Want To Do A Triathlon? Here’s Top Fitness Advice From The Pros


Triathlon season is starting again and if you swim, bike or run, it’s such a great sport to get into! Do it as a team with mates or commit to learning and training for all three disciplines. We’re not saying you have to do IRONMAN (yet), but it is addictive! As I found out this year…

The triathlon bug

I started really getting into running four years ago. Then two years ago I started cycling. This year I set myself the challenge of learning how to swim (properly) and then combed all three. Triathlon is addictive because the variation is stimulating, the multi-disciplines are challenging (especially when done together in one session) and the environment is a VIBE!

I started with a training crew called EMBARK, which really helped me in terms of coaching and motivational support. Read my story: “10 things you need to know before doing your first triathlon”. I wrote it after completing my first tri in the beginning of the year – and there was a lot to learn! I then went on to complete my first IRONMAN 70.3 in Durban (1.9km swim, 90km cycle and 21km run). It was tough. And I ugly cried when I crossed the finish line. But it was also amazing! And there are definitely more in my future.

In South Africa we have some seriously talented triathletes. And one of my fave sportswomen is Annah Watkinson. She has a full-time job in the banking industry and happens to be a pro triathlete. She is just amazing. She shared some amazing tips with me for triathlon success. But even if you’re just a cyclist or a runner, there’s some cool sound advice here.

My coach, Steve Attwell (founder and owner of Embark) is also a wealth of wisdom and I share his pointers here too.


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Tips from the tri coach

“Cross-training allows for the use of different muscles — muscles that are perhaps not challenged in your chosen sport,” explains Steve. Let’s say your chosen sport is running. If all you do is run, you’re much more likely to get injured than if you do multisports. “It also gives the hardworking muscles a chance to recover. For example, if you are running a lot and you swim on your off days, the swim gives your legs a break while challenging the upper body more. It still gives you a good cardio workout, so you never feel like you are not getting a good workout,” explains Steve.

Similarly, cycling can really help build endurance, but isn’t as hard on the body as running, so you can go for longer and recover faster.

On taking on a new challenge, Steve says that when you step out of your fitness comfort zone and try something new, your life will be transformed. “You’ll become more confident, you’ll make better choices at mealtimes,” he says. “If you drink, you’ll drink less and you’ll inspire others to make changes in their lives. You’ll be more productive; you’ll have more energy and you’ll smile more.” That has all been super true for me.

Steve’s advice: “Don’t compare yourself to anyone else except yourself. Everyone grows and performs at a different rate and level; comparing yourself to someone will only get you down.”

Annah’s top triathlon tips

Like most of us, Annah got into running to lose weight. Fast forward a decade and she’s a kick-ass pro triathlete who just kicked butt at IRONMAN World Champs in France.

An average week of training looks like this for her: 20-25km of swimming, 60-90km of running and eight hours on the bike. “I feel like I’m in a perpetual state of taking off wet and sweaty athletic kit and getting in the shower. And only for two minutes as I live in Cape Town!” she says. She shares some insights into her training and secrets to success.

1/ Get enough rest.

“Critically, I try to get to bed and sleep as soon as training, work and eating are done for the day.” Some evenings Annah gets home late from work and has to adjust her training schedule. But sleep is a high priority. “For me and my coach, there is no such thing as ‘overtraining’ but rather ‘under recovering’.”

2/ Find the gear that works for you.

Annah uses a Roka Women’s Maverick Pro II Wetsuit, a Cervelo P5 bike and Nike running shoes. Annah uses the Nike Epic Reacts for training and the Nike Vaporfly 4% for racing. “Putting on racing shoes is like putting on red lipstick for a night out on the town. My racing shoes are lighter (and faster) than my training shoes and as a result you only take those out on big occasions — race day!”

3/ Have a mantra.

Annah loves her mantras and finds that they keep her (and others) motivated. One of her faves is: “Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement.”

4/ Practise your nutrition.

Annah battles to eat breakfast on race-day because of nerves, but her go-to is oats with some peanut butter and granola for crunch. “Different things work for different people. It’s vital to practise your race-day nutrition so that you’re comfortable on race day. I take in between 150 to 250 calories per hour or I try drink or eat every 20 to 30 minutes. GU Gels are 120 calories and I put these into a single bottle with a little water to dilute in order to easily sip. I also have some GU Chews and a bit of homemade fudge on the bike just to change the texture and flavour of what I’m consuming.”

READ MORE: Top Triathlete Mari Rabie’s Training Guide For Trialthons

Want more on triathlon? We’ve got a training plan and tips to crush it in just 12 weeks.

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READ MORE ON: Fitness Fitness Advice Triathlons

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