So You Wanna Be A Triathlete?

24 08 2011

Well that was some excitement for the week. I’m talking about that little earthquake the entire east coast felt yesterday! It was fascinating to see the power of social media as my Twitter feed was overloaded with messages about the tremors.

Yea, it was a bit crazy because earthquakes are something that the east coast so RARELY experiences. Thankfully, there wasn’t too much damage in my area! I hope you are all ok!

***And now back to your regularly scheduled blog post. ***

Since starting 321delish, Chloe and I have had a number of people tell us that they really want to get into triathlons. This is no surprise, with the ever-increasing popularity of the sport. USA Triathlon reports that participation in triathlon is at its all-time high. In 2010, an estimated 2.3 million individuals completed a triathlon, according to a report from the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. This is a 55% increase in one year! 55%!!!

Some of the people we talk to are runners, some are cyclists, some are swimmers, and some are just normal, active people. Many of them say, “So I can (fill in activity here), and I want to get into tris. What do I do?”

Though I’m not an expert at this, here are a few tips for people who are interested in getting into the sport.

1) Sign up for a race

I say this as the first thing to do, because it gives you something to work towards. Putting a date on the calendar is that first kick to get you started, because you know that you need to be as ready as you can by that date.

I would recommend signing up for a sprint triathlon as your first race, but you know your body and how hard you can/want to push it. Need some help finding a race? Check out Chloe’s post on race-finding tools.

Overwhelmed by the number of races? Consider the following when picking your first race:

a) Cost-Triathlons are EXPENSIVE! I would suggest looking for local, small races. You won’t hurt your wallet too much and the smaller races aren’t as intimidating.

b) Location– Where will you race? How long will it take to get there (and how much will it cost to get you and your bike there?) Will you need lodging? Again, I’m a fan of local races, or races in locations where I have a free place to crash. Yay races in South Jersey.

Or, if you’re up for it, make it a vacation that kicks off with a tri, and ends with you relaxing on the beach somewhere. Laurens doing Ironman Cozumel…I’d go to Cozumel but without the Ironman part;-)


c) Course– If you aren’t a strong swimmer, consider doing a tri with a pool swim, instead of an open water swim for your first tri. If you excel at riding hills, find a race with a hilly course.

d) Date/Time of year-There is no one-size fits all time frame for how long it takes to train for a tri. It really depends on where you’re starting from athletically, and what distance your race will be. Then, you can backwards plan your training. Be aware that triathlons require a decent chunk of time to train, so plan around your life accordingly 🙂 Also, think about when in the season you want to race- do you want a race in the spring, and train over the winter? Or do you want a late summer/fall race, and do the bulk of your training in the summer?

Whatever race you choose, just get one on the calendar. When you receive the “Thank you for registering” email, that’s when it becomes real.

2) If you’re already working out regularly-keep doing it! If you’re not, get started!

I personally don’t follow a training plan, but I did for my first tri, so I have a sense of how much running, biking and swimming I should be doing when I have a race coming up. I did my first tri with Team In Training, which provided me with coaching, a training plan, and of course training buddies! I highly recommend joining some kind of swimming, biking, running, or tri team if you thrive on training with others. Or, use the power of social media to find #triathletes in your area. They are great motivators.

And margarita drinking buddies:

If you’re going to go solo, do a little research and find a training plan. Here are some sites where you can download one:

Beginner Triathlete
Tri Newbies

3) Make sure you have the basic gear

You DON’T need to go out and spend a ridiculous amount of money on the lightest bike out there or the latest wetsuit design. All that stuff is expensive, and not necessary for beginners. Heck, its not even necessary for dedicated age-groupers. Just get the basics, and if you really get into triathlons (or win the lottery), you can get some of the fancy schmancy stuff that the pros use.

For me, here are the bare necessities:


Swim suit (train in this, but I don’t recommend it for your race)
Cap (they usually provide you with one at the race site, but you’ll need one to train in if you’ve got long hair)
Wet suit (Only if you plan on racing in cold water)


Bike shorts (Again, for training, not for the race)


Running sneakers
Workout clothes

Triathlon Specific gear:

I recommend getting tri shorts and a tri top. Not necessary for your first race, but you’ll be WAY more comfortable and have faster transitions than if you race in your swim suit and shorts!

4) Go have fun!

It’s your first race! Grab some friends early risers to come cheer you on. Enjoy participating in a competition with others who have dedicated just as many hours as you have. Feel that sense of accomplishment for doing something challenging, and persevere to the end! It will feel amazing to cross that finish line!

Philly, 2008: my first tri

Question of the day: Are you thinking of doing a triathlon? What’s holding you back? OR What suggestions do you have for newbie triathletes?