As a family, we don’t just live, sleep and eat triathlons or training. As any family, we try to find balance between work, school, and extracurricular activities. When co-workers or friends find out that my kids do triathlons, one of the most common questions is, “How do they train for those?”. We are unlucky in that we live in an area without a youth triathlon team, or a USA Triathlon certified coach. Between the girls and my husband and I, we come up with ideas for training and a lot of the training is done inadvertently, through other activities.
- The Swim. The swim is important but is the shortest leg of the youth triathlon and is therefore the easiest to make up time for if the athlete is a slow swimmer. I have mediocre swimmers. None of them are superstar swimmers, and they are usually in the middle of the pack out of the pool. Training for the swim is first done by ensuring your swimmer can swim the minimum distance needed. We train for swimming by practicing with a swim team. Some leagues are more competitive than others, and we been on a competitive team and a recreational team. My children prefer a more recreational team. Swim team is a great way to prepare and perfect the swim portion of triathlon. Make sure if the triathlon your child is competing in is “open water”, that they practice and prepare for this ahead of time by swimming in a similar body of water that they will be racing in.
2. The Bike. The bike portion is the longest portion of the triathlon (minutes and miles). It is also very important in deciding podium spots. Your child needs a good beginner bike. We see all different types of bikes at triathlons. The most appropriate bikes for this type are road bikes and high-quality mountain or hybrid bike. Big-box stores typically sell bikes that are heavy and cumbersome. Consider that my daughters were 4-6 years old when they each started, and each only weighed about 45 pounds. Although most children are able to recreationally ride a big-box bike without any problem, they are not the best option for triathlon, as they tend to weigh more than higher-quality bikes. They will be pulling these bikes off and on racks in transition, running with them, and biking on them. We have had several kids bikes that have included a Specialized Hotrock (a great first bike, and comes in a 16″, 20″, or 24″ size), a Fuji Ace 20″ (one of the few light, entry-level road bikes that is modestly priced), and an Islabikes Beinn 20 (a hybrid bike that we put road tires on). We are now on the Culprit Junior One (x2 bikes) and the Islabikes Beinn. I’ve done a lot of research on bikes and as the bikes get lighter, they are harder and harder to find. Any bikes that we have sold have been snatched up by friends and I have not even had to go to the trouble of listing them for sale. The resale on kids road bikes is very good and if you can afford the initial investment, you will get most of the money back when it comes time to sell and move on to another.
Here’s my short list for 20″ bikes: Fuji Ace 20, Islabikes Beinn 20, Specialized Hotrock 20 (without the shocks), and the Culprit Junior One
24″ bikes: Specialized Hotrock, Scott Speedster 24, Redline Conquest 24, Felt F24 (VERY popular at triathlons), Fuji Ace 24, Trek has a couple of OLD model 24″ road bikes, Specialized Allez Junior, Pinarello Speedy or FP Zero, Diamondback Podium 24, Schwinn Midi Fastback, Islabikes Rothan, Culprit Junior Two, and the Blue Two Four.
After your child passes up these two sizes, the bike manufacturers make many more makes and models and they are much easier to come by. Here are a few pictures of our bicycle progression:
3. The Run. Admittedly our weak point, so take my advice in this section with a grain of salt. The distances in a kids triathlon are normally very achievable, but they must learn to run off the bike portion. Ideally, they need to jog at a good clip the entire time, without walking. We train for this portion by doing “bricks”, which are bike rides usually 3 miles long, followed by dropping off the bike and running. If the run portion is 0.5 mile, we train for 3/4 of a mile. Then, hopefully, they are prepared for the 1/2 mile. We have also joined the school’s running club and the girls run a few 5k’s a year (they love competing!). I’ve seen many a triathlon decided during the run. Developing a love for the run is still a work in progress with our girls!