By: Angela Joy
The triathlon; a swim, followed by cycling, and ending with a run. To some this may sound absurd, to others this may sound like a Friday morning workout.
For me, however, it appeared as a difficult to obtain goal.
Running several days a week was one thing – but cycling and swimming, there was no way.
First of all, I did not know how to swim. I had taken a few swim lessons as a child.
I swam in friend’s pools, the ocean and the river every now and then. But overall I did not know the first thing about freestyle swimming, goggles, one piece swimsuits, swim caps – or anything else related to swimming.
Secondly, I would need the proper bike – a beach cruiser likely will not cut it.
And last but not least – how would I transition between all three? What would I wear? How would I train?
These questions and fears ran through my mind along with many others.
It wasn’t until I overcame the barriers preventing me from beginning my triathlon training that I took the first steps towards accomplishing my goal – which you, too can do.
Step 1: Overcome your barriers preventing you from completing your first triathlon.
The barriers preventing me from participating in my first triathlon included learning to properly and confidently swim in a race and a road bike to train with and use during the race.
In an effort to overcome these barriers and begin my training I first purchased a used road bike.
The bike is not great by any means – however it is a good first road bike that served as a wonderful learning tool for a first race.
Secondly, I signed up for swimming lessons at a local YMCA.
These swimming lessons were not easy by any means, in fact they were incredibly difficult and I still struggle to get myself into the pool to improve my swimming skills.
Not having the opportunity to be around a pool and swim laps as a child or teen made it difficult to learn the sport.
Nevertheless, I did not allow the frustration and sometimes embarrassment prevent me from accomplishing my goal.
Each Sunday morning I showed up, I remained positive, and put forth my best effort.
Learning how to do something new as an adult can be difficult, however there is no reason to give up just because the task is hard.
(This was not my training plan, this is just an example of a triathlon training plan)
Step 2: Follow the proper training plan to achieve your goal.
After researching numerous triathlon training websites, books, and plans I put together a training plan that would fit my goals, schedule and fitness level.
Throughout my training I swam one to two times per week, cycled two to three times per week and ran three to five times per week (running is obviously my favorite of the three).
Transitioning from one sport to all three was definitely a challenge.
One must determine where they are going to swim, where they will cycle (indoor, outdoor and if outdoor the location) and for how long.
(Some training plans recommend training less than I did. However, based on my current fitness level this amount seemed fitting.)
Following a triathlon training plan can be difficult and time consuming.
One should a lot about one hour per day for five to six days per week for triathlon training.
Some days you will feel tired. You will want to quit. And then, when you least expect it you will overcome these feelings and wake up at 5 a.m. for your workout, go to the gym right after work, swim when you want to sleep and skip a fun night out to complete a skipped workout. These things happen, they can be stressful however they are worth it.
Step 3: Choose your race.
The most common first triathlon race is the sprint triathlon.
The sprint triathlon distance is generally a half mile swim (or less), a 10-15 miles bike, and a 5k run.
This race is doable for first triathletes who are swimming, cycling and running throughout the week one to two times.
For women seeking their first triathlon there are many women-only races that serve as very welcoming.
I however, chose the Atlantic City Triathlon in August.
The race was the perfect size, location and distance for me.
Things to consider when choosing a race include;
- The distance of each event in the race
- The location of the race and each specific event.
- The body of water the swim portion is located in
- The standard temperature of the body of water the swim is in
- The distance the race is from your home
- The locations your family and friends can watch you from
- The depth of the hills and amount of turns during the cycling course
- The type of course and temperature of the running portion
I am sure there are other factors to consider, however these are a few to think about when deciding.
Step 4: Get the proper gear.
Being a triathlete can be expensive.
Gear for swimming, biking and running is required – in addition to the specifically made triathlon gear.
Some gear to consider would be purchasing a road or hybrid bike, a pair of triathlon shorts and a triathlon top which can be worn during all three events instead of putting shorts and a shirt over a bathing suit, spare tire tubes in case your tire goes flat, a helmet which is required to participate, and comfortable running shoes.
After stressing over what to wear I decided to purchase a pair of triathlon shorts in addition to receiving a triathlon top given to me by a friend.
Before, during and after the race I was very pleased with my decision and the lack of stress I experienced trying to change during transitions.
Step 5: Participating in the race and having a great time.
While people can choose to participate in a triathlon for many reasons (weight loss, challenge, competition, to prove a point) the overarching goal should be to have fun.
After stressing over getting to the race, checking in at the expo, properly preparing my bike, checking in to a hotel, training, the course and much more – I ended up having the most fun that I have had all year!
My first triathlon was definitely one of the best experiences of my life. I enjoyed every second of it and cannot wait to compete in my next race.
I ended up finishing the race with a great overall time, experiencing no issues, and receiving a medal for the second fastest finishing time in my age group. To put it lightly I was over the moon.
Now it was not a goal of mine to rank in my age group and I don’t recommend setting it as an expectation, but this does not mean that it is not possible. Shoot for the stars, you never know what you are capable of until you TRI.
I encourage you to go out and accomplish your goal, whatever it may be. Whether it is a triathlon, a 5k race, a marathon, losing an amount of weight, gaining more muscle, feeling healthy or feeling happy – start today.
❤ Wishing you love, joy and blessings,