If you’re a confident swimmer, chances are you could complete a triathlon. Usually considered the hardest phase of the three-discipline race, the swim is often a fierce melee of thrashing limbs attempting to propel swimmers ahead of the competition.
Triathlon swimming distances range from 750 m for a Sprint, to 3.86 km for a Full triathlon (Ironman). This makes for varied training and nutrition plans depending on distance.
Kit Walker is a European Champion Ironman athlete and triathlon coach. 2017 saw him set a new course record for the Outlaw Triathlon (Full) in Nottingham, UK; in 2018, he is building towards qualifying for the coveted 2019 Ironman 70.3 World Championship.
Take a look as he shares his knowledge on nutrition for triathlons and the training behind his success.
“For me, it’s about consuming foods that aren’t going to give me any grief,” Kit explains. “Performance is paramount, so eating foods my body is familiar with helps avoid illness, indigestion, and other negative conditions.”
Triathletes regularly race abroad, so it’s important for Kit to consume food that he can find in places far from home. “Usually, it’s chicken and rice, and maybe porridge for breakfast,” he comments, “plain foods which are high in protein and carbohydrates that aren’t going to mess with my stomach too much.”
For longer triathlons, it’s important to eat for endurance. Building up glycogen stores in the days and weeks leading up to the race will help performance, and Kit ensures he has “good carbs in the days before the race.” For shorter Sprint triathlons, this principle is still important, but consumption should relate to the potential energy exerted come race time.
And during the race? “For Ironman races it’s crucial to take on fuel during a race,” Kit continues. “I eat energy gels. There isn’t an option to stop, so these are good for a quick boost on the move.”
To recover, Kit will have a nutritious shake immediately after a race to “get some protein in straight away”. However, depending on the climate and how he’s feeling, he may not eat for a few hours after he’s crossed the line.
For a sport as gruelling as triathlon, fuelling the body for the required training is essential. Kit eats 5 small meals a day; he is careful not to eat too much in one sitting as this could prevent him from training to his potential in one of his 3 sessions a day.
With triathlon meets looming in early spring, Kit explains he is currently in the ‘building phase’ of training – “roughly 12-15 hours a week, 2-3 sessions a day.”
Peak-time training is a different story. “When it’s peak season, I’m training 25 hours a week, usually 3 sessions a day, but in the week leading up to a race training will always be backed off.”
For Kit, the intensity of his training correlates to the race distance, but he focuses on endurance training for Ironman races. This means his time in the pool is varied, incorporating interval training, technique, and endurance sessions.
“Once a week, I’ll do a pool-based session called ‘threshold 100’,” Kit explains. “It’s swimming at race pace – on the limit, but not tipping into the red. Other sessions include swimming with my club for some variation, and during the summer I swim in the sea for lighter, endurance-based sessions.”
Kit also makes sure he finds time to concentrate on his technique. Every triathlete must balance swimming with the other 2 major disciplines of his sport – running and cycling.
Tips for staying motivated
“Personally, I find a rigid training schedule helps so I know the day before exactly what I’ll be doing the next day. That way I don’t have much to think about, I just go and do it,” Kit says.
“My advice would be, always have an idea of what you want to achieve overall and keep that in the back of your mind. I also compete in different races off season. So, sign up to running, cycling or swimming races and work towards those smaller milestones.”
Kit can be found at www.kitwalkertriathlon.com
Kit use the Swans SR2 range, and has done since his early days, swimming at his local swim club.