Local 'Triathlon 101' courses get athletes, coaches into the game

About six months ago the president of a local triathlon club approached me to develop and teach an introductory triathlon course.

The local county recreation department was attempting to formulate a new course for entry-level triathletes and they needed help. They sponsor a sprint triathlon in the fall and felt it would be a great idea to develop a class around this event.

The goal of the course was to prepare athletes for the Recreation Department's local sprint triathlon held in early September. This event includes an ocean swim, which to a beginner is very intimidating, a 14-mile bike leg and a 4-mile run.

Loving the sport like I do and looking for opportunities to promote it I decided to take on the challenge. After gathering some facts and speaking to the county director, I began the task of outlining the course.

The course outline was accepted and they proceeded to advertise this new class through fliers and in the county course-offering pamphlet.

The response was so positive that the first class was quickly filled with more athletes requesting to be on the waiting list. Preferring not to turn potential new triathletes away we decided to open another section to accommodate all the athletes.

This enthusiastic reception is proof positive that many people are entering the triathlon arena and need a jumping-off point. In addition, it leads me to believe that not many beginner courses are being offered. Some of the participating athletes are driving upwards of 40 to 50 miles to attend the course!

Offering a triathlon course of this level can provide many opportunities to both the novice athlete and the coaching professional alike. The novice can experience somewhat individualized attention (depending on class size) for a very reasonable rate.

The coaching professional can use this as an opportunity to hone his or her teaching skills and style in a classroom setting, while promoting their coaching services. Monetary rewards may not be all that great but its a great way to spawn new triathletes and for a coach to get their name out there.

Triathlon 101 comprises a total of 12 sessions. The first eight sessions meet weekly in a regular classroom environment. The remaining four sessions are held monthly and outdoors, leading up to the local sprint event.

The concepts in the class plan include general training concepts such as periodization, scheduling of workouts, rest periods, nutrition and basic strength training. Planned skills session include swim skills, bike skills such as pedaling, bike fit and running skills.

Skill drills help athletes learn proper technique, which in turn allows them to race economically and efficiently. The outdoor sessions consist of group rides where coaches can critique form and teach proper shifting. Running on a track is used to teach proper cadence, form and foot strike. Open-water swimming, in a safe group environment, allows athletes to gain exposure and confidence to the open water situations. Safety is provided by certified lifeguards at the session.

Each month a schedule, based on periodization concepts, is provided for the group that prepares them for race day. Mental skills such as confidence, the desire to have fun, balance of training and family, and other complimentary topics are included throughout the course.

After reading this you may want to consider approaching the local recreation departments, health clubs or other certified coaches in your area to provide a 101 course designed to lead up to a local race.

This type of course provides opportunities for coaches and athletes alike. My course began at the end of February and Ill write a follow-up article to let you know how it went.

Tom Manzi lives in New Jersey and coaches triathletes, duathletes, and runners. For his bio go to www.ultrafit.com. He may be directly contacted by e-mail at tmanzi@ultrafit.com.

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