are customized to the needs [of] triathletes,
and generally incorporate the following features:

* thinner and/or more pliable rubber near the shoulders, sleeveless
versions are also available
* long zippers and sometimes wrist/ankle zippers to facilitate quick
removal during transition

In addition, tri wetsuits have a very smooth, but often fragile,
surface. This slick surface helps to reduce water friction and allow a
faster swim, but it would be totally destroyed by contact with a sandy

Rules vary by event, but typically wetsuits are allowed only if the
water temperature is below a specified threshold on the day of the
event (e.g. 78 degrees F.). Any athlete has the option of wearing
another style of swimsuit allowed by the rules at any temperature.?

Here are the top 10 triathlon wetsuits as rated by Swimming
Guide, Mat Luebbers. He also includes his opinions on using a wetsuit
for the swimming leg of the race. Among other things, Mr. Luebbers is
a professional triathlon coach.

?Starting your triathlon in a wetsuit (designed for triathletes)
offers you a great advantage. You will float better, stay warmer, and
finish the swim faster than you would without the wetsuit. Maybe the
biggest bonus - you will have more energy left for the bike and run.
These triathlon specific wetsuits offer features such as extra
stretchy neoprene, quick release zippers, and panels to help you grab
more water on your pull. Most are available with or without sleeves,
but for maximum speed sleeved models seem to be the best. Wear one of
these for your next tri - the result - you'll be faster!?

1.	DeSoto T1
2.	Ironman Fusion
3.	Ironman VO2 Stealth
4.	Orca Predator 2
5.	QR Superfull
6.	Aquaman Pulsar
7.	Promotion Freeswim + Glideskin
8.	O?Neill Triathlon 4/3
9.	Piel VITO
10.	Lightfoot Pro Steamer

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The first question to ask yourself in the cycling, as well as the
other two legs is, ?Can I improve my form?? Here are some highlights
from an article discussing quick checks you can perform to ensure that
you are maximizing your form as you cycle.

*Head: relaxed, neutral
*Hands and forearms: relaxed
*Upper body: no tension above the waist, reduce movement in this region
*Knees: keep them in close to your top tube
*Pedaling: smooth transitions

In the case of cycling, improving ?economy? seems to be the big thing
to consider. One way to do this is to improving pedaling mechanics.
This article discusses some principles to consider when pedaling.

?First you have to improve your pedaling mechanics, learning to pedal
smoothly and correctly can help your pedaling be more effective. In
other words, improve your pedal force application from top dead
center, through the bottom of the pedal stroke. Practice pedaling
smoothly and learn how to spin rather than pushing big gears. Learn to
be more economical on the bicycle.

Normal pedal force is most pronounced during the power phase of
cycling (zero degrees to 180 degrees) and typically peaks between 90
and 110 degrees (shortly after the crank arm passes horizontal). Most
cyclists can become more economical by delivering energy to the pedals
over a greater percentage of the pedal cycle by ?pushing through? at
the top and ?pulling back? at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Dr. Jeff
Broker, biomechanist with the U. S. Olympic Committee points that,
?Any increase in force effectiveness in these regions, by all
cyclists, and/or during the recovery phase of the pedaling cycle (180
to 360 degrees of the pedal stroke), results in the following: a lower
demand on the musculature of the leg in the power phase at constant
pedal power or greater bicycle power output (speed) for the same power
phase effort.?

Other factors waste energy without propelling the bicycle forward will
affect economy. Fighting the bicycle, holding the handlebars too
tightly, using a lot of upper body energy while climbing and riding is
an unaerodynamic position during time trials or break-a-ways will
affect your economy. Finally, you can improve your economy by
increasing your interval and tempo training. The theory behind this is
that by practicing fast cycling, you naturally become more economical
and relaxed while riding fast. Once you've trained your body to
respond economically at these speeds, it will most likely be even more
efficient at the slower speeds during long road races.?

Here is another article discussing cycling, specifically in a
triathlon. Improving pedaling is mentioned again.

?Improving pedaling form is the easiest way to improve cycling speed.
I say this because it doesn't require any extra fitness. For example,
many cyclists pedal much harder with one leg than the other, or apply
pressure unevenly throughout the stroke. These problems can be solved
with a few simple pedaling drills. This will equal more speed without
any extra effort.?

