Three. What a great number. Wild threesomes, engrossing trilogies and the comforting promise that the third time’s a charm. And while training for a triathlon may sound intimidating, it can also be extremely rewarding.
Take Janice Lee-Fang, for instance. This 29-year-old has competed in triathlons since 2004, and adores the sport for the unique challenges it provides. In 2007, she competed in her fourth Bintan Triathlon:
‘The Bintan event is a favourite of mine: it’s well organised and the carnival atmosphere of the race is motivating. The course is also beautiful: first, you have a lovely swim in semi-clear water (unlike the murky waters of Singapore) and the bike leg is nice and hilly. The run passes through a golf course, which is scenic but a helluva lot tougher than the flat land at East Coast Park. Also, a lot of pros tend to race in Bintan and watching them pass you is awe-inspiring.’
Time Out Singapore’s very own editor, Charlene Fang, on the other hand, was a complete novice to the sport and the Bintan Triathlon was her first:
‘I just started working out again and thought this would be a great way to challenge myself. The event also conveniently happens a week before I take off to Europe for a friend’s wedding, so what better way to motivate myself to get into shape?’
Triathlon Tip 1: Training
But just how does one go about training for this multi-disciplined sport? Fang’s first port of call was Tribob – an organisation that provides personalised training programmes, as well as group fitness sessions and individual lessons. ‘I’ve taken up sessions with Tribob as I need help when it comes to sticking to a regular training schedule,’ Fang says. ‘They also help fine-tune your technique and make the overall experience a lot easier.’
Vijay Varada, a coach at Tribob, is adamant that ‘training two or three times a week is sufficient to compete in your first triathlon – as long as you can commit to a few months of consistent training.’ Triathlon regular Lee-Fang adheres to this more relaxed schedule: ‘I go for a decent cycle on Saturdays and use the treadmill once a week after work. I also try to get a couple of jogs in
So, with the fitness side of things looking surprisingly manageable, let’s move onto the seemingly intimidating prospect of finding the right equipment to use.
Triathlon Tip 2: Equipment
Without doubt, your most expensive splurge will be the bicycle, where costs can soar into the tens-of-thousands. If you don’t own one, spinning classes are a useful training tool, or Tribob recommends starting with a mountain bike with slick/thinner tyres and progressing to a standard road bike.
Lee-Fang has two, a BMC Streetfire SSX for road training from Swiss Valley (486 River Valley Rd, 6836 6566) and an On-One Scandal for off-road cross-training from TR Bikes (#01-107, Blk 7 Jalan Batu. 9640 7102).
Don’t get caught in the trap of spending too much, too soon though, Varada warns. ‘Fancy bikes and matching outfits are nice to have, but they won’t make you go faster. At a beginner’s level the “engine” is what matters, not the machine.’
Triathlon Tip 3: Diet
So what’s the best fuel to fire that engine? Scott Larson, from Racers’ Toolbox, which provides specialist workout programmes for individuals, says that competitors should consider early on whether weight loss is required for the event and plan their diet from there.
‘Most of us need to lose some weight before getting into a programme,’ Larson says. ‘Firstly, cut down on sugar consumption. When you eat sugar your body releases insulin. Insulin suppresses your body’s ability to use fat as an energy source.’
Before a race, Larson suggests competitors should follow the ‘Golden Rule’: Whatever your diet has been during your training, ‘for the last 24 hours leading into the event, don’t change a thing!’
So, the rules leading to triathlon glory – fitness, equipment and diet – have been sorted and there’s only one thing missing from the equation. You. Now it’s time to get training, pick up an uncomfortably tight Lycra suit and get busy.
This story first appeared as 'You never know till you tri' (May 2009).