Triathlons can be intimidating. The mere mention of one conjures up images of genetically perfect athletes speeding through race segments so fast that they're blurry. Fortunately, you don't have to be a genetic freak in order to be able to run your first triathlon.
Triathlon is one of the fastest growing sports in America, so they can't be that difficult. A sprint-distance triathlon is typically only a 400- to 600-meter swim, a 12.4-mile bike and a 5K run.
You can be ready for your first sprint triathlon after about three months of training. And, as it turns out, triathlons aren't as intimidating as they sound. After competing in dozens of triathlons and an Ironman 70.3, I've discovered several things that I wish I knew when I started. So, I'm passing on these seven tips for tri newbies to help you:
Tip #1: You Don't Need a Wetsuit for Your First Race
Assuming you're not racing in a particularly cold body of water, you don't need a wetsuit for your first race. Not only is it an expensive piece of equipment that can take a while to get used, a lot of times they're not even allowed. If the water temperature is above 84 degrees Fahrenheit you won't be allowed to wear the wetsuit.
Once you're comfortable with the other elements of racing, you can look at renting or even buying one, but it's definitely not a "must-have" for your first event.
Tip #2: When You're In The Water, Just Relax
Everyone is always nervous about the swim, especially tri newbies. When you're in the water, waiting for the race gun to go off, it can be really, really tempting to get pumped up and overstressed, and spend all your energy thinking about the race. The swim is consistently the most feared leg for new triathletes that don't have a swim background.
It's okay. Relax. Stay loose and don't go too hard right out of the gate. If you have a lot of people around you kicking and splashing, breathe and go at your own pace—one that's sustainable.
It's way too common for people to freeze up and panic during the swim. If you ever feel rushed, panicked or tired, simply stop, tread water, hold on to a buoy or a boat if you have to, and take deep breaths until you calm down.
Tip #3: Keep Your Nutrition Simple
Nutrition for triathlon can get really complicated, really fast?if you let it. However, it doesn't have to be that difficult. Simply eating well will cut out half the complexity of a nutrition regimen.
All you really need to do is eliminate processed foods, eat real food, and choose water instead of soda and alcohol to help your body get used to digesting real nutrients and utilizing your energy resources efficiently. It sounds really simple and it is. In fact, if you do this, you don't even have to worry about carbo loading for your race. Your normal eating habits will serve you well come race day.
Tip #4: Follow a Training Program
A triathlon training program is immensely helpful when preparing for your first race. Besides actually getting you physically ready for a race, a training program lays out a road map to show you where to start your training and how to finish based on your training level. It's much easier to focus on a 30-minute workout you have to do today than it is to think about the triathlon you have to run in just 90 days. Not only does a training plan make things less intimidating but it also guides you from your current fitness level across the finish line.