Getting started… Congratulations in getting this far!
Triathlon is an exciting sport. It allows you break the monotony of doing the same thing over and over. It also brings out the kid in you where you get to ride and run in the open – and add swimming if you did not grow up with a swim background. The most exciting part is shopping for a bike (new or used) as well some gear to get you started.
Fun and exciting as it sounds, it can also be very daunting especially for someone who never had any formal swim training. Anyone can ride a bike and run – but swimming has always been the biggest obstacle that literally puts a stop even to the most enthusiastic athlete. Here are some tips based on what I have gone through.
Swimming. Skip what most budding triathletes do – learning to swim on your own. I have wasted years trying and hoping that I will get better as I swam more; it only enforced bad habits. It also doesn’t matter if you picked up a training plan that has swim sets in it. Swimming is highly technical and non-swimmers develop wrong technique the moment they (we) start. I strongly recommend to get some formal training through a swimming coach or join a Masters Swim group. The swim is the shortest discipline but will require a lot of coaching especially for beginners. Start right and be patient.
Cycling. The bike takes up most of time during a triathlon event. You travel the most number of miles in this leg so it is important to get a bike that is comfortable and one that you can handle well. For beginners, a road bike will be a good starting point. It is very versatile as it can be used for group rides when you start to meet friends who ride regularly. A triathlon bike (TT bike) will be a good step moving forward if you start to get really serious in the sport.
A bike is a simple machine but you can improve greatly on your race results when you get stronger on the bike. Ride more and build your aerobic base (this is a term that refers to how your body can sustain long hours riding/racing without bonking out – another word for losing that energy.
After a few races and you find that triathlon is what you want to pursue, the first thing you need to do is get a good bike fit. Forget about that pair or carbon wheels or that aero helmet – there will be a good time to get those upgrades. The best thing especially in the initial stages is a good bike fit from a reliable bike fitter.
Running. Evidently, everyone can run! It’s just whether you can go fast or slow. The key is to start slow especially if you are new to running. You don’t have to go fast and same as the bike, you have to build your aerobic base. Start with a 30 minute run-walk. You can even walk for most of it and insert a few slow jogs until you start to jog more. There is no rush to get fast too soon.
Get proper running shoes and I suggest to get at least 2 pairs. One is something that is comfortable with enough cushioning for you to use when you start running and when you get to longer runs. Another pair can be something lighter but still comfortable for you to use when you start to do a little bit of speed runs or alternate days to let the other pair recover from use. This helps prevent injury too as shoes need at least a day for it to return to its optimal cushioning.
Now that you know the basic equipment, sign up for a sprint distance race (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run). This will make you commit the time to train and get ready. Set a goal and be consistent in training.
Welcome to triathlon!