How to get prepared for a triathlon

Triathlon season is right around the corner.

If this will be your first season as a triathlete, it's good to have some strategies in place to make sure you get the most out of your triathlon experience.

You can study up on the sport on your own and learn the fundamentals of the sport, but sometimes it's worth the effort to seek out someone to coach you.

A coach can help guide you, act as a sounding board for questions, assess technique and provide accountability and feedback.

The first step in planning your triathlon season is to select a race that allows ample time to train for that particular race.

Assuming you have a baseline fitness level - performing some cardio thirty minutes per day, a minimum of five days per week - you should be able to train for a sprint-distance triathlon in approximately three months.

Find a race that suits your strengths and comfort level, meaning that if you are uncomfortable with the idea of an open water swim, choose a triathlon with a pool swim for your first one.

Also, if you aren't very good running or cycling up hills, stick with a race course that is mostly flat.

Identify any roadblocks to your training when choosing the time of year for your planned race. Look at family vacations or other obligations that may hinder training and find a race that fits into your schedule.

If this is your first triathlon, your initial goal may be just to finish the race. When you are setting goals, use the "SMART" method and choose goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Then identify the frequency, type and duration of training that will be needed to achieve your goals and train properly.

Establish your starting point by looking at the past month's training and your current fitness level. Don't start off with too much volume or intensity and progress slowly, adhering to the 10 percent rule - not increasing distance by more than that each successive week.

Make sure to allow for a recovery week every three to four weeks to allow a lighter workload and less stress on the body. It also allows for the physiological benefits of the preceding week's training to take effect.

Training needs to be specific to the race you've chosen and should mirror the demands that will be encountered in the race.

The duration of the race needs to be considered, progressing your training to a volume that at least meets - if not exceeds - the distance you will be covering in the race. Study the race course and be aware of the type and temperature of the water you will be swimming in. It may have strong currents, or you may be required to wear a wetsuit.

Also, if the course description is "hilly." make sure to include some hill workouts in your run and bike training.

After some foundation building, make sure to incorporate some "race pace" workouts to get a feel for your goal race pace.

Add some "Brick" workouts in as well, combining two or even all three disciplines into a workout. This may be a short bike ride after a swim workout or a run immediately following your bike workout.

Practice your transitions because the clock doesn't stop as you make your way from the swim to the bike to the run. Practice the technical skills needed in mounting and dismounting your bike in a timely fashion, as well as changing your racing gear.

Make sure you purchase the gear you plan on using in the race way ahead of time and incorporate some workouts using your racing attire and any other equipment you plan to use. Don't wait until race day to find out something may not be comfortable or work the way it's supposed to.

Lastly, look at your nutrition plan and put one into place. This is a very individualized aspect of racing, but an integral part of the plan. Figure out ahead of time what works for your body and what doesn't work.

In the end, it's all about having fun. Keep this in mind when training and racing. Sometimes that "too serious" attitude comes back to bite you and sucks all the enjoyment out of the sport.

Missy Janzow received her B.S. in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and owns Fit4U, a personalized coaching and nutrition business that serves to train the novice or seasoned triathlete or runner. You can reach her with your questions at janzowml@yahoo.com.