Here is an article that talks about pedaling drills. It also has an
explanation of a series of exercises you can do to improve your
pedaling form. Coach Seiji emphasizes that a properly fitting bicycle
is the first step to improving pedaling.

?Triathletes spend incredible amounts of time and energy into refining
swim stroke technique and an energy saving running style. The pedaling
stroke is often overlooked; after all we have all been riding bikes
since childhood. This is akin to saying you won't drown and that's
good enough. And since the bike leg is always proportionally longer in
time than the other legs of a triathlon, it starts to make sense that
efficiency on the bike may warrant some serious thought and effort in
your training regime.

Where do you start on your quest for that energy efficient smoothness?
First off has to be bike fit. All talk about pedaling dynamics doesn't
matter if your bike fit doesn't allow you to use your muscles in an
effective manner. Correct fit makes learning and utilizing good
pedaling mechanics much easier and will keep you more efficient (and
injury free) in the long run. Proper bicycle fit will allow you to use
the most of the correct muscle mass to apply force to the pedals.?

This is another article that discusses pedaling technique, complete
with diagrams, explanations, and a sample workout routine.

Purchasing efficient equipment is a definite temptation because of the
mechanical aspect of cycling. In this next quote a scientific
researcher discusses some of the cycling equipment being used as well
as the effects they seem to have on competitive outcomes. He begins by
answering a question about aerobars and then discusses some other

?The only scientific information on the effectivennss of aerobars I
found was published in ?Mechanical Engineering? a few years ago. This
is a study that determined the seconds saved in a 25-mile national
class time trial by using various aerodynamic equipment. The savings
attributed to aerobars was 29 seconds. The other results were: two
disc wheels, 67 seconds saved; aero bike frame, 42 seconds; spoked
aero wheels, 39 seconds; and aero helmet, aero clothing, aero water
bottle, 14 seconds each. The savings, by the way, are additive. So all
this equipment would hypothetically cut more than three and one-half
minutes off a 25-mile race.
Although aero bars undoubtedly decrease drag, wind resistance, and
riding times, concern has been raised about the cramped position they
place the body in. That is, the rider's abdominal contents may press
against the diaphragm and limit lung capacity. Several studies have
looked into this. But all have found that the aerobars, even during
long, intense rides, do not hinder gas exchange or ventilation any
more than the standard racing handlebars.

The latest of these studies, however, published recently in the
?International Journal of Sports Medicine,? concluded that cyclists
planning to race with aerobars should train with them. The cyclists in
this study who did not train with the aerobars, but were tested using
them, showed a decline in performance.?

Here is a site with reviews of some of the top aerobars on the market right now.

This article written by a triathlon veteran discusses various bike
equipment to consider when looking to improve times.

Training indoors has many advantages. Some of these include avoiding
road accidents and being able to train in any kind of weather. is a triathlon equipment store and has a number of
?kinetic bike trainers? for sale. Here is their page.

PowerCranks are interesting pieces of equipment that I found during my
research. They can be quite expensive depending upon which model you
purchase, but the concept is an interesting one. Here is a description
from their website.

?PowerCranks? integrates a one-way clutch in each crank-arm of your
bicycle or stationary bike. This patented modification changes the
cranks from being fixed to each other at 180 (as are regular cranks),
to being independent from one another. Each leg can drive the bicycle
but one leg cannot assist the other. Effectively, with PowerCranks?
the rider is doing one-legged pedaling with both legs simultaneously.
This simple modification benefits the PowerCranks? user:

* Fully train the hip flexors and hamstring muscles that are otherwise
difficult to train
* Enable neuromuscular changes that improve cycling efficiency and running form
* Balance the muscle effort and improve the coordination in lower
extremities and core which can lower the risk of injury
* Improve running ability while training in a non-impact environment
* Act as a rehabilitation tool since the good leg cannot assist the
bad leg (thereby utilizing all the major muscle groups in the legs).
* Nothing beats a PowerCranks? workout! Twice as many muscles
exercised results in increased basal metabolic rate compared to
standard biking or spinning.?

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Here is an article that discusses proper running form. It is written
for distance runners, and an Ironman race would certainly qualify as a
?distance? race. The following is a short excerpt, but the whole
article is worth the time.

