The first time you try anything is going to be daunting or at the very least, a little nerve wracking. However, with a little planning and preparation you can ensure your first triathlon runs smoothly.
The first tip is not to purchase lots of expensive, professional gear. Quite the contrary in fact, the first tip is to stick with what makes you comfortable and avoid wasting money on what could be your first and last triathlon. Don’t worry about this, every race includes novices just like you, and most of them will be competing with basic equipment and kit. If you can borrow a carbon fibre, custom bike then great, but your regular mountain bike will do. You can purchase high quality, relatively inexpensive outdoor gear such as wetsuits, drink bottles and footwear from outdoor online retailers.
- Train for the distance of your event. Beginners should start off with the sprint event (400m to 750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run) and try to improve their times for these distances.
- Give yourself at least eight weeks to prepare for your event.
- Train across all three disciplines every week rather than focusing too much on your weakest leg.
- Vary your workouts to prevent boredom and de-motivation setting in. Try running a different course or running with a different running club/partner, training with a kickboard, cycling off-road etc.
- Continue to incrementally increase your workouts. Once your body gets used to a particular workout, your stamina will cease to improve.
- Add weights to your swimming session and try resistance training at the gym.
- Listen to your body. Overworked muscles will lead to injury. When your workouts start to feel easier, you’re ready to push your body that bit further, but not beforehand.
- Maintain a healthy diet with lots of protein to assist your muscle recovery.
- If possible, try and train most often at the time the event will be on. You may feel more energetic in the afternoon, but if you’ve always trained after 5pm your body will get a surprise when you need to race at 8am.
- Practice the transition over and over again.
- Research sprint races and enter yourself so you have a definite goal to work towards.
- Research the route and know where the transition points are before the race. Memorise where your belongings are at the transition point as searching for your gear will cost you precious time.
- Educate yourself on the rules of triathlon so you won’t be penalized for faux pas such as cycling in another riders slipstream.
- Plan your training program incorporating 3 sessions each for bike, run and swim plus rest, weights and stretching.
- Get your race day equipment ready. Alongside your kit and bike, you should consider: nutrition (bananas, dried fruit, hydration drinks); sunscreen; first aid; towels (one for during the race, one for after); safety pins for your race number; small change for coin-operated lockers; repair kit and pump for your bike; Vaseline for chaffing and for a faster transition if wearing a wetsuit in the swim leg.
Now you’re ready for your first triathlon. All the hard work will be rewarded when you cross that finish line.
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