#TriwithKim – Expert Q & A Blog for Women’s Only Triathlon
Wow!! What great questions you all sent in for our #TriwithKim series, with Shock Absorber, Boobydoo and Human Race Women Only Triathlon. Below are my answers to help you complete your first triathlon or improve your training and race day performance. There are tips and advice for everything from the three disciplines to nutrition, mindset, going longer and growing in confidence. So grab a fresh lime and ginger pint of water and have a read. If you prefer to listen to things, click to on our vlog link at the bottom of the blog. You will also find links to Shock Absorber to check our bra size, Human Race to enter your event and Boobydoo to order your bra, plus if you have any questions or just want to share your race entries and success I would love to hear.
Preparation & Training
- I am training for my first tri. I’m not a strong swimmer but can do a decent breast stroke. I know freestyle is faster. Should I try and improve my freestyle or stick with what’s comfortable? Jillpring95
Well done entering your first triathlon! Many people start triathlon with swimming as their least strong discipline and that’s really fine. There will be many people in a pool based swim who do breast stroke for the whole distance. For an open water beginner it would be fine to do some breaststroke, to help you get used to the water and enjoy your first triathlon. However, for both types of races I would work on improving your freestyle as it will make the race more enjoyable, is easier for siting in open water and ultimately will be faster, saving you energy for the bike and run! Booking a couple of 1:1 lessons with a triathlon or swimming coach can make all the difference. It will give you a structure and focus to work on to improve your freestyle in the best way possible, whilst also picking up on any technical faults you may have which can easily be changed. Another point to consider is wetsuits are designed for the freestyle movement, so doing breaststroke in one could feel more restricted and tiring. Above all, remember to enjoy the process of learning and don’t worry if you mix the two strokes whilst you are learning, just focus on your breathing and rhythm and you will be great!
- I tend to do plenty of running, but swim and cycle are new to me. How do I start fitting in the new aspects? Andrew Sexton (ASextonPR)
Welcome to the triple sport fun! Lots of people come from a running background and love the transition into triathlon. The key thing is to remember, whilst you are run fit, the other disciplines will take a little time to establish a good base. This in turn could make you feel more tired than normal, even if training the same hours, just because it’s something new. Don’t worry though, if you get the balance right you will see and feel great results with a little patience. The best thing to start you off is say you run three times a week, swap one run for a swim, and one run for a bike. So you are doing one of each discipline each week. Combine this with a good strength and core session, and lots of good stretching and foam rolling to prevent any niggles of injuries. Once you have established a routine with these three sessions, it’s time to add perhaps an additional swim session, so one is technique and one is distance, and an extra bike, so one is distance and one is speed. Off the speed session you would then add a short fast run, turning this into what is called a Brick session. Aiming to start like this shouldn’t overwhelm you and will start to get you ready for your first triathlon. Other things to check are bike set up, running shoes and sports bra to make sure you are comfortable and able to train at your best.
- How can I work on my fear of open water swimming? I love running and cycling, but the swimming is holding me back? Beki (Miss Wheezy)
Great question and such a common fear Beki. The first thing I recommend is getting a couple of 1:1 lessons in the open water to help you with siting, stroke technique in the water and breathing. It’s totally normal to be fearful, as it’s not something you normally do. Once you have had the 1:1 lesson’s see if there is a group familiarisation group for the race or a local club with a beginners open water swim group. Both are really helpful in gently getting you used to the water, allowing you to get used to your wetsuit and people around you, without the pressure of the race environment. As well as this, just head to an open water swimming area with a life guard or friend and practise getting in and just bobbing about in the water. Feeling comfortable in the water makes a massive difference and gets your body used to the temperature so there is less likelihood of panic. Once you have acclimatised to the water, practise swimming a few strokes, concentrating on your breathing and pacing. Often people jump in the water and start too fast, this causes our breathing to become irregular and then we lose our rhythm. So for the actual race, taking your time, perhaps starting to the back or side of the group and finding your rhythm, breathing in a feeling of confidence or calm (just saying the word will help), and breathing out any tension or anxiety. If you need to pause for a few seconds to get your breathing and focus again, this is totally fine. The pause won’t waste time, it will prevent your panicking and allow you to find your rhythm again. Before the race you could also write a little mind map down about how you can have your best swim, including three key technical points, three key feelings and past experiences that will remind you, you can do it. Finally, thinking of people who inspire or motivate you to complete the swim as good role models can really help, so visualising yourself doing the swim, taking tips and calm feelings from what they make look possible. Let me know how you get on, and be patient, consistent and committed, I know you can do this.
