Great Tips For Your First Triathlon

Are you a swimmer, runner, or cyclist who feels like they need a mix up their workout routine?  Do you need a challenge because running six 1/2 marathons a year or riding 50 miles a week just doesn’t do it for you anymore?  If so, participating in your first triathlon might be the answer.

But I know what you’re thinking and it’s either 1) I don’t know how to swim, 2) I don’t have a bike, or 3) I hate running, but that’s ok!  Every triathlete can rank their comfort level when it comes to each activity.  You might be comfortable in the water because you’ve been a swimmer all your life or you can run 13.1 miles without breaking a sweat.  Whatever your situation is, that just means you’ll need to train and get comfortable with the activity that’s ranked #3.

The first step is to commit to learning a new “skill” by utilizing your resources.  Find a friend who can teach you how to swim or a family member that has a bike you can borrow.  The second step is to start slow and work your way up in terms of distance and time.  Your body will feel tired and your muscles will feel sore because it’s not used to moving in that way but you will get stronger and feel better over time.  Once you feel comfortable doing each activity separately, the next step is to combine them together.  A common triathlete workout is called a BRICK, which means you do a bike workout then transition directly into a run workout.  Some people say it’s an acronym that means “Bike and Run In Combination” (not sure what the K stands for).  My personal thought was because my legs felt heavy, like bricks, when I started running.  As you keep practicing brick workouts, you’ll feel a lot more comfortable running off the bike.

For your first triathlon, I would recommend a sprint distance which consists of a 1/2 mile swim, or less, a 10-15 mile bike ride and a 3 mile run.  If you’re not comfortable in open water (lake or ocean), there are reverse sprint triathlons that end with a couple laps in a pool.  For a sprint distance, any bike should work too.  It doesn’t have to be a road or a triathlon bike.

In my opinion, the goal of your first race should be to finish.  Don’t worry about your time or people that pass you.  Focus on what you’re capable of doing, go at your own pace, and enjoy the course.  Once you have your first triathlon under your belt, you can then focus on improving race times and splits.

If you’re looking to start triathlons and have questions, feel free to ask and/or comment below!

~ Dr. Raymond Shing (Physical Therapist/Bike Fitting Specialist)