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How to Train for a Triathlon 

  The holidays are over and, according to your list of New Year resolutions, so are your days as a couch potato. You've made up your mind and you're committed. With a steady program of individually tailored workouts, you can not only become a fitter version of your former self in just three months, you can ready yourself for a triathlon. "People think triathlons are for the elite (athletes), but anyone can do this," says coach Kevin Pilet of Greater New Orleans Triathletes, a website and personal training program for triathletes. "You can make it a lifestyle that you can enjoy every day. It's a sport that keeps you from getting bored, and it's fun."

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  A basic triathlon (the season runs from April to November) includes a half-mile swim, a 15-mile bike ride and a 5K (3.1 mile) run. Pilet's triathlon training includes all three sports, plus a program of core strength training using weights or calisthenics. "The first thing you need to have is a goal," says Pilet, a triathlete for two decades and a trainer for more than 10 years. You also must know how to swim, be able to make time for workouts and have basic equipment, including a bike and running and swimming gear.

  Pilet assesses clients according to their fitness levels and starts them with several weeks of conditioning workouts designed to use muscles that haven't been exercised on a regular basis. Basic conditioning is followed by "brick sessions" which combine all three sports, one behind the other, to build endurance.

  In addition to motivating his clients and monitoring their progress, Pilet provides nutrition, hydration, rest and recovery advice. He also leads clients on weekly, 50-mile Saturday morning bike rides (from Lake Pontchartrain to Venetian Isles and back) and weekly swimming sessions in Lake Pontchartrain during warmer months. "A coach is there to progressively bring you along," Pilet says. Included here are training tips and a generalized overview for a 12-week training schedule (Pilet's training is customized for clients). For more information, visit or contact Pilet at 251-4414 or


  Athletes in training should consume a nutritional recovery drink or food (high protein, high carbohydrate) within 20 minutes of completing a workout. "Regular chocolate milk is one of the best recovery drinks you can have," Pilet says.

  Rest is vital to performance. For optimum results, Pilet recommends eight hours of sleep a night.

  A low heart rate training session is more beneficial than a high-intensity anaerobic workout. If you don't overexert yourself, you are less likely to sustain an injury and will require less recovery time.

Beginner Triathlete Sprint-Distance Race Training

Swim three times weekly:

  • One 30-minute continuous endurance swim

  • One technique workout (different drills for development)

  • One speed workout

Bike three times weekly:

  • One one-hour ride practicing spinning (changing between big chain ring and small chain ring)

  • One ride-run "brick" workout: Ride 60 minutes, run 30 minutesoff the bike.

  • One two-hour endurance workout

Run three or four times weekly:

  • One or two 30-minute easy runs

  • One long run (about an hour), easy

  • One 40-minute run, speeding it up a little

 Training exercises during weeks one through four should be performed at 60 percent effort: Keep your heart rate low to build your conditioning.

 During weeks five through eight, intensity increases. Pick up the pace until you are giving 70 percent of your maximum effort. You should be panting slightly, but not be out of breath.

 During weeks nine and 10 increase your intensity so it falls in the range of 75 to 85 percent. Increase your intensity to 85 percent during speed workouts.

 During week 11, taper back down to 60 or 70 percent effort to recover.

  Week 12: race day.

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