“If God invented marathons to keep people from doing anything more stupid, triathlons must have taken Him completely by surprise.”

Saturday marks the official first day of summer. A great time to get outside, fire up the grill and take advantage of beautiful weather – or, the perfect time for your first triathlon.

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right – a tri can be intimidating for the first- timer. Few athletes excel at two sports, let alone three. You may love to go for hour long bike rides but perhaps the furthest you’ve ever jogged is to the mailbox. Or maybe you have no problem pounding out a 5K but your swim stroke of choice is the dog paddle. No matter your experience or current fitness level, a tri is an achievable goal for anyone willing to put in the work to all three disciplines.

I only got into triathlons two years ago, when I decided a new challenge was in order. I signed up for a local sprint in the nearby Minnesota lakes area, Googled a few first-timer tips and just sort of went for it. So as somewhat of a newb myself, I wanted to share a couple quick tips that will hopefully help you take the plunge at your first triathlon. This is Part One of what I plan to be a two-part series on triathlon tips (watch for Part Two later this summer).

1. The Swim

If you’ve never jumped in the pool for laps, now is the time. This will give you a chance to perfect (or learn) technique, practice breathing, even ensure your goggles fit well.

Word of warning: An open water swim is totally different from a pool. I liken it to doing all your marathon training on a treadmill, then finally hitting the road for the first time during the race. It’s gonna be a shock and much harder, but don’t fret if you don’t have access to open water for training. Practice in the pool and you’ll have a great foundation, plus a little added confidence to help you through the first part of the race.

2. The Bike 

My glorious hybrid bike

My glorious hybrid bike

More than the actual training, the type of bike you have matters. A lot! A road bike or even a less-expensive/Lance Armstrongish hybrid bike is a great investment, as they’re lighter and go faster with less effort than mountain bikes or cheaper, standard bikes. You’ll really notice the difference during the race, when you’re putting a ton of effort into pedaling and someone on a road bike whizzes by you with seemingly minimal effort.

If you can’t afford a new bike, never fear. Try to borrow one from a friend (I bet they’ll happily let you if you promise to take really, really good care of it). Bikes are also like cars – you can get a perfectly good last-season model or used one for much less than brand-new. Scope out local bike shops for sales or scour the paper for a used model.

3. The Run

For me, the run is the easiest part of the tri but for most, it’s the toughest portion. Prep for the run by participating in a local road race. Not only will it get your legs ready to handle the miles late in the race, it will get you mentally psyched.

Bringing It All Together

The final tip I have is really the key to overall triathlon training: brick workouts. It’s nothing earth-shattering; all it means is performing two or more different workouts, one right after another. For example, a bike ride followed by a run. Triathletes often incorporate this style of training to prepare themselves for the multiple disciplines and transitions from one to the next.

Brick workouts are especially important for the bike-to-run transition. You’ll notice your legs feel much different post-bike ride than they do when you run with fresh legs. But like anything, it’s nothing that can’t be conquered with a little practice!

If you’ve been on the fence about trying a tri, I strongly recommend going for it. Hopefully these tips will help. If you have any additional questions or need more advice, leave a comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311.


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