10 Tips for First-Time Triathletes

I don't know if it is accurate to write that triathlon is "the" fastest growing sport in the world; but it has definitely got to be in the top few.

If you survey people that have completed a triathlon and ask them why they decided to participate in the sport—what got them there—you may get an answer included in the list below:

  • I had too many running injuries and needed to do cross training to heal myself. Once I began cycling and swimming, I realized I enjoyed the variety and didn't want to stop.
  • I wanted a new challenge, a change from my regular activities.
  • It was a stake in the ground. I decided to make changes to my life and triathlon was the start.
  • I wanted a way to celebrate my next birthday.
  • I was decent at several sports and the idea of combining them into a single competition seemed to be to my advantage.
  • I watched a multisport event and thought the madness looked like a lot of fun.
  • It's a great way to stay fit because I get an overall workout—cycling and running do nothing for my upper body.
  • My buddies and I made a bet. I say a good cyclist can slaughter a good runner or a good swimmer in a multisport event. My buddies disagree. I guess we'll just have to test those theories. Bring on the race.

The summer is still young and there is plenty of time for you to train for and successfully complete a triathlon. Need more help?

Here are ten tips for first-time triathletes:

1. Go short before going long. The Ironman World Championship event is arguably the most recognizable triathlon event in the world. The award-winning NBC broadcast of this event has brought the struggle and triumph of triathlon to living rooms around the world. However, a 140.6-mile event—2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling and 26.2 miles of running—is more than nearly all first-time triathletes should attempt on the first outing in the sport.

Begin with a shorter sprint-distance event (400 to 500 yards of swimming, 11 to 15 miles of cycling and around 3.1 miles of running) or an Olympic-distance event (0.9 miles of swimming, 24.8 miles of cycling and 6.2 miles of running).

2. Stay close to home. For the first race, make it easy on yourself and select an event close to home. If the event is within easy driving distance from your house, it helps reduce race-day stress and hassle. You can also do some of your workouts on the course, increasing your confidence. You can find events close to you by searching the Active event listings.

3. Just a swim suit and goggles for the swim. If you do not own a wetsuit or are an inexperienced open water swimmer, select an event that is in a pool and does not require a wetsuit. If your event does require a wetsuit, and you don't own one, some retail stores rent wetsuits. A good pair of goggles and a swim suit made for lap swimming, not sunbathing, is all you need for the swim portion of the event.

4. Your bike is fine. Any bike you're currently riding will work just fine. It can be a road bike, mountain bike or hybrid. Many people have completed their first triathlon on a borrowed bicycle. Be sure the bike is correctly fit to you and is in good working order. (No rotted tires or frayed cables.)

Most races have a support motor vehicle (also known as sag support) following the race to pick up riders unable to complete the bike leg for one reason or another, but it is best that you know how to change a flat tire for training and race day.

5. You need running shoes. If you do not currently own a pair of running shoes, you need a pair. I recommend going to a good running store near you and let the experts in the store help you select the right pair of running shoes. They should ask you questions about your feet, running history and watch your gait while walking and running.

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