If you're new to triathlon, fear not: Here's a basic tri-primer

Your sights are set on racing, now let Active.com help you achieve your goals!
Triathlons -- long thought to be the domain of a super-fit few -- have been growing in popularity with every passing season.

From local sprints to high-profile Ironman races, people of all ages and abilities have caught the tri bug! With its emphasis on cross-training and balanced workouts, triathlon is a great way to get fit, stay fit and stay interested in exercise.

Since more of you than ever are going to take up the swim/bike/run challenge this year for the first time, we've put together a one-stop triathlon shop where you can plan your season, get training tips and programs, gear ideas and much more.

Our calendar on the "Give It a Tri" main page is specially sorted to include sprint triathlons and tri-training camps geared to beginners, so you can find a race in your area and get ready for it.

Better yet, here at Active you can register online in minutes for any of hundreds of triathlons geared to athletes of all abilities!

We also have feature articles from experts as well as people like you who've been there before, to show you the ropes and make your first (and second, and third) race an unforgettable experience.

If you've never done a tri before, "sprint" races are the best place to start. The shortest type of race in the triathlon family, sprints usually comprise a swim of 400 to 800 meters, followed by a bike ride of nine to 15 miles, and usually are capped with a 5K run.

It may not sound like much, but if you've never raced before, it's plenty to give you a taste of the sport! They'll take around 1 1/2 hours to finish, depending on your fitness level. They're not difficult to train for, and are a great intro to the sport.

If you have some experience in running, swimming or cycling and you feel up to it, you may want to start at the next distance level: the Olympic-distance triathlon. These involve a 1.5K swim, a 40K (about 25 miles) ride, and a 10K (6.2-mile) run. Twice as long as sprints, these races take some fairly dedicated preparation and training, but they're not out of reach for a beginner, especially if you have enough training time.

We also have a series of articles from the triathlon Web site Slowtwitch.com that are designed to prepare a complete tri-newbie for an Olympic-distance race.

Beyond sprints and Olympic-distance races, there are "long-course" races, half-Ironmans, and the ultimate challenge, the Ironman: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile ride, and a marathon 26.2-mile run! That may seem impossible now, but after a few shorter races you may find yourself thinking, "Hmmmm ... maybe..."

For now, you're just starting off, so keep it short and simple -- and fun! Be smart and well-prepared, and after one race we guarantee you'll be hooked.

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