Training & Coaching


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Triathlon Training Tips from Trinity Spine Center

By Dr. Jorit (J) Wijnmallen,
Director of Wellness Center at Trinity Spine Center

How to get ready
So you just signed up for the Longleaf Triathlon and are perhaps wondering, what did I get myself into? Well guess what, we’ve all been there. Here are some quick tips to help you get ready for this wonderful event.

  • Go take a look at the course: Since this is a local race for most of us, you should really take the opportunity to go to the (bike & run) course and perhaps even run/bike these portions of the course, or at least drive it. You’ll quickly realize that it’s doable.
  • Break it down: If your anxiety is about doing all three portions in one race, try to break it down into three pieces and train that way as well. You’ll come to realize that you’ll be fine.
  • Prepare your training: Don’t just get started on training. Do some research (online) and understand how to best train for a tri-event. We’ll be providing you some tips as well.
  • Observe a race: There is nothing better than to observe another race. If you have the opportunity to observe or even volunteer at another race (there are plenty around here), you’ll get a feel for the race, for the flow on the transitions etc. Many of the questions you may have will be answered. Also, you’ll get an adrenaline rush and from just seeing other athletes compete.
  • Talk to your family & friends: Tell the people around you that you are training for the Longleaf Triathlon and that you would really appreciate their support. You will do so much better, knowing that your loved ones support you in this.

Consistency Matters
There is nothing more important than to build in consistency in your training/preparation for the Longleaf Triathlon. While training by itself is very important, the consistency thereof is equally important. Take a serious look at your personal and work calendar and commit to a training schedule you can actually adhere to. There is nothing more frustrating than to start out all motivated, and then because of a work schedule missing out on some training days. This will kill your motivation and put a serious blow to your preparation for this race. It is better to start out with a leaner training schedule and then to add to that schedule versus the other way around.
Buddy system
While some of us prefer to train by ourselves, experience has told us that training with a Buddy can be much more efficient. You will be less likely to miss a scheduled training, knowing that somebody else is training with you. Also, some key experiences are typically shared.  From training intensity, to nutrition, recovery and perhaps other race experiences may be shared during these workouts. Training with a buddy doesn’t necessarily mean that you are following the exact same training schedule and training intensity since you each may have different goals. Just knowing that you have a buddy to rely on will be very helpful.

Have your equipment checked

Obviously, equipment matters. However, this does not mean that you have to go out and buy all kinds of new stuff (even though that may be nice…), so here are some tips regarding your equipment:

  • First, make a list of what you need. Understanding what you will need for the race is obviously important. Here are some key items: Goggles, earplugs, (swim cap will be provided at the race), running shoes (and perhaps bike shoes), bike, helmet, sunglasses for on the bike, race number belt (will help your Transition time quite a bit), swim-shorts/tri-short (so you can wear the same shorts throughout the race)sun lotion, pump, nutrition (we’ll talk about this later as well)
  • Second, make a list of what you have. You may actually have most of the stuff that’s on the list.
  • Third, check what you have. Even though you may have most of the equipment, some of it may need to be checked. I would recommend you get new goggles. Get new shoes as well and you will wear these shoes through your training and through the race. Also, have you bike tuned. This will make a big difference in the race. While you are having your bike checked, investing in a proper bike fitting may be money well spent as well. Lastly, don’t wait until the last minute to check your equipment.

Importance of logging your miles
We talked about consistency before, but actually logging your miles and training sessions is important as well. It will help you realize if you are on target, how many training sessions you have had and if you log your times etc. as well, you can actually see if you are getting faster as well. We typically overestimate how much we train. Logging your time/miles will keep you grounded.

