A few weeks ago I wrote about five things I wish I knew before I started triathlon. Here’s a second post on triathlon – getting started.
The first thing I wished I knew was how expensive triathlon can be (tip 1). However, you don’t need all the top gear.
It’s more important to get started biking (regardless whether it’s on a mountain bike, a borrowed road bike, or a svelte tri bike) and swimming than wishing for higher end equipment.
You could run your first tri with only five key items: swimsuit and goggles, a bike and helmet, and running shoes.
Here are three tips to help you get started…
Build a base
Kelly and I bought introductory road bikes the summer before our races before we really knew we were headed towards triathlon. The first couple rides were scary, even with cage pedals, because I just wasn’t comfortable on a road bike and riding on the highway. Over time I got more comfortable and we started going longer.
I was a lifeguard and swimming instructor in high school and university so knew how to swim, but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed it or even practiced unless my recertification was coming due. And although Kelly knew how to swim, he couldn’t go for longer than 50m without stopping. Within six months he could do an iron-distance swim (3.8km or 2.4 miles).
It was important for both of us to build a base in the other activities and get comfortable doing them to see if it’s something we actually would like to do enough to practice on a regular basis (and whether it would be worth investing more money into).
Start training for all three sports
Once you’ve built a base, start training for the swim, bike and run. A lot of great feedback in the last post mentioned practicing your least favourite or weakest sport. It’s easy to do the one you love the most, but you don’t really need to work on that activity!
Training for all three sports is great to start getting comfortable (tip 2). When I made the transition to clipless pedals and cycling shoes, I felt like a beginner all over again. I fell into the ditch of the highway once, clipped in, which didn’t help (and hurt both my back and my ego)! But the more I did it, the more comfortable I became.
Training for all three also helps you to figure out balance between the sports with strength training and life (tip 4).
This might be the point where you’d consider joining a masters swim team, checking out a local cycling club, or hiring a coach. You can also find tons of information online! Kelly and I winged it all, but I always say I’ll hire a coach for the next triathlon I run.
Continue to learn about it
There’s a lot to learn in triathlon from new terminology to logistics. Here is a random list of things to consider:
- Bike set up – if you have the right bike size and fit, it should help prevent biking injuries down the road.
- Rest – important in all sports, but when you are balancing three, rest becomes even more important. Be sure to listen to your body and skip a workout or scale it back if necessary.
- Nutrition – ensure you are adequately fueling both in training and at other times to provide your body the energy it requires.
- Brick – a triathlon training term when you stack two or more disciplines during the same workout with no or very little rest between. (i.e. bike then run). They help to prepare your body for the next demand. Start small and increase with comfort.
A run/swim/run brick
- Transitions (T1 and T2) – Transition areas are where you go after one sport to prepare for the next, swim to bike (T1) and bike to run (T2). They can be intimidating the first time you participate since they’re kind of foreign. They can also vary from having wetsuit strippers, to long runs between the swim and bike, to having everything for T1 and T2 at the same station or in a completely different location.
These are just a few more things to consider in the larger triathlon cog. If you want to try, go for it and learn as you go: build a base, train for three sports and ask questions, read about it, and get professional help (coach, clubs, etc) if you choose.
Next up…how to choose your first race!
Non-triathletes: Which sport is easiest and which one is the toughest?
Triathletes: what else would you add? How long did you train in three disciplines before signing up for a race?