August 30th, 2016

4 Tricks for Nailing Your First Triathlon

4 Tricks for Nailing Your First Triathlon

Tackle your first triathlon with the confidence of a pro. Here’s everything that you need to know to cross that finish line.

A triathlon might seem like a daunting (and expensive) goal, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, more and more exercise newbies are signing up for triathlons as way to dip their toes into several types of activities and see which ones they like the most. Thanks to shorter "sprint" triathlon distances, training for a swim, bike, and run can become a little more manageable. Ready to give your first tri a try? Here’s how to make it to the finish line in one piece.

1. Give Yourself Time to Train.

For a shorter triathlon distance, which is typically a half-mile (.8-kilometer) swim, a 12-mile (19.3-kilometer) bike ride, and 3.1-mile (5-kilometer) run, you’ll need at least 10 weeks to train. (It's important not to rush this part, especially if you're new to working out, because you don't want to hurt yourself.) Do a quick Google search on free training plans (there are tons!) to find a schedule that works best for you. No matter which plan you choose, your workouts will consist of doing two of the three activities, such as a run and then a swim, each day. You can choose to either do these exercises one after the other (known as a brick workout) or split them up by running in the morning and going for a swim after work. And don’t worry: Splitting them up doesn’t mean that you won’t be prepared for race day. This is often a more realistic training approach, and as long as you’ve logged all the necessary training miles, you’ll be able to do everything in succession come race day.

2. Don’t Break the Bank.

You don’t need to spend half your paycheck on gear, especially for your first race. Make sure that you have a bike helmet, running shoes, and a one-piece bathing suit. If you don’t already have a road bike, consider renting one at your local bike store before buying one. Choose one that has shoe cages instead of clips so you don’t have to also buy cycling shoes. If you want to wear a wetsuit, local swim and scuba stores may allow you to rent one or give you a deal on last season’s models so you don’t have to shell out a ton of cash on the latest wear. Other things you’ll need for race day:

  • Goggles
  • Swim cap
  • A sweat-wicking hat
  • Sport sunglasses that will stay on while you're active
  • Socks
  • Shorts or spandex bottoms
  • A lightweight, breathable tank top
  • Sport SPF
  • Shoe sac to house your dirty sneakers
  • Pack-It Sport™ Kit that can keep your sweaty race-day clothing separate from a clean, dry towel and shield you from germs and bad odors with its anti-microbial treated fabric

3. Eat Healthfully.

What you eat the night before your triathlon can play a big role in how you perform the next day. Aim for a balanced plate of complex carbohydrates, like whole grain pasta, topped with healthy fats and protein, such as grilled chicken and olive oil. As for what to drink: Skip the glass of wine or beer (since alcohol can often act as a diuretic) and stick to water, instead, to stay hydrated.

4. Start Slowly.

Between race-day jitters and the excitement of doing your first triathlon, you’ll be raring to go once that gun goes off. Prevent yourself from a major rookie mistake and go slower in the first half of your race and faster (if you can) during the second half. Though you might be tempted to try to get ahead early on, going too fast too soon will burn through your energy. Remember: Your number one goal during your first triathlon should be to simply complete the race. And if you finish feeling like you could have given it a little bit more—that’s just more motivation to sign up for your second tri!

Have you successfully tackled a triathlon before? Post your tips in the comments below!

Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog)

What to Pack for Your First Ragnar Relay Race

5 Incredibly Scenic (and Challenging) Running Trails

How to Survive Your First Half Marathon as a Couple

by Colleen Travers

Colleen Travers writes about health, fitness, travel, and women’s lifestyle for various publications.