If you’re thinking of doing your first triathlon but your training hasn’t quite taken off yet, this feature is written with you in mind. It shows you how get fit for a sprint triathlon and how to make triathlon training a regular habit.
At this stage the biggest hurdle you face is getting started. The secret is to start with small steps, rather than trying to achieve everything on day one. So don’t aim to win the IRONMAN World Championship tomorrow, instead just train for 15 minutes today.
Research by Duke University suggests that 45 percent of all human behavior is habitual. The good news is that habits are nothing more than neural pathways in the brain. The more regularly you do something, the stronger those neural pathways become. And the more workouts you skip, the weaker those pathways get. In other words, you can create your own achievement habits simply by repeating activities until they feel easier.
For example, if you decided to start swimming before work each morning, the first few weeks would probably be a struggle because those neural pathways would still be weak. But after a while your brain will strengthen the connection between waking up and getting straight out of bed. So the chances of rolling over and going back to sleep become reduced.
Habits are great because they stop you from relying too heavily on your sense of motivation. The problem with motivation is that it ebbs and flows, depending on how you feel at a given time. Imagine you get back from work one sunny evening and you can’t wait to go running. But what happens when you have a stressful day in the office and it’s pouring outside? Are you still so motivated to run? Luckily we have another tool that’s far better in these situations. It’s called willpower.
Every time you create a new positive habit, such as stretching after a workout, you increase your reserves of willpower. You can use these reserves for activities such as regular training and eating healthily. Willpower, unlike motivation, is dependable. You can build it up and rely on it.
If you’re just starting out in triathlon, the best way to strengthen your willpower is to form mini-habits. These are easy goals that only take a little effort to achieve. Picking easy goals helps reduce the perceptions of difficulty that might scare you off.
For example, you could set yourself the relatively easy goal of riding your indoor bike- trainer for 10 minutes. But once you’re there you might find you want to keep going for another 10 minutes. Mini habits get you moving, and once you are in motion you need less willpower to continue.
These easy goals might not seem like much, but you’ll be surprised at how positive they make you feel. Mini habits provide you with the unique opportunity to experience success, rather than failure, several times per day.
To help you build your own successful training habits I’ve designed a free 12-week sprint triathlon TrainingPeaks plan for novices. The workouts are all varied, so it never gets boring. And the training builds up slowly, so that no single day will ever seem too tough.
Rather than focusing on completing the entire 12-week plan, you should set yourself the target of completing the first week only. Once you’ve done that, pat yourself on the back and begin the second week as a completely separate goal. As the weeks go by, you’ll build momentum and your reserves of willpower will gradually increase. Which means that when life gets in the way, as it probably will at some point, you’ll have the mental strength to keep going.
Check out my 12-Week Novice Sprint Triathlon training plan and start your triathlon journey today. If you’re new to TrainingPeaks you’ll be invited to sign up for a free basic athlete account. After doing that you’ll get an automated email from TrainingPeaks showing you how to apply your training plan. I have also written my own set of training guidelines, attached to day one of the training plan. Make sure you read them properly before you start. Good luck!