Another summer triathlon season is upon us! As the sport gains popularity, I can’t help but get more excited every time a new friend or acquaintance tells me they want to try one out. When they ask how many I’ve done and I have to throw out a crazy number (20+ by now? In FOUR years.. #obsession) it can scare them, but telling them about starting with a casual sprint triathlon and how it can be done with limited workouts and only in a few hours usually eases their initial fears.
I’ve been starting to get asked a lot of questions, and I’m sure will begin to share some of my slightly helpful advice I’ve picked up over the past four years and counting, but some initial advice is as follows:
- Get Over Your Fear Of Swimming. This is probably the biggest barrier to entry. If you were a swimmer in grade school/high school/college, you’re probably well-versed. If not, find yourself a pool and start practicing at LEAST once a week. It doesn’t matter how long, focus on freestyle and swimming for at least 30 minutes. Triathlete.com features great workouts on Friday you can use as a guide. Once you get into a pool, find yourself an open body of water. Live Grit (our fav store in the Chi) and Chicago Triathlon (our main charity race) have clinics and can answer questions AND there’s usually 50-75 people in attendance, so you can emulate a race start and get over your fear.
- Practice. Practice. Practice. If you’ve got a big race at the end of the season coming up, maybe try to look up a low-key suburban race to practice your transitions, practice racing around other competitive people AND learning how to rack all your transition items properly.
- Find other races. If you’ve got a big race at the end of the season coming up, maybe try to look up a low-key suburban race to practice your transitions, practice racing around other competitive people AND learning how to rack all your transition items properly.
- In Other Disciplines. One way to force myself to constantly stick to my workout plans more often than not is to sign up for 5ks, 10ks, anything here or there to practice nutrition, waking up early, wearing any new(er) gear, and just checking in on how far I’ve come fitness-wise and what I might want to work on.
- Nutrition. This one’s important, especially once you start trying to get into half and full ironmans, or even a half marathon for that matter. Nutritionally, I have way different needs and my stomach can handle more on a bike vs running, there’s some gus I like and some that make me gag, there’s water for dumping on my body only and nuun for replenishing my electrolytes & nutrients. It’s taken a ton of practice and long workouts to figure out what works best day of and even night before & morning of.
- Nothing New On Race Day. If nothing else, never, I repeat, NEVER, try ANYTHING new on race day, especially a long race. Don’t wear those new shoes. Don’t wear those new shorts. Don’t try that new hot bar company you’ve just found out about. Don’t try to go sans-undies if you’ve never practiced… don’t DO IT (if you can avoid it). You will save yourself tears, stomachaches, chafing, and much much more.