Preparing to Train for your First Triathlon


I want to do a Triathlon and but I have no idea where to begin.


Should my training consist of a swim on Monday, bike on Tuesday, run on Wednesday and then repeat? What about strength training?  How about a bike? Will my old Schwinn cruiser that I’ve had for 20 years work? Do I need a coach or can I do it all by myself? I noticed that there are several distances. Which one should I choose? Which is the BEST ONE? Do I have to wear a speedo for the swim? How many hours do I have to devote each week to training for a triathlon? Can I keep my job and do this? And how much is all this going to cost me anyway? I’ve got kids in college! Can I really afford to do one of these things? AGH! Maybe I should just hold off, wait until I know a little bit more about what I might be getting myself into.


Whoa! Wait just a moment! There’s no need to overthink this. If you think that you want to try a tri - well, here you go then. This short article (and subsequent articles, so stay tuned!) is just what your doctor – or Tri coach – ordered. So calm yourself! Take a deep breath and relax. Have a seat and read on!


Triathlon is a wonderful sport, a single sport made up of three separate and independent physical activities. The cool thing is, you most likely are very familiar with these three activities and have been participating in each at some level since you were a child. Traditional Triathlon, which is what we’re talking about now, is comprised of a swimming segment, a cycling segment, and a running segment with what is known as a Transition placed in between the swim/bike leg and the bike/run leg. The transition is where you ‘shift gears’ so to speak and move on to the next activity. We’ll talk about how to choose your first Triathlon in a little while. Right now though, let’s go through a few tips to help prepare yourself physically, mentally and spiritually for the process you’re about to begin – training for your first triathlon.


1.    Part of your goal in training most likely is to compete in and finish a race. Makes sense, right? Of course. Picking the right race for you and for your situation is critical to your continuing to enjoy and participate in the sport. Basically, short and nearby is a better option for your first race than long and far away would be. There will be plenty of time to pack up the family in the camper and head off for places undiscovered in search of that perfect triathlon - later. In truth, one of the joys of being a triathlete is the fact that there are races in every part of the country and all around the world for that matter. Now though, you are just getting your feet wet, so to speak. Short and nearby, okay?


2.    Rent or borrow right now. Do not buy. Triathlon can turn out to be a fairly expensive sport very quickly if you let it. While it is really fun to shop for all the cool stuff that is available to us triathletes – wait awhile before opening up your pocketbook or wallet and watching your paycheck disappear. When you get around to doing that, it will be fun, but for your first event, see what you can rent or borrow – until you know that this is something you want to do again, and again and again…. Oh, and one other thing. Yes, that old Schwinn cruiser will work –for now. Any bike will do for this first triathlon. The goal and purpose is to have fun!


3.    With number 2 above firmly imprinted in your mind, here’s the exception. Running shoes! This is one piece (pair?) of equipment that it would be wise to invest in. It would be wise to go to a running store, have one of the professional staff fit you, have them perform a gait analysis, have them get you in the proper running shoe for YOU and YOUR feet! Your feet will thank you for this consideration.  Maintaining happy and contented feet will be a huge factor in whether or not you want to do another triathlon!


4.    You do not need to train as much as you might think. Remember why you are doing this. Is it to get on the podium and achieve national recognition? Or is it something else. Something that’s been burning inside you for months or years aching to be fulfilled? To do something different and have fun? If you’re strapped for time in your week that’s okay. We all are. You can reasonably expect to complete a sprint distance triathlon by training no more than 5 or 6 hours each week. Obviously the more time that you can devote to your training the better (with qualifications that we won’t go into right now)but do not think that if you don’t have an extra 10 or 15 hours in your week that you need to start your search for some other activity. 5-6 hours each week for 8 to 12 weeks and you will have a very satisfying race experience


5.    Plan out your days! If you do not already do this or if time management is as challenging for you as it is for me, now is the time to practice, practice, practice! Whether you choose a coaching service, purchase a pre-designed training plan or work up one for yourself – you’ll have to fit it into an already busy schedule – yours! It can be done, but not without a good deal of planning.


6.    If you’re going to do this, then, you’re GOING TO DO THIS! If you make the commitment, be prepared to see it through to the end. Be consistent in your training, be disciplined in time management, be patient with yourself (and your coach!), be honest with yourself (and again with your coach) about how you’re feeling, if you have to miss a workout. Life happens! To all of us. Our schedules get rearranged daily! That’s fine. Just know that to reach your goal, the time will need to be put in. It can be adjusted, it can be tweaked and shifted and manipulated to varying degrees, but it cannot be eliminated.


These are just a few of the many tips that we’ll be talking about in future articles but I think we have enough here to get you started. As I stated at the beginning of this article, Triathlon is a wonderful sport! It’s full of learning and growing experiences, a great way to meet new friends and establish new relationships. It can also be a very fun way of getting fit and staying healthy if done properly. That’s what we here at CAB4 Triathlon are here to help with. To Build a Life Experience through Triathon!


Train hard, with purpose and a smile!


Coach Art