Your First Triathlon

You’ve made the decision. You’re signing up for your first triathlon. Now what do you do?

First, take a deep breath and relax. If you’re new to the sport, training for your first triathlon can be a daunting task, regardless of distance. There is a lot more to event than you realize when starting out. But don’t worry, we’re here to help you navigate these waters and get you to through your first triathlon.

Before I go any further let me just say that YOU CAN DO A TRIATHLON! Seriously, you can! I’ve seen people of all shapes and sizes on the course and you’re no different from any of them. Unless you have a specific medical condition that debilitates you in some way (even most conditions can be overcome) you can finish your first triathlon.

Pick Your Race

The first step is to pick your race distance. Evaluate your fitness abilities and be honest about it. I’ve put together some scenarios that might help when picking a race as you plan your first triathlon.

  1. If you’ve never competed in anything athletic in any sport:
  2. If you’ve completed any type of run race 10k or shorter:
  3. Do you have a weakness/fear in regard to the swim: (or the ocean)
  4. If you’ve done a half marathon:
  5. If you’ve done a half marathon but have concerns about the swim:

Here’s the deal. A sprint is not hard to train for and is easy to finish. Depending on the actual distance of the race, your fitness abilities and how much you train, a sprint distance race will last an hour and 10 minutes to an hour and 45 minutes. It really depends on you.

What gear do you need?

If you’ve never done a triathlon, don’t grab your credit card and buy a $2,000 bike. You don’t need it right now. You don’t even know if you like the sport. Sure, you intend to commit to becoming a triathlete and go to Kona but let me assure you, that’s a long ways away and triathlon is an expensive sport to bet on in that way.

Bike Size & Price

You can get a nice & new road bike for $500 if must have a new one. You can get one for cheaper on Cragislist but you’ll probably need to know your size.

So, go to a tri/bike shop and get sized. Getting sized just means finding out which size bike best fits you. Usually they’re measured in the metric system. I’m 5’10” and I have a 54cm bike. My wife is 5’6″ and the 54cm is just a tad too big for her.

The reason for getting sized (and fitted) is preventing injury. When you’re riding a bike you’re putting constant/repetitive strain on various parts of your body. Adjustments as small as a couple of centimeters can alleviate a lot of pain instantly.

If you aren’t ready to buy a bike, get a gym pass and jump into a spin class or on a stationary bike. You can rent a bike for the race. In fact, this might be better for you training wise. When you’re on the roads you tend to coast and stop at lights and stop signs.

Bike Helmet

Lastly, you need a helmet. It’s not only required by USA Triathlon but stupid not to wear one. All it takes a wrong turn or a crack in the road to change your life.

Bike Shorts

While this isn’t required, you’ll learn quickly about the value of bike shorts. Bike shorts prevent chaffing and have a small amount of padding for added comfort. If you’re on a budget, you don’t need it right away for your first triathlon. If you start to enjoy and pursue the triathlon further then you should invest.

Swim Gear

This one is fairly easy. I recommend the following items:

  • Swim suit – shorts or briefs for the men; one-piece or some sort of performance two-piece for the women
  • Cap – if you’ve got long hair, you’ll want a latex or silicon swim cap. You’ll thank me later
  • Pull buoy – If there’s one piece of equipment I can recommend for training for your first triathlon, it’s this item. A pull buoy fits between your legs as high up as possible and helps your lower body float. It will make it infinitely easier for you to swim without the weight of your hips and legs dragging you down.
  • Wetsuit – If you’re on the coast like us, a wetsuit will be helpful for two reasons: 1) Warmth. 2) Buoyancy. A wetsuit can help your legs float juts enough to make a difference. Scuba wetsuits and even surfing wetsuits will have much thicker fabric in the shoulders, which is a bad thing. You want the freedom of mobility in that critical area.

That’s it for swim gear! You might want to consider a swim coach or a master’s swim program. Swimming by yourself is possible, but really hard to gauge improvement and intensity.

Run Gear

All you really need are shoes. Make sure they’re not too old. Shoes only last around 300 miles (including walking) or just a few months. Working out with shoes that are too old offer little support and is the cause of injury or consistent pain. If you’ve got a running store in town, you can get fitted for a shoe type, brand and size.

Design a Workout Schedule

After you’ve picked a race and you’re set with the gear, it’s time to plan. You’ll want to set a standard schedule. For example, short run on Monday & Wednesday with a long run on Sunday, bike on Tuesday and Thursday with a long bike on Saturday and swimming on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Consistency is important in staying motivated and focused on each week and day.

Decide how many hours a week you have available and fit in your different workouts accordingly. Try to account for social engagements, work and family. Just because you’re training for a triathlon, it doesn’t mean everything else needs to disappear. Just be honest with yourself. Remember it’s just your first triathlon and it’s more of a lifestyle than just a simple running race. There’s a lot to it.

Track your workouts

An app like Find a coach

If you have any hesitations about this, consider a coach. You may not need a coach for everything, so getting a swim coach might be all you need. There’s a lot to think about and that’s why coaches exist. They can plan your workout schedule and monitor all the details.

Conveniently, we’re taking athletes. Click the button below if you’re interested or contact us with any questions.

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Getting started in triathlon doesn’t have to complicated. Everything listed above is the minimum needed. Sign up for a race, set up your workout schedule and figure out how you’ll deal with training on a bike or stationary bike and dive in, headfirst into your first triathlon.

Published by Bryan Monzon

USAT Certified and Swim Specialist.

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