Importance of strength training

We often forget about this aspect of training for a triathlon event. We assume that since we are training for an endurance type event, all we need to train, is endurance. Here are some key areas you need to cinder for strength training:

  • Core strength. This is key. Your core strength will allow you to generate more strength and power while protecting your spine. It will also allow you to comfortably maintain a certain posture for a longer period of time. This will help improve your bike and run times.
  • Arm strength. This will help you during the swim and during the bike portion of the race
  • Leg strength. This will help you during the bike and the run

Importance of endurance training
This is obvious. Since you will be participating in an endurance type event, you need to train on your endurance. However, during this training you need to train at different levels of intensity:

  • Targeted Heart-rate training. During this portion of your training you need to stay at about 70% of your Target Heart Rate (this is calculated by deducting your age from 220, then taking 70% of this number). So if you are 30, then your target heart rate will be: (220-30)*0.7=133bpm. So, while you are training, you need to stay close to this number to get the best distance/endurance/cardio work out. If you are going over this number and have difficulty staying below it, you need to shorten your workout, perhaps lower the intensity of the workout, until you are able to train at this rate for 1 hour. Once you are building up your endurance, you will see that you can increase the intensity of your workout, without increasing your THR passed this number.
  • High Intensity Training. So after you have established your baseline for your endurance training around your 70% Maximum Heart Rate, you should also include weekly workouts that are done at about 80% of you Maximum Heart Rate (Calculated by deducting your age from 220, then multiplying by 80%). This will help your speed and will also train you to be able to accelerate during the work out or during the race.
  • Interval training: So when you combine these types of work outs into one training session, you would create your own interval training.

If you are looking to improve your time – analyze first and then develop a focused approach

  • So, the Longleaf Triathlon is not your first race and you are looking to improve your time. First, look at your previous times. The easiest way to improve your time is to improve your transitions. This does not require any training and it could save you 2-4 minutes per race on average. Get a race number belt, don’t use socks while on the bike, have everything lined up properly. Again, observe or volunteer at another race and learn from the best.
  • Then look at your splits, but be careful with this. You don’t get an award for having the fastest split, it is your total time that matters. If you have the fastest swim time, but you come in 12th in your age group… Also, sometimes you want to give up a little time on your bike split, in order for you to have a better run split. So always keep your total time in mind.
  • When you are assessing where you need to put most of your training, keep a few things in mind as well:
    • The swim is the shortest portion. You can only win or lose so much time, so keep that in mind when you are allocating time to this aspect of your training.
    • Recuperating from a long bike ride is easier than recuperating from a long run. Use your bike training to also improve your run and swim.
    • Train bricks. This means that you bike, then run as part of your training. Your run after your bike doesn’t have to be longer than 2 miles but this is a key element of your training and can’t be forgotten.

Nutrition matters
This is probably as important as the rest of your training, understanding your nutrition. I’ll try to keep this short but I’ll try to focus on three key areas:

  • Understanding your energy needs
  • Understanding how and when you can best replenish.

We typically ignore the nutrition aspect since we just don’t know enough about it, so let me try to explain some key elements here.
When we exercise our muscles het energy from different sources, but the end result is that the energy gets converted to ATP (AdenosineTriPhosphate) which the muscle will then use to get a muscle contraction. Some of our muscles have the ability to store this ATP locally (Fast Twitch muscles) and some of them don’t (Slow Twitch Muscles). Typical energy sources in our body are glucose (sugar), carbohydrates, adipose tissue (fat), and protein and they are used in that order. Your sugars are a quick resource so if you are looking for a quick boost in your performance, sugar intake will give you that (anybody with kids will know this). However, carbohydrates are very important to keep you going. Since it requires a longer and slower process to get carbohydrates converted to ATP, you need to take these prior and during the race. Taking carbohydrates during the training or race after you get hungry is not helping you. It will slow you down. So try to change this up during your training and feel the difference!

Nutrition does not equal hydration: they should be considered separately

First, understand and calculate how many calories you will be burning during the activity. Here is a link to help you calculate this:

During the activity, you would want to consume half the calories you are burning, to be able to keep going and high performance level. Then after your activity is over, you can take the rest (unless you are trying to shed a few pounds, then you don’t of course).

Now keep in mind, that if you tend to perspire quite a bit, you need to hydrate IN ADDITION to the calories you are taking in. So consider that while you are calculate the calories that are in your drink you’ll be drinking during the activity, especially in the summer heat down here in Florida.

So, I hope all this information will be helpful to you and I wish you a healthy and fun training season and hope to see you all at the Longleaf Triathlon later this year.
I have always enjoyed swimming, biking and running especially in preparation for a race. I have done a few events (1 Ironman, 7 Half Ironmans, 16 Olympic distance tris, 40+ sprints, 12 Marathons and about 40 Half Marathons) and looking at the things I just listed, I have been able to stay healthy and post some decent times.