Going Long: Training and Preparation for the Long Course

by Justin Smith


Considering increasing the length of your next triathlon? Triathlon involves managing and maintaining an effort over three different disciplines and as the distance increases so the need for fitness and pacing. To begin with, it is important to prepare yourself physically and mentally to go the extra distance (for example, the Long Course at the 2014 Arden Park Youth Triathlon!).

In order to do this, longer-distance (endurance) athletes do higher volumes of training to put their body under physical stress that may represent that of the race, but more importantly to become more mentally tough. This involves doing a workout that may include two disciplines back-to-back. For example, a swim followed by a bike ride, a ride followed by a run, or a swim and then a run. By doing this, your body becomes more accustomed to a longer effort, and you can become more comfortable with transitioning to a different activity that requires a different set of muscles and mental focus.

Aside from getting more physically and mentally fit, the second important consideration for doing a longer distance race is pacing. As your body exerts effort for longer periods of time, it becomes more important to gauge your efforts so that you don’t exert too much energy too soon. An analogy that I use as a comparison is that if you had 1$ worth of exertion, from the start of the race until you cross the finish line, you wouldn’t want to spend 50 cents on the swim leg or you would be left with 25 cents for the bike and run legs. On the same note, you don’t want to cross the line with 2 dimes remaining, so practicing your pacing and doing a longer bicycle ride or run may be beneficial both physically and mentally before race day.

The last thing to keep in mind is nutrition, especially during Summer. Whether out on the soccer field, in the pool, or riding your bike, it is important to stay hydrated, consume some electrolytes (I like watered down gatorade), and maybe even a light snack to keep your blood sugar up as you challenge your body. Enjoy the sense of happiness that comes from moving your body, as well as each opportunity to test yourself. Have fun and be safe out there!!

Justin Smith
Graduate Student UC Davis
AP Dolphins Head Coach