The sport of triathlon is more popular in the U.S. than ever before. Between 2000 and 2009, the membership base of USA Triathlon, the national governing board for the sport, grew from over 21,000 members to almost 133,000, with an estimated 666,000 on-road triathlon participants.
With this surge in popularity has come an increased interest in multisport training–and who better to get advice from than a pro triathlete?
Tip No.1: Don't Go It Alone
Sarah Haskins has been competing professionally in triathlons since 2004, with many notable accomplishments under her belt, including 22 professional wins and participation in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
When it comes to training, Haskins believes most people have the hardest time with the swim portion of a tri. (Mostly because it's hard to replicate the swim leg realistically in training.) To combat this, she suggests a simple solution.
Don't train by yourself.
"I always recommend finding a group to swim with and practice swimming with people–maybe find a coach to help you with technique because swimming is very technique-oriented."
She continues, "You can train yourself and push your body so hard, but if you don't have the technique, you're going to be working that much harder. And that's not always a good thing."
More: How to Swim Faster
Tip No.2: Start Slow
When it comes to the biggest mistakes beginning triathletes make, Haskins believes that many novices try to take on too much, too soon. "I think a lot of people, when they hear about triathlons, automatically just want to do an Ironman. An Ironman is a very challenging and amazing race, but it takes time to get there," said Haskins.
"For most people, competing in sprint and Olympic distances is very doable with a full-time job and a family.
"But they need to start slow, so they can see it all the way through."
Haskins thinks that some people feel pressured to take on longer distances, but they should know that sprint and Olympic distances are a great addition to your race calendar. She suggests, "At least start out there and slowly progress to going longer."
Tip No.3: Keep Triathlon in Perspective
It's also important for athletes to remember to maintain balance in their lives. Training for triathlons, especially longer distance races, can be incredibly time-consuming and rigorous. Haskins suggests that "you have to think of your life as a teeter-totter, and if you're focusing too much on one thing, the teeter-totter isn't going to stay balanced."
For her, remaining close to friends and family–her support system–is imperative. "Down the line, I want to have a well-rounded life. I don't see triathlon as a job.
"I feel fortunate that I get to do my passion, but I know that I'm not going to be able to race professionally forever, so I try to not take it for granted and stay balanced in the other areas of life."
Train with a group, learn proper technique, and ease yourself into longer distances, if that's your goal. As Haskins urges, maintain balance with other commitments in your life, and triathlon can be a challenging and rewarding sport to participate in.
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