So, You Wanna Do Your First Triathlon?
Have you been curious about the triathlon lifestyle, but not sure where to start? Feeling a bit intimidated? Wondering where you will find the time? This article will guide you through some tips to get started in the sport of triathlon.
There are four distances of triathlon. Most first timers start with the sprint distance triathlon. This typically consists of a 400 meter swim, a 13 mile bike and a 3.1 mile run. The next distance up, would be the Olympic distance race, and this is a 1500 meter swim, 26 mile bike and 6.2 mile run. Moving on to long distance racing will get you a Half Iron distance with 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run and finally, the big dog, The Iron distance race. The Ironman consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run, all completed within 17 hours.
When you are first getting started in triathlon, your main goals should be to have fun and remain injury free. The beautiful thing about the sport of triathlon is anyone can do the sport with proper training. You don’t have to be fast, skinny, uber fit or have awesome hand/eye coordination, you just have to have a passion to train, meet new people and have fun.
As a beginner, you do not need to go out and spend a fortune on the latest and greatest gear. The most important pieces of gear you need to get started are a swim cap, goggles, any old bike and a pair of good running shoes.
Let’s discuss each of the three disciplines
First off, the first leg of the race is the swim. Unless a person comes to the sport from a swimming background, most are weaker swimmers and many have a great fear of the open water swim. I would recommend taking a few swim lessons to get started. It is normal to fear moving your swim to the open water. As a long time triathlon coach, this is one area where I have seen the most tears shed. Don’t feel embarrassed to be afraid to swim in open water, most new swimmers have this fear. You are not alone. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become. Be sure to swim at least a few times in the open water, before your first race. It will alleviate a lot of stress come race day.
A lot of triathletes get their start on an old or borrowed bike. Before you make an investment on a bike, be sure you are going to stick with the sport. There is a large variance in price points. You don’t need the most expensive bike to start. One thing that IS very important, however, is a proper bike fit. A proper bike fit will give you more efficiency on the bike, as well as cut down on the risk of injury. Be sure to always wear a helmet.
Finally, we get to the run. This discipline requires the most effort, but the least amount of gear. All you need is a pair of running shoes. If you are unsure on what kind of shoes to wear, I would suggest going to a reputable running shop and having them watch you run. This will allow you to learn which type of shoe fits your particular running style. This is the area where the chance of injury is the highest and a properly fit pair of shoes, will alleviate the risk of injury.
Lastly, pick a race to train for and find a coach or an online plan, so that you are building your training volume and intensity in a safe manner. All athletes are different. Some prefer the guidance and accountability of having a coach. A coach can also help you learn to balance your training time with family life. Others are fine working independently with an online plan. Just be sure to pick one of these options versus winging it on your own.
Triathlon is a wonderful life style. It will bring you a level of fitness you have never known, improve medical issues, increase your energy levels and open you up to meeting a whole new circle of friends who love to live a healthy and positive life.