Beginning tri training, week 9: Explore while you train

Credit: Mike Powell/Allsport
As you will see below, the theme this week is "Let's explore!" In so doing, you'll be using your fitness to do some good things for your mind and your body.


I hesitate as I write this, because there are two kinds of people who do triathlons: people like me, and the other kind. I'm restless. I move around. I'm nomadic, easily bored, fidgety. I probably have attention deficit disorder. I've got behavioral problems. I need help -- counseling, probably -- except I don't think I could sit through an entire hour of being counseled without fidgeting.

I therefore get bored with my regular routes. "Julie," I'll say, "Let's drive to such-and-such a place to go for a run." She, being a good soldier, goes along. Then, partway through the run, she asks why we drove all this way, when the running is as good or better right where we live.

Of course she's right. But the point is, it's a different place to run. And that's the difference between us. She's content with what she has. I'm always looking for something better. When it comes to training.

I cannot therefore admonish you to explore, to find the good routes, to seek out new routes, and all that, without a disclaimer. You might be perfectly happy doing what you're doing, and I might be urging you to scratch and itch that you don't have.

"On the other hand," I say to my wife, "We found the place in which we now live because we explored so much, and ferreted out so many good running and riding sites." (Our home sits on one of our "discovered" routes). So, on balance, I'd err in the direction of exploration.

One thing about running. I always look for the trails. Even when I travel, I can sniff out the trails. Doesn't matter where I've been -- Atlanta (Chattahoochee River), New York City (Central Park -- off the loop road), San Francisco (Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, Marin County) -- I can always find the trails. I recommend trails, because you can do more good running with less structural damage if you do the bulk of your running on trails. Plus, it's good for the head.

As you get closer to the race, though -- and I'm talking about 4 to 6 weeks prior -- you'll want to move about half your running to the road (if you've been running exclusively on trails) so that you get your legs sufficiently toughened for the race.


Did you do your long swim? Good. Let's do another one this week. If your long swim was less than 1,000 yards, then add a couple of hundred yards to this week's long swim, so that you eventually get up to 1,000 yards. If you're swimming the same distance as last week, go a little bit faster. If you're moving up in distance, keep the same pace over the longer distance if you can.

And, let's add a long run. You're already doing a 60-minute run. How far is that taking you? 5 miles? 7 miles? However far that is, let's add 2 miles onto that amount. That might make your long run 1:15 to 1:20. Feel free to walk it. Or run/walk it. Go as slow as you want, and this would be a good one to do as part of an exploration.

Go find a trail, and do it there. Drive, if you have to. Do you live in Southern California? Drive up to the Pacific Crest Trail. If you're an East Coaster and you're within a couple of hours of it, make your way to the Appalachian Trail. Or whatever your area's local analog is.

Take a look around while you're at it. Look at the trees and the birds and mammals. Do you know what species they are? Get a field guide: Audubon, Peterson's, Time/Life, whatever. Be a nosy neighbor. Get to know what (not who) else lives around where you live.

Perhaps the greatest gift triathlon has given me is the physical means to see and experience parts of the planet that "rounder, less mobile" people just never get to see. As great as racing is, it can't compare to a 7,000-vertical-foot climb up one of the Sierra Nevada mountain passes on a road race bike, topping out into a grove of Giant Sequoias.

  • Swimming: 3 or 4 sessions x 800 - 2,500 yards per session; 1 session should be a long, straight swim
  • Cycling: 1 or 2 sessions of 60 minutes each; 1 ride of 30-40 miles
  • Running: 2 or 3 sessions x 25-35 minutes per session; 1 x 75-80 minutes

Ready to catch the swim-bike-run bug? Check out our Give it a Tri section

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Check out the full beginning tri-training guide

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