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Triathlon Training: Transition Workouts for Swimming to Biking and Biking to Running

The routines you need to nail your race-day changeovers, build endurance, and learn to power through muscle fatigue.

Sure, you can run a half or full marathon, go for miles on end on two wheels, and swim laps at your local pool until they kick you out. But if you're not training these events collectively, one after the other, to teach your body how to push through fatigue, you're going to have a much harder time in your triathlon than you bargained for. 

What's more, you need to treat transition areas like an extension of the race—not just a resting spot to reapply sunscreen and chat with the friendly volunteers. Whether you're trying to beat your own time or race competitively, you can lob off a solid 2-3 minutes at each point by setting up zones and practicing the strip down (wetsuits aren't known for being easy to peel off) and swap of shoes and gear. Here, James Beckinsale M.Sc, high performance coach and author of The Triathlon Training Book offers two transition workouts for swimming to biking and biking to running so you can build up your endurance, practice your plan, and have your body running on autopilot come race day. 

Prescription: Depending on your weakness (i.e. you feel like you need to work on the swim to bike section more) add one swim to bike or bike to run workout per week. Or, if you feel like you need to strengthen you bike to run legs, do the bike to run specific workout once per week and run for a bit after you get off the bike. 

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Swim to Bike (using open water or a pool)

The Setup: Set up your triathlon bike with your shoes clipped on the pedals (if you can't mount this way, practice; it'll save you loads of time), helmet resting on the handlebars or seat, water bottle in tow, sunglasses, and gels taped to the frame. "Put the bike into the gear that most represents your race pace power output," Beckinsale says. Then, pull on a wetsuit or swimskin, depending on your race's requirements, over your trisuit (or shorts/jersey). 

The Warmup: Go through a dry and wet warmup. The on-land warmup will get your blood flowing to key muscles. Complete vertical and horizontal arm swings, monkey stretch (swing your right arm up and over your head and try to touch your spine while you swing your left arm to touch your opposite arm). Turn your head side to side, up and down, then roll your neck around. For the in-water warmup, perform backstroke, and swim drills like head rotation, full body rotation, catch arm, and full stroke. 

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The Workout:

Swim 4x25m hard, taking 30 sec rest in between sets, to get your body hypoxic (oxygen deprived during rest to improve endurance and speed). After, pull your wetsuit off to simulate a race-day situation and go straight into 1x400m at race pace on the bike. Since your cycling shoes are already attached to the bike, pedal with your feet on top until you're cruising at a decent clip. Coast and slip your feet in your shoes. (This will require practice.)

Next, bike for 10min at race pace.

Repeat this whole progression 2-4 times. Obviously you won't be able to use the wetsuit after the first round since you'll be soaking wet, but it's still important to practice taking the wetsuit off as you prepare for the bike for time efficiency's sake.

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Go to page 2 for the Bike to Run Transition Workout



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