?The most efficient running posture is one that is mostly upright and
relaxed, with a very slight forward lean. You should not lean
excessively forward or backward. Your chest should be pushed out and
your shoulders pulled back, but stay relaxed. Avoid all tension in
your upper body.

Leaning too far forward will cause a braking action with each step.
You will also put unnecessary stress on your knees and hips. Leaning
backward will cause you to land on your heels which also will stress
your knees, hips and back. A slight forward lean will help keep your
momentum moving forward.?

This article has a ?systems checklist? to quickly see if you are
showing proper running form. Here is a quick summary of the points

* Head: neutral, relax your face
* Shoulders: relaxed and back
* Arms: move in a straight line in one direction, forward
* Hips: forward, imagine being pulled forward 
* Feet:  establish a quick cadence, plant your feet directly under your body
* Run forward and not up and down
* Count your cadence

Plyometrics is a system of exercises designed to increase the
efficiency of the muscle fibers in key muscle groups. It is a type of
?explosive? strength training.

?Plyometric training utilises the stretch-reflex mechanism, allowing
for much greater than normal force to be generated by pre-stretching a
muscle (the eccentric contraction) before it contracts. In plyometric
exercise, overload is applied to skeletal muscle in a manner that
rapidly stretches the muscle immediately prior to the concentric
contraction i.e. drop jumping, standing jump, multiple jumps, single
leg jumps, hops, and bounds. These exercises develop neuromuscular
firing patterns and improve the muscle contractility of specific
muscle groups. . . .

[A] study by Spurrs et al, demonstrated a 2.7% improvement in 3km
running time and a 4.1% improvement in running efficiency at 16 km/h.
The researchers studied male distance runners averaging 60-80km per
week. The runners completed a 6 week plyometric program that increased
from 2 sessions per week up to 3 sessions/week. Their contacts per
session progressed from 60 to 180.?

The full article on plyometric training in triathletes is available as
a PDF file. It discusses not only running, but swimming and cycling as

This article at talks about various drills that can be used
in order to improve running form and economy.

This is a short article discussing what to look for in a good running
shoe. It comes from the page of the San Francisco Triathlon Club.

Here is a guide to various running shoes on the market today.

The next training ideas come from a U.K. triathlon club website. The
club is called Trisport Epping. The author describes three separate
sessions that will help improve your run time.

This site offers personalized training programs for $19.99. You fill
out a form that asks questions about things such as training days, the
time you have to train, and the like. A trainer then plots out a plan
for you to follow.
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Navigating transition zones quickly and efficiently can shave seconds
to minutes off of your overall time. Here are some tips on the first
transition zone: swimming to biking.

?When the end of the swim course is in sight, start to think about the
transition. Visualize where your bike is racked. . . . Find your bike
and go through the routine you have practiced before. Before you head,
out take a couple of seconds to have a sip of water and mentally
double check everything. Be Very Careful entering traffic around the
transition area. . . .

As soon as you get to the transition zone PUT YOUR HELMET on and
buckle the strap. The rules of helmet use are very strict (for your

Most rules state that the helmet has to be on before the bike is taken
from the rack and has to remain on until the bike is racked again. . .
. In transition be patient - take your time - the transition zone can
be a very hectic place during a race. Run through your head what you
have to do in the transition zone while you are in the last 100 meters
of the swim.?

?Improving your transitions has its rewards. First, it doesn't take a
lot of sweat and training to improve your transition efficiency.
Second, it's a lot easier to gain time on competitors in transition
than having to run or bike faster to gain time. And third, a quicker
transition won't crank your heart rate or drain your energy. . . .

T1 Swim to Bike: During the swim leg, visualize what will happen as
you exit the water. Think about where your bike is and the order you
will do things. Approaching T1, take off your swim goggles, swim cap
and untuck your race number while running. If you are wearing a
wetsuit, have the torso section already off by the time you get to
your bike. Once at your transition area, you can even be putting on
your helmet as you kick off the wetsuit. Lubrication on the inside and
outside of the ankles helps this process. Next, lift your bike off the
rack, push it to the mount line and you are out of T1. A simple
process that people tend to make too difficult.