- Please can you advice what to wear? So many options, vests, tri suits, sports bra, shorts or top and soggy bra isn’t sounding too comfortable? Thanks! JoFinkel
I often get asked this by ladies and it’s so important to feel comfortable. It is often a case of testing a few options out to find the best fit, if only in a store or ordering several options to try on. A triathlon suit or tri vest and shorts are the best if you can afford them, as they are made from a specific material that is quick drying and avoids soggy bra’s and rubbing areas! Some people find the full suit most comfortable, and others the top and bottoms. It really depends on your body shape, personal preference and comfort, hence why trying a few brands and styles is key. The two piece is generally a bit cooler, and easier to fit your sports bra underneath I find. If you prefer the full one piece suit make sure you fold into your biking position to see if the length still fits and is comfortable. All the tri suits will have specific pockets for gels and energy bars which is really useful for the longer distances especially.
In terms of sports bra, this I believe is really key, and whilst some makes do offer an inbuilt bra, often it is not enough support. To overcome this, wearing a Shock Absorber bra underneath your tri suit, will offer you the best support on the bike and ultimately the run phase. This is so important, as you will be tiring, so anything that supports your bust and helps your posture will improve your run enjoyment and reduce the risk of injury. Underwear is not really necessary and will usually get soggy and rub, but if you do want to wear, choose a quick drying, light weight pair. If you don’t have the budget for a tri suit (although check eBay as there can be good options), a two piece sports swim suit under your wet suit is often the best solution. Good to put a sports bra under, but without too much material to get wet. Then add lightweight fitted shorts and a breathable run top and you will be fine. Cycling shorts are not really recommended as the padding gets really wet and is uncomfortable for the run.
Other simple things to consider are quick release speed locks or laces in your trainers and talcum powder so you can slip your shoes on easily. It’s always best to practise running without socks on to check you are happy with this. Tying or plaiting your hair low enough that you can easily put your cycle helmet on is a good thing to check too, saves time and panic if your pony tail is too high! And finally a cap, sunglasses, towel for transition, light weight jacket if cold or sport sun cream if warm, electrolytes and energy snacks. Then you are set to go! Any questions from this please do let me know, and I look forward to seeing your outfit of choice Jo.
- How much does a wetsuit really help with buoyancy? If you are not a confident swimmer, will it significantly help? Flo Morgan Wood
It can be overwhelming finding the right wetsuit as there are so many on the market. Wet suits are designed to help improve our buoyancy and flow in the water, as well as providing a layer of insulation to keep us warm potentially. If you are not confident, the right wet suit will really help you with buoyancy as the panels will be designed to specifically help you float and support your stroke. If you can spend a bit of time visiting a triathlon shop that has an endless pool to test a few in, it really is worth the time. Or if you are hiring a wet suit, give the shop a call and chat through your experience and swim style, and weaknesses, concerns or tightness of shoulders especially. All this will help you find the right wet suit, which in turn can significantly help your buoyancy and speed in the water. Then all you need to do is practicetaking it off quickly for transition!
- What diet would you recommend for women preparing for this? Katiecrunchie22
Nutrition is a really big topic and firstly I would also suggest people become their own diet detective, keeping a little journal of the things they are eating, how they feel, and how their energy and recovery is. I suggest this as everyone is different, and with all the information out there, it’s difficult to know which is best for each person, so tracking it yourself can be useful. Then if you are still not sure, you can take your food journal to a sports nutritionist for more advice and support.
The very basic principle behind all good nutrition I believe is having a blend of complex, low GI carbohydrates to give you energy, with good quality protein to repair the muscles, blended with good fats to look after your nervous system and joints, with loads of good veggies and a little fruit to boost your immunity with a sprinkle of whatever you fancy! Combining this with plenty of water, electrolytes when working hard and specific additional supplements to support any conditions or niggles you may be prone too. I find women require slightly more good food and rest just before or at the start of their period, and during peri menopause energy levels can vary. Being aware of things like this can help you to plan additional healthy snacks to keep your energy and immunity, and your mood good.
Another thing to consider is the need to fuel your training properly, so if you are out on the bike say for longer than an hour you may need additional little energy bites, which can be homemade or there are many brands which are quick and easy. It’s best just to test a few on your bike and bike to run sessions to make sure you digestive system likes them. Then on race day take the ones you’ve tested, and don’t try anything new on the day. After your race, make sure you have a simple snack to refuel within 20 minutes if you can, and a good meal within 2 hours, this helps with recovery although some people do find it hard to eat straight away.
