How to get into Triathlons
If you can run, swim and cycle, or at least want to be able to, then why not combine them all together? But first a word of caution: Whilst these disciplines are all relatively straight forward on their own, putting them together does add a new level of complexity, not just for the body, but also for the brain.
Triathlons can be daunting, but they can also be a lot of fun, as well being a great motivation to train, if you need it. So here is my quick guide to getting into triathlons and how to train for success.
- Read to Learn. Running on jelly legs, taking a wetsuit off on the hop and laying out your transition area all add a layer of complication not seen in other sports. The best way I get to the heart of it is to read, and the best book I found was ‘Triathlon for Beginners: Everything you need to know about training, nutrition, kit, motivation, racing, and much more’ by Dan Golding. Packed full of great tips, read this at the start of your training, but then again before your event.
- Read to Inspire. ‘Finding Ultra’ by Rich Roll and ‘A Life without Limits’ by Chrissie Wellington talk about inspirational people who are competing in triathlons at an unbelievable level. They are packed full of great tips to help too.
- Read Our Articles. ‘How to Get into Running’ and ‘How to Get into Cycling’ take you from being a novice to a beginner through training and nutrition, and offer some tips I’ve learnt along the way about equipment and sporting aids.
- Book an Event, and ideally more than one. Commit to doing at least one competitive event. Having that date in the diary will incentivise you to do the training. Perhaps start with a sprint triathlon, with maybe a pool based swim, which will tend to be at the start of the season. A duathlon (run, bike, run) is also a good way to get a feel for it, as it tends to be the swim that puts most people off.
- Invest in the Essentials. You don’t need to have a garage full of expensive tri kit, but you are going to need a few essentials. A bike, wetsuit (for open water swims) and a tri suit are the essentials, but you can make do with almost everything else. Borrow them if this is your first attempt at triathlon and you aren’t sure it’ll become a hobby. Ask friends, me included, if you want to give it a try. Look at www.SportPursuit.com for discounted items and try and buy at the end of the season for much better deals.
- Create a Training Plan. As a rule of thumb, ensure you undertake each activity at least once a week, but ideally plan that by distance or time rather than activities. E.G. 50 miles cycling, 12 miles running and 1-hour swimming.
- Measure Your Results, because what gets measured gets done! Keep track of your stats on a watch/device of some sort and feed it into Strava, so you can see the progress you are making and keep track of what you are doing. Connect to me on Strava so I can give you some accountability too!
- Go Slow. Don’t over train at the start, particularly with the running. Build up gradually. Only increase the total distance of your runs by 10% per week, otherwise you risk injury.
- Get Some Lessons in Your Weakest Area(s). Particularly swimming if this isn’t a strength, a couple of lessons can make a huge difference to your speed. Mary at http://inspire2tri.com/ does lessons at Manton in Rutland in all disciplines, and even does a training day for several people covering all 3 disciplines to kill all 3 birds with one stone, which is a cost effective option.
- Build Your Checklists for Before and at the Event. There is a ridiculous number of things to remember, so checklists will give you peace of mind that you are organised. I’ve shared mine with you so that you can turn these into your own.
- Gargle with TCP after open water swims to help avoid throat infections, which can be a common problem. Use ‘Bodyglide’ around your neck and wrists to avoid get a wetsuit rash and to help take it off in the transition.
- Practice Everything If It’s Unfamiliar to You. Getting on the bike from running, taking off the wetsuit quickly and laying out your transition area were all alien to me. I practiced until it became second nature, as this made the whole first day a lot less stressful.
- Do Some Brick Sessions. As well as training on the individual disciplines, do some Brick sessions, i.e. add a run to the end of your bike ride, include a short bike at the start of your run, or nip to the gym after your swim to get your body used to the combined activities.
- Just Get out There and Do It. But most importantly, enjoy it. Don’t worry about being perfect, every expert was once a novice, and you will learn the ropes as you go. Triathletes are a friendly bunch, who will give you tips as you go.