T2 Bike to Run: This transition is even easier. Simply dismount your
bike at the dismount line. With practice, you can have your feet out
of your shoes while riding the last 100 meters or so. As you approach
the dismount line, hurdle one leg over your bike and hop off, keeping
your momentum as you dismount, and run to your transition area. Hang
your bike and unbuckle your helmet. Put on your running shoes and see
ya! Use elastic shoelaces so you don't have to tie your shoes. Wear a
lightweight mesh cap to keep the sun out of your eyes and if it is
hot, you can use the cap to hold ice from aid stations on your head.?

?So how do the professionals complete these transitions in as little
as 30 seconds? First of all, they have evaluated their transitions
very meticulously and have eliminated any actions that waste time.
Secondly they use specific tricks and techniques to speed up every
task they complete. A few examples of this would be, wearing a race
belt under the wetsuit, flying mounts and dismounts, putting on bike
shoes while on the bike, running without sock, and elastic shoelaces
to eliminate having to tie running shoes. Finally, they practice their
transitions until they can do them in their sleep.?

This site offers four tips for improving your transition times.

* Simplify
* Multitask
* Train for transitions
* Race-day setup

?Triathletes often lace their shoes with elastic shoelaces. This
allows them to pre-set the tension of the laces but then to pull on
the shoes without stopping to tie the laces. This saves a few seconds
of time during the bike-to-run transition.?

I?ve mentioned triathlon wetsuits before, but they really are a
time-saver as far as the transitions go. Here is an article that
discusses briefly what to look for in a wetsuit.

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One simple way to conserve energy for the actual race day is to
practice what is called the ?taper.? Essentially, it is a way to
reduce the intensity of your workouts gradually so that you stay in
top shape for the competition, but so that you do not stress your body
unnecessarily so close to the race. In this article from ?Triathlete
Magazine? it discusses different approaches to tapering.

?With few exceptions, the physiological benefits of a workout don?t
show up until at least seven to 10 days after the workout, at which
point the body has rebuilt itself even stronger. I have observed many
athletes working out hard during the final 10 days prior to a big
competition. And for what? The benefits of those intense sessions will
not show up until after the race is over.

Scientific studies have shown that athletes who reduce their training
by 90 percent during the tapering period, while maintaining frequency
of intense workouts, reducing the actual interval time period and
increasing the rest interval between intervals, have increased muscle
glycogen stores, increased glycolytic enzymes and higher blood volumes
(which is beneficial).?

The author suggests that beginning about 4 weeks before the
competition, you should begin to taper your running workouts since
these are the most destructive. About 2-3 weeks before the race begin
to taper your cycling and swimming workouts as well. He also suggests
specifically a ?75-50-30-15? approach to the running, meaning that you
should run 75% of your usual training miles in the first taper week,
50% in the second week, etc. There are limitless ways to taper your
workouts so you need to find a way that works for you.

Here is another article discussing tapering, mostly from a swimming
perspective. The entire article is excellent, with specific examples
of how to taper effectively. Ultimately your sessions should be cut
back, but each session should more closely simulate actual race
conditions and pace.

?The basic rule in tapering is: the longer or more important the
event, the more you should cut down on the volume of training, over a
longer duration immediately prior to race day. As you gradually bring
those high miles down, your intensity and rest periods should
simultaneously increase, to bring about refinements in speed and
maximum recovery. (Your body?s endurance retention will last well for
up to four weeks.) All distance covered in the taper period should
also be swum with a strong focus on holding the most efficient
technique possible. You should therefore put an emphasis on stretching
before and after sessions, because increasing your flexibility will
enhance your ability to perform all swimming movements.?

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Your body is the main tool in all of this, and it requires proper
attention. Maximizing your nutrition not only as race day approaches,
but during your training period will help your body perform at its
best. Be sure to consider your own personal health and discuss any
nutritional changes you may make with a qualified health professional
that you trust.

Here are 5 tips directed specifically toward the triathlete. The
article, of course, includes details for each of these tips.

* Meet your daily energy demands
* Stay hydrated.
* Eat prior to high intensity or long duration workout.
* Be sure to refuel when training longer than 90 minutes.
* After hard training efforts, eat a carbohydrate-protein combination.,The_Beginner.vm

Here is another article that discusses proper nutrition. Much of it
explains different classes of nutrients and their effects on the body.
Here are some specific pieces of advice you can use as you train.