Basically keep it simple and easy to fit with your lifestyle. If you run out of energy perhaps look at your carb intake and training volume, if you are just not recovering properly look at your protein intake and recovery time, and if you are run down or your joints and immunity feels weak, boost your veggies, fruits and fats. That is a really simple, general summary and if you are unsure at all get a 1:1 consultation with a nutritionist or pop to see you doctor. I am a qualified nutritional therapist, sports nutritionist and DNA nutritional fitness consultant which provides useful tools to help people.
- What’s your top tips for fueling on the day? It’s my first triathlon and I don’t want to burn out – Amy Fraser
Nutrition for the day is often something I get asked about. To start with I would always recommend sticking with foods you have tried and tested for your longer sessions or your brick (bike to run) training sessions. This way you know it works for your body and you will have a good race. If you are really worried, run a mock race set up. So the night before, eat the foods you would before the race (taking into consideration any travel and hotel plans), then wake and eat what you would on race day and head out on your training session.
Once you start your race, depending on the length of the race, depends on how key your nutrition and energy is. So if it’s a super sprint, the key thing will be hydration, especially if it’s hot. So practice electrolytes in your water, or perhaps an energy drink for an added boost if that works for you. Sipping this every 15-20mins will give you the energy you need, along with a snack after the event. If the race is longer than an hour, its best to test a range of energy gels, sports beans, energy bites, balls, blocks…! You name it, it’s out there and it’s about finding the blend that will give you a quick release of energy without stressing your digestive system. Test them out over 2 or 3 training sessions and you will find the ones that suit you best. It’s also really easy to make your own which saves money and means you always have some. Once you are racing it’s good to take a tiny amount of energy on after 40mins and then every 20mins to keep your energy high through the race. This really varies with each person, which is why testing it out before the race is key.
As long as you pace the race, you will be totally I fine and won’t burn out I promise. If you do feel yourself getting too hot or tired, just slow your pace for a few minutes, regulate your breathing, take on some fluids and then get going again. If you do need to adopt a walk run strategy because you set off to fast or don’t feel quite right, that’s fine. Just aim to finish and then you can learn, adapt and enjoy the next one even more. Good luck, I believe in you!.
Race Tips & Beyond
- Do you have any quick tips for transition? Kirsytn Jenna Luton
Transition, known as the 4th discipline! I think the first thing is practise. In the lead up to a race when you are tapering so potentially have a little more time, practise your transition. Aim to do a short swim, jump out of the pool or lake onto your bike, and then return from a small loop and head out for a little run. Of course the practicalities may mean it’s quite a lot of ‘faffing’ about and not a true transition, but it will give you an idea of how it feels, and what you need for each phase.
The other session to practise is just the kit and you can do this at home, either in a quiet street, carpark or on your driveway if you have one! Lay out your kit as if you would for the race, and then practise getting out of your wetsuit, into your bike kit, on your bike, off your bike and into your run kit. It sounds simple, but the more you practise the quicker it will become and you will be able to do it without even thinking.
When you lay out your kit, think about the order you want to have the pieces. So shoes, race belt, glasses, helmet or vice versa. If you are keeping your bike shoes clipped in the peddles, this is an additional thing to practise. And then remember you need your run trainer’s too! If you are putting a t shirt on, that goes’ before your helmet. And when you come back from the bike, you need to rack your bike before taking your helmet off. I like to have a bright coloured towel, so whilst you can’t mark your bike obviously, it does help to spot it in transition.
Finally when I get to a race, I rack my bike and then walk from the swim in, to my bike, from my bike to the bike out…. Turn and face bike in, walk to my racking place, and then walk to the run out. Many people just do it from their racking place, but I find the difference is walking the route, noticing any banners or markers, or counting racking rows. Each direction looks so different it’s good to allow the time to walk the route. One last thing, stay calm in transition, easier said, but keep breathing, methodically going through your routine and don’t worry about what everyone else is up too. Then you will be in and out quickly and ready for the next phase.
- I have a question… despite this being only my 2nd year in this wonderfully addictive sport, I love training and entering races, and really look forward to the events. I push myself hard, in the region of 8-10 hours per week, not bad for 40plus! But I really seem to bomb in the events, and end up quite disappointed, am I kidding myself that I will ever get off the last page of the finishers? Lorna Watson
I’m so happy to hear you love triathlon and really well done with your training, sounds like you are doing great. It’s quite common that people ‘bomb’ in events and there are usually a number of simple things that can help to improve your performance. Firstly, many improvers forget that they are still quite new to the sport so often are training hard, but not taking enough recovery time.
