How to Prepare for Your First Triathlon

The inspiration for this post came from watching the movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.  Since I was home most of last week with strep throat, a severe sinus infection and the beginning stages of pneumonia, I had plenty of time to lay around and watch movies and reminisce about my first triathlon.

I decided to write a “How to” guide…How to Prepare for Your First Triathlon:

  1. If you really want to complete your first triathlon, you must make training a priority.  This will help you remain injury free and properly prepare you to toe the start line.
  2. Set aside time for your training…make an appointment with yourself.  You should spend a minimum of 30 minutes a week on swimming, cycling and running…that is only 1.5 hours a week.  (Training each discipline twice a week for a minimum of 30 minutes each is ideal.)  If you don’t think you have that much time to commit to training, take a look at how much time you spend watching television, surfing the internet, reading a book, etc.  I bet you can find more time to train for a triathlon than you thought.
  3. Determine your goals for your first triathlon.  Pick a distance that is realistic for the amount of time you plan to spend training on a weekly basis and how many weeks you have until race day.  I would not recommend picking an IRONMAN as your first triathlon 😉
  4. Build a solid base…if you have not been active or have little to no experience with one (or more) of the disciplines of triathlon, you may find it REALLY challenging (and risk injury) if you go out and swim a 1/2 mile, cycle 12 miles and run 3 miles (these are the rough distances for a sprint triathlon).  To help you successfully toe the start line of your first triathlon, you should research training plans, find a triathlon community, and/or hire a knowledgable coach to write a training plan for you.
  5. Incorporate strength training into your workout routine.  Strength training helps prevent injury, builds bone density, strengthens the joints, tones the body, and allows you to be strong and healthy on race day.
  6. Proper recovery is important…make sure to have days and weeks built into your training plan that are not as taxing on your body.  Recovery days and weeks will allow your body to repair itself stronger than it was before you broke it down with the tough training sessions.
  7. Practice, practice, practice…open water is different than pool swimming, swimming in a pack of people is different than swimming in open water, swimming in a wetsuit is different than swimming without one, transitioning from the bike to run often gives people jello legs, consuming fluids and nutrition on the bike and run are different than consuming nothing…anything that is new and different from what you have ever experienced should be practiced, so you have an idea of what to expect on race day.
  8. Find a triathlon community…it is great to have a community of people who will help hold you accountable to complete your workouts, people you can train with (especially for open water swimming and riding on the roads), people you can ask questions of, people you can talk to about what you are experiencing in training and racing, people you can talk with about gear, nutrition, safe riding and running routes, etc.
  9. Remember to have fun…your journey to the start line may be challenging at times, but it should almost always be fun and rewarding!!

TriathletesNow…who’s ready to do their first triathlon??????

8 thoughts on “How to Prepare for Your First Triathlon

  1. Great tips! I especially recommend finding a tri community or club. It helps so much to train with others… not only is it fun and motivating, you meet like-minded people who turn into lifelong friends 🙂 And, always remember to believe in yourself!

    1. So true Erin…I’ve meet some amazing friends, not to mention my spouse, through our running/triathlon community. Like-minded people and believing in oneself are a must!!

  2. I’m planning to do my first tri next year after Boston in April. Great tips and the poster is the bomb. I am afraid to admit the swim is so intimidating and makes me not want to do it, but really, why not just tri???? Thanks for the motivation/inspiration 🙂

    1. Thank you!! When you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen. In August of 2009, my husband couldn’t even put his face in the water, let alone swim. In September of 2011, he swam the 2.4 mile swim (followed by the 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run) and crossed the finish line by my side at Ironman Wisconsin. One of the most challenging and rewarding days of our lives!!

  3. Thank you for sharing – these are great tips. I am currently training for my first triathlon (newbie!) and welcome all the pointers I can get. Strength training and recovery days are two that I need to work on. Look forward to following your blog and your journey to Wisconsin!

    1. Thanks Kristen!! Even though I am married to the Iron Hippie, I always say that I am also married to triathlon…it is a good thing we are both so committed to triathlon and each other 😉 Triathlon is a WONDERFUL lifestyle and I wouldn’t trade it in!!

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