Tips for Tackling a Triathlon in Florida’s Hot Summers

July 06, 2022

The heart of triathlon season is here, and in Florida that means multi-talented athletes taking on a special set of circumstances. The weather is always hot, humid and unpredictable.

Training for these and other physically taxing events requires much more than getting your body into peak physical fitness. What and when you eat and drink are important, as are the tactics you employ while training for a race and in the middle of one.

There are as many triathlon training regimens as there are triathletes, but let’s look at some ways to get you more prepared for race day, including:

  • Practice nutrition and hydration
  • Simulate race conditions ahead of time
  • Incorporate interval training and strength training

Practice Nutrition and Hydration

For first-time racers, there are a couple things that can make a difference in your performance. The first is practicing a nutrition and hydration plan, and the second is simulating race conditions.

Let’s take the eating and drinking practice first. It seems weird to say, “Let’s practice our nutrition.” And you’re right. These aren’t areas where athletes typically put their practice time. But athletes rarely eat and drink during their daily lives the way they do on race days.

Make the choice to have more race days. If you plan to snack and drink anything other than water when you’re competing, incorporate that same routine into some of your longer training days. Don’t introduce a new food or drink during an event. Your body might not like it.

Examples of popular midrace snacks include:

  • Pretzels, for needed carbs and salt
  • Gummy bears or fruit snacks, which give you sugar for fast energy
  • Granola bars
  • Fresh fruit, such as grapes or oranges

Check with event organizers about what will be available on the course, but it’s never a bad idea to wear a fanny pack so that you can carry snacks and a drink with you.

Water is the universal drink during a triathlon, but sports drinks that replace electrolytes and salt are also important. A good strategy is to alternate consuming them during a race: water at this drink station, sports drink at the next one, and so forth.

Simulate Race Conditions

Try to do some of your training in projected race-day conditions. This may be easier to do on weekends when work isn’t on the agenda.

Try to time your training for the hours when the event begins. Swim the water where the competition is. Get in some cycling miles on the road course, if possible.

You may be tempted to run and bike before sunrise or after sunset. That’s OK, but don’t forget that you will likely be running and biking in the mid- or late morning. You want to get your body (and mind) ready for race-day heat. When you train in the sun, use sunscreen to keep skin cancer at bay.

It takes about 14 days to acclimate to a hot climate and heat-related conditions, so start at the same time of day as the race to get a feel for how hot it could be on race day. Let your body experience the conditions and learn how to recover.

Interval Training

One training tip that applies to beginning and advanced triathletes is interval training. There are many types, but the gist is altering your training pace and intensity during a training day and continuing that alteration.

Our normal tendency is to find a comfortable running/biking/swimming pace when we practice and stick to that. Interval training forces us to adjust — something that may need to happen during an event.

For example, run 30 seconds at your relaxed pace, 20 seconds at a quicker pace and 10 seconds at your fastest pace. Repeat at least 10 times during your training run. You can apply this technique to your swimming and biking training, too.

Another example: simulate parts of a race. Pick a distance you would normally use for your ideal finishing kick — say 200 yards. Then go on your run and decide it’s time to “kick” home, run 200 yards as if sprinting to the finish line. And repeat.

Strength Training

You should also incorporate strength training into your race preparation. Lift weights two days a week, focusing on upper-body and core muscles.

Biceps and triceps curls, pushups, planks, wall sits, squats and single-leg dead lifts are good exercises. If you are an older competitor, make sure to contain your range of motion to protect your shoulders, knees and hips.

As with interval cardio training, vary your lifting routines: heavier weights and fewer repetitions one day, less weight and more reps another.

With a little planning, you can train safely and effectively for a hot competition — and a successful finish!

Bayfront Health St. Petersburg Official Medical Provider for Fort De Soto Trilogy

Bayfront Health is the official medical provider and sponsor for the Fort De Soto Trilogy. Dr. Katherine Wojnowich and Dr. Justin Thompson are among a group of a half-dozen caregivers providing on-site medical support to competitors before, during and after events.

Armed with medical supplies and golf carts to get out on the course if needed, their duties start before the horn sounds and well after the last racers cross the finish line.

Although most of the overall care duties happen after the race as athletes recover physically from their spent energy, competitors who fall ill or have a midrace injury get prompt treatment.

Water, electrolyte drinks, bandages, cooling tents, nutritious fruit and protein bars are essentials event organizers load up on for open-air competitions in the heat of summer.

The number of athletic events in the area gives Bayfront Health St. Petersburg an opportunity to provide efficient and quality care to many competitors regardless of age or experience level.

The triathlon dates are June 19, July 17 and August 21.

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