If you have a competitive streak and want to challenge yourself, a triathlon could be a great choice to take you to the next level. You can do it even if you don’t yet know how to swim and have never run a day in your life. The key is to take it in small steps until you can hardly wait to find one in your own neighborhood.
July and August are a great time to start training for your upcoming triathlon. You may have visions of crawling across the finish line while gasping for air, breath, oxygen or whatever else your mind chooses to call it by the time you get there. Rest assured that while it will be a challenge, you will have lots of fun! Just follow these steps to stay on track.
- While there are several types of triathlons, if you are a beginner you should consider training for a sprint triathlon which is 500 yards of swimming, 11 to 15 miles of biking and 3.1 miles of running. If you don’t yet know how to swim, you can learn in about 2 months or less if you take lessons (group or private) and practice consistently on your own. 500 yards is about 20 laps in a 25-yard pool which may seem daunting right now if you are not a swimmer. However, once you learn the basics of swimming and get comfortable with breathing patterns, you will find that your progress will improve over time. The cliché’ that comes to mind is ‘practice makes perfect’ but please don’t wait until you are perfect or you might be waiting a while! It’s ok to make mistakes and improve as you progress.
- The next step is to shop around for an event that is local to where you live. Here in Colorado, you will get the opportunity to pick and choose from many local events. A couple of great websites for local triathlons are http://www.trifind.com/co.html and http://www.trifind.com/co.html.
- Now let’s focus on the time commitment that you can expect to train for your first triathlon. It is a good idea to give yourself 12 weeks to train and get in shape to minimize your chance for injury. If you can train consistently for about 5 days per week to increase your endurance and train your muscles, ligaments and tendons to withstand the duration, then you will be well on your way. Assuming you are training 5 days per week, be sure to incorporate strength training in addition to the 3 main exercises of swimming, biking and running. You will want to build up your endurance over the 12 weeks to be able to do all 3 endurance activities for a longer duration of time by increasing the time incrementally. There are many sprint-triathlon training plans you can follow—one great source is www.active.com.
- So what equipment will you need? You will want to be prepared and equipped with the right gear:
- Swim suit, goggles, and a swim cap
- A bicycle that fits you and has all working parts. It can be a road bike, a mountain bike or a hybrid. You don’t need to buy a special time trial bike or triathlon bike unless you really want one.
- Biking shorts with padding (it is more comfortable to prevent soreness)
- A good pair of running shoes is a necessity. Proper fitting shoes can help prevent pain and injury in your back and knees.
- Cycling shoes are optional
Triathlons boasted more than 1 million registrants last year with 37 percent of those being females. It certainly is not only for athletes, and is a great way to lose weight and increase your endurance. Nutrition is also important when training for an athletic event, and the same basic rules apply: Portion control, balanced macronutrients, small ‘meals’ throughout the day and a keen awareness of which nutrients your body is needing is in order.
If you feel that triathlons are more than you can handle, I challenge you to challenge yourself and do something outside of your comfort zone to improve your endurance, strengthen your heart and lungs and overcome any self-limiting beliefs you may have. Anyone can complete in a triathlon and you can too!