?Pre-training or event: I would recommend consuming approximately
200-400 calories about two to four hours before your training session
or race. It's important to eat familiar foods and to focus mostly on
carbohydrates. Don't go too heavy on the protein and fats because they
take longer to digest and will sit in your stomach longer. Drink 8-16
ounces of fluid 15 minutes before exercise.

During: It's best to eat 30-60 grams of carbohydrates (120-240
calories) per hour. Since the stomach doesn't get much blood to digest
food during exercise, soft foods or liquids such as energy gels or
sports drinks are your best bet. Protein may be beneficial to eat
during exercise, however the evidence is not conclusive. If you're
training for a half-Ironman or longer, it may be good to experiment
with a small amount of protein during longer training sessions. Drink
5-12 ounces of fluid every 15-20 minutes of exercise.

Post: There's a two-hour window of replenishment after a training
session or event when it's important to eat carbohydrates. Even more
important is the first 15 minutes after exercise. Focus on eating
carbohydrates that have a high-glycemic index, meaning they're more
quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Sports drinks with glucose are
a great choice if you don't like to eat solid food after a workout.
Other high-glycemic foods include bagels, raisins, cantaloupe,
spaghetti, fruit roll-ups and jelly beans.

Recent research has shown that adding protein after training may be
beneficial to enhance glycogen replenishment, however most researchers
agree that if enough calories from carbohydrates are consumed, protein
may not be needed to enhance glycogen replenishment. The bottom line
is to eat enough high-glycemic index carbohydrates immediately after
exercise. If you decide to include protein, the current
recommendations are to eat one-third of the amount of carbohydrates
you eat.

Another recommendation is to drink 16 ounces of fluid for every pound
of body weight lost after exercise. The best indicator of this is to
weigh yourself before training or a race and then afterwards. This
weigh-in before and after in common at many Ironman events, where
triathletes are exerting themselves for extended periods.?

This article has 10 nutrition tips for the triathlete. Some may be
more common sense than anything, but the article is worth reading in
its entirety.

* Eat your fruits and vegetables
* Eat a balance and a variety of foods
* Limit your consumption of ?unnatural? foods
* Optimize your body composition
* Customize your nutrition to your unique body
* Eat early and often
* Obey your thirst
* Eat and drink for recovery
* Don?t be a race-day glutton
* Supplement selectively

Supplements recommended by the article include: 

* post-workout carb-protein recovery drink
* creatine supplements
* beta-alanine (this may help muscles to buffer acid built up by exercise)
* whey protein (this can enhance joint tissue repair)
* glucosamine/chondroitin (enhances cartilage/joint repair)
* fish oil (this can improve cell membrane health and increase
anti-inflammatory prostaglandins)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


This article talks about ?Training for Speed? and has tips for all
three legs of the triathlon.

Massage therapy is employed my many triathletes to help their muscles
recover and stay healthy. The key is improving the flow of blood and
body fluids while eliminating the build up of lactic acid in the
muscles. This paper discusses some principles to consider.

Many people do not consider the effect that insufficient sleep can
have on a person in general, not to mention an athlete.

?Generally in adults, 8-8.5 hours of sleep per day is considered fully
restorative, although, based on lifestyle choices, this may vary from
individual to individual. Either way, if a person does not get enough
sleep, a ?sleep debt? begins to accumulate. This sleep indebtedness
will continue to increase until enough sleep is obtained in order to
offset the sleep debt. (Note: In some medical circles, the consensus
is that even with adequate sleep restoration, the general feeling is
that sleep indebtedness can never be fully repaid). Notwithstanding
this particular circumstance, sleep debt will perpetuate problem
sleepiness, which will ultimately promote negative effects to your
health and ultimately, your performance expectations.?

Here is an excellent article on developing a specific training
program. It helps you ask a series of questions about your goals and
abilities, and then there are some sample routines available to help
you develop your own.

Training Peaks sells software and training aids designed to help
individual athletes develop personal training routines. Many of their
products have free trial versions so you can see if any of these
programs will help you in your training.