Have a look at your training diary (or start to keep one), and note down how much energy you have for each session, and equally how much sleep, rest and good recovery food you are having. Another thing to consider is the intensity of your sessions, so whilst you may think you are still ‘slow’, are you pushing hard in every session? This again will mean your body never has time to adapt and recover. A good plan is to have some key quality interval sessions which push you to race pace, combined with some easy recover base endurance sessions, variety makes the difference.
The other thing with recovery is, if your life is busy with a high workload, family, caring for others or general stress, you may not have time to recover properly. So whilst you may think your training is not that high, your other life stresses may mean you need a little more sleep and balance to het the results you want. Have a think about these areas and perhaps plan a little more recovery, stretching, sports massage and good recovery food in and see if after three weeks that makes a difference.
Another area could be your taper. Leading up to a race, depending on the distance it’s good to allow at least 1 – 3 weeks of gradually reducing overall volume to allow your body to adapt and recover, so you are fresh and revitalised on race day. The temptation to fit in extra or missed sessions, with the hope it will make you faster is often really strong, yet it rarely helps and we start just feeling fatigued. Taper doesn’t mean nothing, just easier sessions focusing more on little speed sessions, technique and stretching, core stability and mobility, depending on your ability and goals.
Finally something I specialise in helping people with is there race day mindset. Often we are really happy in training but the big race day appears and we get stressed and nervous, wasting lots of energy. It is totally normal to be nervous, because it matters, yet too many nerves can affect our performance. Writing a little mindmap down about how you can have your best race possible for each phase in a wheel, so pre, swim, t1, bike, t2, run and finish including little technical things to remember, combined with feels and positive people to motivate you can help to keep your mind focused to perform at your best. Then at the end of the race writing down three things that went well and three things you would like to change or do differently to improve your training and performance next time.
I hope one of these will capture you and help. Have a read through the other answers too as you may find something in the swim technique or nutrition that resonates too. And without a doubt you can speed up, my oldest client is 78 and is still improving, just remember to keep enjoying it as this is definitely key to performance results whatever page you are. Good luck and let us know how you get on.
- How many Olympic races should I sign up to before I try a half Ironman? Layla Razavi
I love how you are considering a half Ironman, well done! I don’t think there is right answer to this, I think it’s more about priorities and time in your life, as it does take a bit more of a commitment on your time. I would get you to consider what type of race conditions you would like and what time of the year. This is significant for when you do the bulk of your training (So winter or summer time) and if you perform best in the sun or cooler climate, hilly or flat courses, sea or lake swim etc…. It also depends on your training age and experience, considering if you will need swimming lessons to learn how to do the distance, or strength training to build up the muscles and mindset to do the bike and run.
All these factors combined with your main aim (to complete or if you have a time in mind) for the race will factor when I would recommend you do it. I have coached several people for charity events to do a half or even full ironman without ever doing a triathlon before, they just signed up, got in touch and want to finish! Of course in their plan will be a Sprint and Olympic distance as miles stones and practise along the way, but they would only have done say two races before the half.
So it is possible, but personally I would recommend a season of Sprint and maybe an Olympic race, and then a season of Olympic distance (so 2-3) ending with the half Ironman, or doing the Ironman in the third season. This will depend on your time pressures in life, and the choice of race you enter. I would love to know which one appeals to you and then we can help you plan your timeline to complete it specifically! Really good luck and enjoy the process.
Check out my vlog answers here
Enter the Women’s Only Triathlon and check out other Human Race Events
Buy your Shock Absorber Sports Bra at Boobydoo & check your sizing with Shock’s Bouncometer!
For any more advice or specific questions tweet me @kimingleby or email
Kim Ingleby is a British Triathlon & Confidence Coach, specialising in helping women complete their first triathlon, overcome fear and improve their performance. She did her first triathlon and got off her bike to check she didn’t have a puncture as it felt so slow- she didn’t have a puncture! Since then she has represented Team GB at Age Group World & European Levels, completed the UK Ironman for charity & worked with Team GB as their Senior Sports Therapist and Mental Strength Coach. She is really excited to be supporting you to achieve your triathlon and answer your questions. If you would like to know anything more please do let us know, and above all, enjoy it, be consistent in your training, have good recovery time and believe in yourself. You can do this!