Why Not Tri?
Have you ever thought about doing a triathlon? For some of you, the idea may be intriguing but the amount of specific training for a three-sport event might seem overwhelming. Perhaps you’re a runner that may have dabbled in cycling, but you’re not sure you can even swim a complete lap in your local pool. Or maybe you love swimming and cycling but can’t remember the last time you ran over a mile without stopping. No matter your fitness history, I’m here to tell you that ANYONE, with the proper training and desire, can complete a Triathlon!
Step 1: Pick an event, sign up, and tell your friends about it! I know what you’re thinking; “I’ll start training, and once I get comfortable and reasonably fit, I’ll pick an event to do.” I’ve heard this time and time again. In my experience, the people who choose this approach inevitably wind up placing many of life’s other priorities ahead of a triathlon and find any excuse or reason to back out. The event doesn’t have to be long or grueling and it could be next month or six months down the road. Just the act of signing up helps sharpen your focus and makes sure you stay accountable to the goals you’ve set for yourself. After you’ve signed up, publically announce your decision to friends and family. Telling them can be frightening or make you feel exposed (just ask a smoker that’s announced he’s decided to give up cigarettes) but it’s easier to accomplish big goals if you declare them to others. In addition to the sense of duty and accountability you’re bound to feel, you will receive a lot of encouragement and support, excellent motivators down the road when you need it most.
Step 2: Learn the skills necessary to complete the race. Until you obtain proficiency in the ability to swim, bike, and run your way to the finish line, no amount or supplemental exercise is going to be beneficial to your training. Folks new to multisport often spend too much time refining their strengths and not enough time training their weaknesses. Try not to think of a triathlon as individual swim, bike, and run events. Instead, approach the race as a single competition with swimming, biking, and running components. The goal, of course, is to finish the entire competition in the shortest amount of time personally possible. Triathletes must design creative approaches that will produce the fastest possible result. Since your relative weaknesses present the greatest opportunity for improvement, it’s wise to spend the majority of your time focusing on these deficiencies.
For example, if swimming is your weakness, you might consider a few lessons to improve technique. It might also be a good idea to jump into a few open water group swims so that you’re not experiencing something completely foreign on race day. If you’re new to cycling or riding a road bike, you might consider spending some time zipping around a parking lot learning how to effectively break and corner. I’d also recommend riding a few rolling hills to practice your shifting efficiency. If you don’t consider yourself a runner (or even if you do), it would be valuable to have someone evaluate your running technique to help you improve efficiency and stay injury-free. Staying healthy will make all the difference as you prepare for your first race!
Step 3: Train to go the distance with race-like workouts. Once you feel you’re competent with the basic skills of open water swimming, cycling, and running, your next goal should be to gain confidence in your ability to complete the race. This doesn’t mean you have to complete the full distances for all three components of your next race in one workout. In fact, I’d advise against that. You should slowly build the duration of your workouts until you are confident in your ability to finish the race.
The closer to the race you get, the more “race-like” the workouts should become. Many athletes make the mistake of approaching their workouts by either going too easy or too hard. I’m here to tell you that the key to success, in your first race, is to spend most of your time training at your projected race pace in the preceding weeks leading up to your race.
Step 4: Find a training program, group, or partner to help facilitate success.
While I do believe that it’s possible to complete your first triathlon training completely by yourself, I have found that the people that are most successful in achieving their goals are the ones that enjoy the training journey with an excellent support and preparation system in place. That’s the reason I founded Killer Tri and developed the Killer Tri Triathlon Training Program. Training with a group in a structured program not only takes the guesswork out of your preparation, but provides a fun atmosphere with like-minded people. The group dynamic helps maintain a high level of motivation and holds you accountable to one another. Ultimately, sharing your journey with others brings out the best in you and maximizes your ability to achieve your true potential.
Above all else, remember that the most important thing when taking on your first triathlon is to enjoy the process. At any given event, there may be a thousand people participating for a thousand different reasons. In all instances however, the common thread is that everyone is out there to have a good time. Your goal should be to have fun in training, keep the excitement and anticipation flowing, and cross the finish line with a smile on your face!
Photos courtesy of killertri.com
An elite competitor himself, Kyle heads to Kailua Kona this October to compete in the Hawaii Ironman World Championships. His Personal Best for the marathon portion of an Ironman triathlon is 3:02:49. A graduate of UCSB, he works as a mechanical engineer at Asylum Research in Goleta when not racing or coaching, and lives with his wife in Santa Barbara.