15 Things You Must Know As A New Triathlete

The fear of the unknown is present in any new situation, whether it is your first triathlon or your first day in a new job. The best way to overcome this fear is to just keep going and not let it stop you.

This is a reminder that you should enjoy the journey and not just the destination.

1. It’s not about anyone but you

There are many reasons why someone might want to “Try a Tri” for the first time. This could be because they want to challenge themselves in new endeavours, be healthier, heal from a breakup, or because they love to move their body. Whatever the motivation is, it has to be about the individual because they are the one doing it. They are the ones putting their body through intentional discomfort for something bigger—and that something bigger is themselves! It is their fulfilled mind, soul and body. And that’s a pretty great thing!

2. Don’t let your mind play tricks on you

Many beginning athletes will hesitate and think badly of themselves as a way to protect themselves. You’ll hear excuses all over the place, and I promise that at some point you’ll end up rolling your eyes as you stand in line for the porta-potty and listen to another athlete selling themselves short.

While others may give up, you will not because you know better. As Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t—you’re right.” You are in control of your thoughts and destiny, so stay positive and you WILL succeed.

3. Go short before going long

The author’s point is that the best way to train is simply to get out there and start swimming, biking, and running. They advise against overthinking the process and instead just enjoying the activities. The author started their training by biking around a park and experimenting with different speeds and hill intensities. They eventually memorized how to change gears and made the activity second nature.

The most important thing when training for your first triathlon is to not stress about having the perfect plan, and instead enjoy the process of learning how to swim, bike, and run. To begin with, try to do each activity two times per week and see how that goes.

4. Don’t forget your diet

Free photo buddha bowl dish with vegetables and legumes. top view.It’s a good idea to practice your nutrition before race day by working out for longer than 50-60 minutes. This will help you find out what foods, energy supplements and protein powders work best for you.

It’s important to find a nutrition system that works for you and to practice with it before race day. “Nothing new on race day” is a good rule of thumb – make sure you’re only using nutrition strategies that your body is familiar with.

It’s important to stay hydrated when exercising, especially in hot weather. You need to know how much water your body needs for the duration of the activity and take into account the temperature and humidity.

5. Try to chill

man in black and red jersey shirt wearing black sunglasses and black cap

The swim is the hardest part of the triathlon for most people who are just starting out. It is both mentally and physically challenging.

Get in a chilled state of mind, don’t push yourself too hard at the start, and as you get more comfortable with the activity you can increase your speed. I’ve backstroked, breaststroke and flat-out stopped to catch my breath during a 400-meter race, and two months later I was able to swim a full distance IronMan without any pauses or hiccups.

Sighting is an important skill to practice because it allows you to make sure you are staying on course. Depending on the conditions, you may have to sight every three strokes to ensure you stay on track. Sighting can be practised in the pool (even if it may look silly) and in open water whenever there is an opportunity to do so.

An additional tip: wearing goggles under your cap can help to keep them from being knocked off during the commotion at the beginning!

6. Gear it up!

Make sure you are prepared for the course by having the right supplies.

Some courses are more level, while others have sharp inclines right after coming out of the transition area. Be sure your bike is in an easy gear so you won’t have to pedal too hard right away. It’s much simpler to start out easy and then switch to harder gears than to do the opposite.

The New York City Triathlon features a very steep hill early on in the race—many people have trouble making it up and end up falling. To make sure you don’t have the same problem, take a look at the course before the race starts.

7. Rock the transition and keep it simple

The goal of the transition is to spend as little time there as possible, so don’t think of it as a rest stop. Be organized, calm, and swift so you can get in and out quickly.

T1: Swim to Bike

Check that your bike is in the correct gear before starting to pedal to make it easier.

  1. Wetsuit off
  2. Helmet on
  3. Glasses on
  4. Bike Shoes on
  5. GO!

* Drink water and eat food regularly during the race, and put sunscreen on before the race starts.

T2: Bike to Run

  1. Race belt (a must) with BIB on
  2. Running shoes with SPEED laces on
  3. GO!

If you don’t want to be caught having to tie your shoes in the middle of a transition, make sure to get shoes with ELASTIC laces. This will save you a lot of time. Socks are optional, but try them out first to make sure you don’t get blisters.

8. Take it to the start line

When race jitters hit (also fondly known as PRSD—Pre Race Stress Disorder), the mind can cloud and remembering what you need to take to the start line can seem overwhelming. These are my standards:

  • Wetsuit
  • Goggles
  • Cap
  • Timing Chip
  • Body Marked?
  • Energy Gel (Nutrition) & Small Water

9. Make yourself a packing list

Make a packing list for your triathlon race to make sure you don’t forget anything. Experienced athletes sometimes forget important things like helmets, so it’s crucial to have a list.

10. It’s all about staying healthy

Staying healthy is a big part of triathlon!

New triathletes have different motivations for training, but the ultimate goal should be to avoid injury. Some athletes are trying to improve their fitness, while others want to have fun and cross something off their bucket lists. No matter what your motivation is, staying safe should be your priority.

11. Rest is a big part of a good training plan

The vast majority of triathletes go through a stage where they become obsessed with working out. They feel like they shouldn’t take a day off, even if it’s just a light recovery run. However, this is the wrong mindset to have. It’s actually beneficial to take some time to rest, and it should be built into your training plan more often than you might think.

The lesson to be learned is that it is necessary to take time off and that even extended periods off can be beneficial.

12. Open-water swimming really is different

person swimming on beach

I went swimming in open water once in my wetsuit before my first-ever race. It was a test swim, probably only 100 meters around the boundary of a local swimming beach. I realize now that I should have done more open water swims to prepare. Swimming in a pool is great for building stamina and good technique, but it doesn’t compare to open-water swimming. Your wetsuit will feel weird at first, and it’s important to get used to a variety of conditions – wind, sun (i.e. glare), cold, and heat.

13. Don’t cheap out on gear

This tip is probably going to generate the most debate. Is it possible to do a triathlon on an old mountain bike that’s 20 years old, without a wetsuit, and while wearing running shorts? Of course, it’s possible! And I would much rather have you try doing a triathlon than not try at all. You see all sorts of gear and equipment at races.

The saying goes that if you put garbage in, you’ll get garbage out. I would have been better off investing in better gear at the start. Unless you’re sure you’re only doing one triathlon, and then you’ll be done, think about getting some mid-range quality gear. You’ll probably find other uses for it, even if you’re not doing triathlons!

14. Come race day, you are all a team

I was nervous about my first race and I still get butterflies before every race. I wish I would have known that race day is one of the most supportive environments you can imagine. It is important to want to do well, but on race day you will be surrounded by people who want to see you succeed. If you are brave enough to register for a race and have the self-control to train for one, you will be surrounded by people with similar mindsets by the time the race takes place. There’s no need to worry about what the big race will be like. You’ll definitely have a supportive team and enthusiastic fans, even if you don’t know anyone else there.

15. Other triathletes love to share their knowledge

I would also find a training partner to bounce ideas off of and train with. I remember when I was first getting into triathlons and how I would devour online resources and triathlon training books. I would talk with my spouse about my training and race strategy and also find a training partner to get ideas from and to train with.

I made a mistake when I didn’t talk to other triathletes much. I felt like I needed to act like I knew everything about what I was doing to fit in. But most triathletes are really welcoming to newbies and are happy to answer any questions, even if they’ve done a ton of Ironmans and look like they could beat Usain Bolt in a race.

Triathlon is a community sport because people are willing to help each other out.

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