My First Olympic Triathlon Training Experience

As of writing this, I am one week past completing my first olympic triathlon. I did the Sonoma Women’s Triathlon and had a fantastic experience. I was able to compete and placed 9th overall in the olympic distance and 3rd in my age category.  I was stoked with these results for my first olympic triathlon!

first olympic triathlon

I’ve been getting lot of questions about training for my first olympic triathlon, so I decided to write an overview of my experience. I’m writing to help you choose whether or not you’d like to try to train for your first olympic triathlon.

I wanna caveat all of this with a couple notes:

  • I have a long history of distance running. This was my preferred form of exercise for the better part of my teens and early twenties. My body is used to running long distances, and I’m very aware of my limits.
  • I have a history of disordered eating (more on that here), so my body & mindset likely responded to this kind of training based on this history.
  • I’m not super athletic or coordinated, so if you’re intimidated by your first olympic triathlon because you think you’re not “good enough,” take it from me, you ARE with the right training.

If you have any questions at all, send me an email. Happy to chat!

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Workouts

Before I started training for my first olympic triathlon, I was definitely physically active. I worked out 4-6x per week – but barely did any cardiovascular exercise, instead focusing on short, effective strength workouts like I recommend to my clients. My cardio consisted of doing Corepower Yoga Sculpt classes and 10-20 minute sprint workouts as my weekly conditioning.

The first change I made was to incorporate a bit more cardio, about 12 weeks from my triathlon date. I was hesitant to stop lifting, because it’s honestly what I love, and it’s given me a lot more peace around my body (I never thought I would get to that point). So, for the first 5 weeks of my training, I followed a very loose training schedule. It looked a little like this:

Monday: swim + short lift

Tuesday: bike + run

Wednesday: swim + short life

Thursday: off

Friday: bike + run

Saturday: Corepower yoga

Sunday: off

My goal was to do each sport twice a week. It helped me get a bit more comfortable with each sport and maintain my current routine. At this point, I was spending about an hour a day training.

corepower yogaOnce I got into the last 6 weeks before my race, I realized I had to kick it into higher gear and get way more serious about my training. At that point, I started following this training plan verbatim. It required me to do each sport three times a week and increase my training volume to 60-150 minutes a day, 6 days a week. When I started training in this way, I had to completely cut out my weight training and yoga, because I frankly didn’t have time or energy to devote to either. Even though I missed these types of training, I had to stop.

If I could tell you one thing about this type of training, know that it is gonna be time consuming & will have to become your only priority.

The way I coped with this change was recognizing that everything was impermanent. This was a season of my training – and it would go back to the way I liked after competing the triathlon. It was not easy. I felt pretty weird not lifting and felt my body changing in ways I wasn’t a huge fan of – I lost muscle mass and felt way less strong (which was true, because in the week after my triathlon, I was not able to do more than 2-3 pushups at a time). Of course, I will regain this strength and muscle mass – if it’s what my body wants to do – but losing it was pretty tough.

Nutrition

One of the first questions ladies ask me when I talk about training for my first olympic triathlon is how I changed my eating. And to be honest, I didn’t really change a whole lot. I still tuned into my MASTER (my strategy on how to eat healthy every single day), prioritized #ProteinAndProduceFirst, drank wine a few times a week, and indulged in my daily protein cookie.

saladThat said, I did make a few changes:

  • I let myself eat a bit more food – and probably had one more small indulgence a day (think a peanut butter cup in the afternoon).
  • I did not stop myself at 80-90% full.
  • I drank more caffeine than usual.

Frankly, I was pretty dang hungry once I started doing more cardio, which is exactly what I would expect.

And this is why I don’t encourage my clients to do a ton of cardio – it makes us hungrier and can actually impede us from seeing results. A

Now that I am getting back into my regular training routine, I’m noticing my hunger is a little bit less intense but it is still a bit tough to cut back on food (ha). My focus over the next two weeks is to eat more slowly and get a better sense of what my body needs again as I am exercising less.

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Lifestyle/Health

Okay, this is the super interesting part: how my lifestyle changed over the course of training for this olympic triathlon.

To put it simply, I didn’t have time for much of anything else: I wrote less content for my business, I spent less time with friends, and I slept more to recover. My body was pretty exhausted all the time, even though I was averaging almost 8 hours of sleep a night. I also lost almost 5lbs over the course of the 12 weeks.

But here’s the crazy thing: my body looks mostly the same.

Ladies, this is why the scale isn’t a great measure for success.

Although I lost 5lbs, it was largely of muscle mass and stored muscle glycogen, which means I look exactly the same…and am less strong, which is a bummer.

And even though the weight loss wasn’t very visible, my body sure noticed. My period was 2 weeks late, and I thought I was gonna miss it, indicating my body felt pretty extreme stress during this training. And as a coach, I can’t recommend a training plan that does this.

If my client lost her period on one of my training plans, I would change it immediately, because it’s a sign that general health is suffering. Right now, my priority is getting a normal cycle back. I’m taking supplements, sleeping more, walking more, and exercising less.

Training for my first olympic triathlon did not make me healthier; it made me a better endurance athlete but it did NOT make me a healthier, stronger woman.

The takeaway?

Training for a triathlon was a great experience. I will probably do another olympic triathlon in the future. It’s a good way to challenge my body and change up my training. But it is not gonna become my new normal.

Our nutrition & fitness should improve our health, add to our lives, and be aligned with our values as women. This wasn’t the case for me during my triathlon training.

Training impacted my health in negative ways, it left me with more aches and pains, and isn’t aligned with my values. During the training period, I didn’t have time to prioritize other things that truly matter to me: spending time with friends, connecting with my long distance besties over the phone, or even having happy hours with my teammates – all in the name of performance.

I spent more time thinking about exercise, food, and my body than I would have liked. Even though competing is definitely fun, and I learned a lot about myself in the process, I’m ready to get back to my #EffortlesslyConsistent Lifestyle 🙂