Here is an article that discusses training for the Ironman,
specifically for athletes without a coach. It also mentions common
pitfalls that affect beginning triathletes. This site has a number of
other articles related to triathlon training.

?Your primary role as a self-coached athlete is Time Investment
Manager, investing your time wisely to yield the highest rate of
return.  The first component of this is determining a combination of
volume and intensity appropriate for you.  Training at or near Aerobic
Threshold is most effective because it is intense enough to encourage
adaptation but easy enough to support the relatively high volume
training often required for Ironman.  Training volume is highly
individual and is a function of physical and mental endurance. . . .
When combining intensity and volume, use the concept of Repeatability:
could I/would I want to repeat this workout tomorrow, if I had too? 
If I stay the course in this long session will it compromise my
downstream training sessions?  The best method is to self-select the
amount of Steady time in each workout, managing your recovery cost in
real time.?

Here are links to some websites with general triathlon information.
These are sites to which I was referred on many occasions while
researching this question.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I hope that you find this information useful! Good luck with all of
your training! It should be an action-packed year for you! If you have
any need of further clarification, please let me know how I can help.


Search terms:

increase swim speed
improve swim equipment
triathlon wetsuit
swim equipment triathlon
improve cycling speed
triathlon bike equipment
improve running triathlon
proper running form
running shoes triathlon
triathlon running training
improve transition triathlon
triathlon nutrition tips

Request for Answer Clarification by zyzzyvas-ga on 03 Aug 2006 06:24 PDT
Hi boquinha-ga,

many thanks for taking the time to research this. However, I'm a bit
unsure about what to do now. The question you appeared to answer was
"how should I train for a triathlon?", but I really wanted "a list of
possible things I could do, buy, eat, drink, etc., that could
significantly reduce my final time. For significant, let's say
something that might save me 10 minutes plus, ideally including

For example, if you'd said "powercranks cost $800 and certain
individuals had reported a 2mph speed increase", that would have been
a perfect list item (if it were true). In your swimming section, I'm
sure it's all good advice on how to train, but at what cost (in time
or effort or expense) and by how much might a mediocre ironman entrant
speed up? With running, some people say that you get faster
proportional to your weight loss, i.e. if I lost 10% of my body weight
(and was still above a minimum healthy weight), then a 5 hour/300
minute marathon, might take 4:30, and practically no cost in effort or
training. However, I don't know if that is relevant when it follows a
3.8km swim and 180km cycle, some people say you should be slightly
above a normal weight to swim faster, but that isn't going to help me
on the bike.

Your "list items" are:

[aerobars and stuff] "all this equipment would hypothetically cut more
than three and one-half minutes off a 25-mile race."


[plyometrics cause] "a 2.7% improvement in 3km running time and a 4.1%
improvement in running efficiency at 16 km/h."

Do you think I worded my question badly? If so, I will rate your
answer and ask it again.

Clarification of Answer by boquinha-ga on 03 Aug 2006 10:34 PDT
Hello zyzzyvas-ga,

First of all, thank you very much for using the clarification feature.
This is exactly how we can have a dialogue together to make sure that
you can be heard and hopefully satisfied with your answer. I
appreciate you communicating with me and not just hastily rating my
answer. And I appreciate also that you are being kind and open about
it, too. Not all customers do that. So, thank you for that.

I must admit that when I first read your clarification, I was
discouraged and disappointed, because I was pretty excited when I
posted this answer that the hours of research that I had spent on your
question were being delivered in a very thorough and organized and
useful answer for you. I've reread your question and in looking over
the answer, I feel that I've answered the things you've requested, but
I wonder if it might not be what you were expecting exactly. What I
mean is, in all of my research, I haven't found many single items that
shave off "significant" time in and of themselves *alone,* BUT the
combination of things that I've presented to you that you can do, buy,
eat, and drink can *together* shave significant time. It is difficult
to quantify, other than the few studies I've listed, what works for
everyone. I've tried to list several things, including specific items,
training, and ways to speed up transition specifically, that seem to
have the most impact.

