It happens to the best of us. We start out a new sport and are trying to gather as much information as possible because if you are going to compete then you want to be good right? So you hop on over to the forum and ask some questions and read others questions and the answers come flowing in. So many opinions, but what is the truth? Where is the ultimate start guide?
Here are 8 common questions I have seen in the forums and the myths and truths that go along with them.
#1 Just drink chocolate milk after your workout.
This is my biggest pet peeve triathlon idea. What is the truth IMHO? This is a government sponsored ad campaign to promote the dairy industry. It started after a study showing a 4:1 carb to protein ratio being best for recovery. Chocolate milk is 3.9:1 ratio making it just about perfect. But there are so many more options. It should matter the types of carbs you are ingesting to aid in recovery. Sugar doesn’t need to be your recovery carb, especially if your workout included gel’s and rehydrating beverages already. Fruit has carbs, bread has carbs, any other grain has carbs, vegetables too. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a 3.7:1 ratio too. Who doesn’t love a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich? All you need is good food that is 4 parts carbs to 1 part protein and you will be on your way to great recovery. My point is no that chocolate milk is bad, but it isn’t for everyone post workout. The key is just that you refuel.
#2 While we are on the topic of nutrition let’s discuss making your own rehydrating beverage.
I believe this comes from the sticker shock of gels and quality electrolyte drinks. The sport of triathlon can get pricey fast and supplements add up quickly when your workouts get longer. I have always steered away from the idea of adding maltodextrin and salt to water for exercise. There is so much science that goes into the products on the market. The popular name brands have a calculated formula with the right electrolyte balance along with a few essential vitamins that your body will need. It can be dangerous when exercising heavily to create an electrolyte imbalance in your body. If you make your own it is very important to measure everything properly. But it really is best to leave that stuff to the professionals.
#3 My last nutritional rant is that a calorie is a calorie.
Eating a bunch of junk is not going to turn your body into a high powered machine. Nutrient density is so important. Real food, healthy food, food that your body needs. When you exercise you are using the vitamins and minerals that you have ingested. When you are just taking in fat and sugar you can be missing those vitamins and minerals and you will fatigue much quicker. If you need additional calories increase your portions of healthy foods. It can be difficult to get used to, but an extra portion of brown rice or sweet potatoes is going to be so much more beneficial than the super sized value meal at the local drive through.
#4 How should you turn in a pool when training for an open water swim?
Let’s start with the kinds of turns you make in an open water race. There could be none, or a large arc, or 1 or 2 tight curves. But there aren’t turns. So we can establish that it pretty much doesn’t matter how you turn in a pool. But you want to make the best of your time in the pool and so you get on the forums and people are not touching walls while turning around or they are doing flip turns. Not touching the wall takes time away from what you are really there for, practicing and refining your stroke and increasing speed. A proper flip turn also helps with your core strength which is something that should never be neglected and the flip turns help you maintain your speed. You will almost never stop and tread water during an open water swim race so practicing that technique in the pool is not generally worth your while. What is important is getting out into open water for training.
#5 Can you just train on the treadmill, indoor cycle, and pool before a triathlon?
Well, yes but do you want to? No. It is very important to go outside before your event. Swimming in open water can be so completely different then a pool. Running outside uses different muscles than the treadmill. Getting on your bike on the local trail or nearest road is going to change your perspective on bike riding. Don’t be afraid to use those indoor tools though, they are valuable. But you will be in for a big surprise if you never step foot outside before your big event.
#6 What can I learn from watching the pros on TV?
Let’s just say looks can be deceiving when a 15 hour race is edited for TV. That one guy who only has the 1 water bottle on his handle bars probably has a bike so fancy that it has a bladder inside the bike frame full of water. Yes the top 2 female athletes at the Boston Marathon stopped in the middle of the road and were quickly surrounded by people so they could pee. That doesn’t mean you should pee on the race course.There are so many things they don’t show you on TV or you can’t see when they fly by you while you are watching on the sidelines. My advice is to find a great triathlon coach and just buy an hour of their time to get the truth.
#7 The more training hours per week the better right?
Training plan sharing can turn into an hours per week competition fast and the victims are the over trained on race day. More isn’t always better. Just get more time on the bike to get better they say. Just get more time on the road they say. Just get more time in the water they say. Well, this is true and false all at the same time. Work smarter not harder is what the coaches are going to say. Well, the good coaches are probably going to say work smarter and harder at the same time. But if you are just starting out, let’s begin with smarter, then move on to harder when you are ready.
#8 Do you need all of the best gear before your first triathlon?
Not at all! There is so much out there and so much money that you could spend before you even know your potential love of the sport. But the big faux pas of triathlon is looking faster than you are. The areo helmet, zipps, freak of nature wetsuit, and powertaps aren’t going to make you win unless you have the form and training to go into it. There is no shame in getting out there in whatever gear you can gather up and giving your event your best effort!
Now I am sure that there are many out there to disagree with me so let the debates commence.