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Triathlon tips for women: be the beauty and the beast

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ironguides Head Coach Vinnie Santana has compiled his observations and experiences as a coach and professional triathlete on the main psychological and physiological aspects of triathlon training for women. He has trained or worked closely with female athletes of all levels, from helping women finish their first triathlon to attending a training camp with four-time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington and 2012 Olympic Champion Nicola Spirig

It’s clear that the number of women athletes in our sport has risen significantly in recent years. In some countries women-only races and race series’ are appearing. And the industry has picked up on this trend with an increasing number of items specifically designed for women from shoes to wetsuits to bikes.

The depth of the elite women’s field also has deepened in the past few years. We have watched as Chrissie Wellington has raised the bar again and again in winning the Ironman World Championships in four of the last five years (she missed one Kona due to illness). Chrissie also has lowered the world record for Iron-women several times, most recently to 8:18, which she did at Challenge Roth in July 2011. As a result, most of Chrissie’s rivals also have stepped up their games, in training and racing. There has been a slew of Sub Nine hour Ironman finishes by women, inspired by what Chrissie has achieved.

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When it comes to performance, women may use less glycogen and tap more fat for fuel than men in longer, lower-intensity types of exercise, such as long-distance triathlon, which possibly gives female athletes a relative advantage to their male counterparts. Chrissie has previously indicated that she believes that it’s only a matter of time before women beat men in Ironman and who can argue with her; Chrissie, the reigning world champion, has placed in the Top 10 overall in most of her Ironman races, and she has crossed the finish line ahead of many high-profile world-class male triathletes.

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When it comes to coaching, the two sexes require different approaches. Despite the health benefits of being an endurance athlete, psychology and physiology are very different between women and men. Women have menstrual periods, and they are in general more vulnerable to stress fractures.

This article is a compilation of my observations and experiences as a coach and professional triathlete on the main psychological and physiological aspects of triathlon training for women. I’ve been fortunate enough to train or work closely with female athletes of all levels, from helping women finish their first triathlon to attending a training camp with Chrissie.

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