It may seem simplistic and obvious, but training is, of course, one of
the biggest things you can do and I've tried to give you very specific
tips from professionals on how to train most effectively in order to
benefit you well. I've also included one site where you can contact a
professional trainer with your personal needs and receive a personal
training plan for a very affordable price. And in addition to those
tips and sites, I've listed items, foods, supplements, etc. that can
also benefit you and help you be efficient and successful--aerobars,
elastic shoelaces, wetsuits, glucosamine/chondroitin, etc.

In light of what I've posted, I'd love to know what you think. Please
feel free to let me know what you feel my answer might lack and how I
can better help you. I can do my best to try to find that for you
(assuming, of course, that it exists). I really do feel badly that
you're not more satisfied with my answer and I'd like to know what I
can do to help. Please let me know how you'd like to proceed and thank
you again for your openness, clarity, and kindness.


Clarification of Answer by boquinha-ga on 03 Aug 2006 11:48 PDT
Hi again,

Also, just so you know your options, if you're truly not satisfied
with the answer, you can also request a refund/repost. Here is the
link for that:

Please feel free to continue dialogue with me via the clarification
feature. I truly do feel badly that the answer is not what you'd
hoped. Again, I'm really, really sorry. :( I look forward to your


Request for Answer Clarification by zyzzyvas-ga on 04 Aug 2006 09:21 PDT
Hi boquinha-ga,

thanks for your message.

"It may seem simplistic and obvious, but training is, of course, one of
the biggest things you can do and I've tried to give you very specific
tips from professionals on how to train most effectively in order to
benefit you well."

I understand that, and I've already bought a triathlon book, signed up
for some swimming training and intend to follow an ironman training
plan. However, I was looking for specific items that I could do a
cost/benefit analysis on. For example, if I had 500 hours to train and
$5000, there are numerous ways I could apportion the time and money.
If I knew that 50 hours of a certain type of swim training would save
me 10 minutes, but 50 hours of cycling using powercranks could save me
30 minutes, then I might be likely to apportion more of my time to one
rather than the other. An ironman is quite a technical task for a
newcomer in that one puncture could mean the difference between
missing the bike cutoff and being disqualified.

So. I'm satisfied that you did a good job in answering the question
you thought I'd asked but it wasn't what I meant. So I'll rate your
answer neutrally at 3 stars and then formulate it again. Is that ok
with you?

Clarification of Answer by boquinha-ga on 04 Aug 2006 09:48 PDT
Hi again,

I appreciate you checking in with me. I see what you're saying. In
your original question when you said "ideally including cost/benefit,"
I thought that any cost/benefit listed would be a bonus (and I
included it every time it made sense). I see that that is really the
main thing you are after. When you repost your question, in addition
to reformulating it, you may want to refer to this one, so that
researchers can see your dialogue and know better exactly what it is
you seek so that the answer can be all the more beneficial to you. And
I hope that helps. I thought that all the little time shavings added
together would be beneficial, especially as it's your first triathlon.
I wish you well in your endeavors.

I do appreciate your kindness and openness and continued dialogue. I
am truly disappointed that you are not more satisfied--I really do
care about giving my best in what I do here. Thank you for your
honesty about rating me and keeping the question up--it's fair. So,
yes, it's okay with me. I want you to do what you feel best about. It
is, after all, your question. I hope that the information that I
*have* provided for you is useful to you in your goals. Good luck to
you. And thank you, again. I hope your next question gets good

zyzzyvas-ga rated this answer:3 out of 5 stars
Thanks again Boquinha-ga.

Subject: Re: Ironman triathlon performance improvement
From: myoarin-ga on 05 Aug 2006 03:53 PDT
From reading and rereading the question and clarifications, I have the
impression that the latter ask for something that was not expressed in
the question, at least not so clearly that I could recognize it.

Even now with this understanding, the kind of answer you want seems
impossible to provide, since we don't know what your potential for
faster times through training is.  As a runner, you may be near your
marathon speed already, needing endurance training, but maybe only
reducing your time with a great investment in training.  Whereas with
swimming and cycling, training could bring significantly better times,
but I expect that only a coach who knew your present times and saw
your style could recognized what improvement is possible, perhaps with
reference to the times of marathon competitors of your build, age and
Hypothetically, it could be, that your best money investment would be
spent in getting open water training, if this is not available in your

I hope you see my point.
Regards, Myoarin

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