How to Prepare for Your First Triathlon

Have you been thinking about competing in your first triathlon? This is a goal I hear many people considering and once they finish their first race they are hooked! If you have never raced a triathlon before, it can be a bit daunting. Training for not one but three completely different athletic events takes time, effort, and determination however anyone can complete their first triathlon. Here are some of my top tips on how you can prepare for your first triathlon.

1) Set a Goal

Write down your goals and purpose for doing a triathlon. Writing down your goals will help to solidify your intentions to complete a triathlon. Take note of when, where, and what distance of triathlon you would like to start training for. There are many different types of triathlon races out there starting from “try a tri” distance all the way up to an Ironman event.

2) Sign Up For A Race

This strategy might not work for everyone, but I would highly recommend setting a date in advance of when and where you would like to race, and then taking the first step to actually sign up for that race. This provides a real, concrete goal to work towards. Once you put money on the table you may be a bit more motivated to get in shape and train! There is also a fear factor which works well for some people. When I had taken a hiatus from triathlon for many years, I was nervous and doubted myself that I would be able to race again. I faced my fears and signed up for a race a couple months in advance which helped me to stay focused, motivated and on a time line in order to prepare. Having a race in the future also helps you to have something to look forward to.

3) Get Some Basic Gear

The bike doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to work!

One of the things I love about triathlon is that there is something in it for everyone. You can go all out and spend thousands of dollars on gear, or get the basics on an affordable budget. You will see all types of racers and equipment at a triathlon event. I did my first triathlon using a 1970s 10-speed road bike. At races I see people competing with a range of gear, from rickety old mountain bikes to $15,000 carbon fibre speed machines. As your love for triathlon grows, you may find your budget grows as well. That being said, I recommend you start training with the basics:

  1. Swimsuit and goggles
  2. Bike and helmet
  3. Running shoes

That’s it! I bet you own most of these items already. There are a few minor additional items you will need for race day. Click here for my complete race day checklist.

4) Get A Plan and Start Training

Some of my best friends I have met through the triathlon community!

This is probably and not surprisingly the most important step. You have set goals, signed up for a race and gathered the proper gear. Now is the time to put a plan in action and start training to prepare. Throw your fears and excuses out the window at this point. One of the biggest excuses or fears I hear from people is “I can’t swim.” Another classic one is “I don’t have time to train.” With the making excuses mentality, you are bound to fail. We could come up with a million excuses to not do a triathlon which is why it’s so important to set goals and make a plan of action to stay on purpose. After all, a one hour workout it 4% of your day. No excuses!

Overcome your fears by facing the events you feel least comfortable in. For me, it used to be biking. I had an accident when I was a teenager where I fell off my bike, broke my elbow and chipped most of my front teeth. I had a fear of biking but with training and practice the bike is now my favourite event. You may want to focus on the event you feel least comfortable with and dedicating more training time to feel prepared whether it is the swim , bike or run.

There are many beginner triathlete guides on the internet and also written books and training guides. You may also consider joining a local triathlon group or swim, run or bike club. I trained successfully on my own for years however it can be more fun and motivating training with a coach and group. Some of my closest friends I met through triathlon and you will find that most triathletes are extremely kind, fun, and energetic people to be around. Training with a coach or club can also help to keep you accountable in your training.

5) Healthy Eating and Sleeping Habits

Training effectively depends heavily on your eating and sleeping habits. Make sure you are resting adequately in between workouts. Getting a proper night sleep can have a positive impact on your ability to get workouts completed and reduce injury risk. Fuelling your body with the right foods both before, during, and after workouts is also essential. Refer to the help of a dietician or nutritionist when in doubt.

6) Practice the Details

Work on refining the details before race day. A major part of triathlon involves transitioning in between the swim, bike and run. You want to make sure you have practiced this a few times beforehand. I have compiled a list of transition tips for triathletes in a recent post. You also want to make sure you have packed the right gear and nutrition before your race. Practicing and prepare the details beforehand will ensure you have less worry and stress on race day.

7) Have Fun!

This may sound totally cheesy, but make sure you are having fun with the process! Training for your first race should be enjoyable for the most part. Of course we all have our bad days. Don’t get down on yourself for missing a training day or having a rough workout. Part of the process is personal growth and pushing yourself to achieve something new. Try to enjoy the process and pick yourself back up when feeling down. Some days this is easier said than done, but try not to be too hard on yourself.

Race day is usually nerve wracking and this is totally normal. Trust in yourself, your training, and you will be amazed at what you will accomplish. There is nothing quite like that crossing-the-finish-line feeling. You may even catch the “tri bug” and will be itching to sign up for your next race afterwards!

Are you training for your first triathlon? Let me know in the comments!