If you've ever wanted to train for a triathlon but didn't know where to start, you're in luck! No longer thought of as an exclusive club solely for elite athletes, triathlons are gaining in popularity, especially with women.
The experts behind training expo Tri-Mania (formerly the Multisport World Conference and Expo) shared their top tips with us so that no matter what your athletic ability, you can run, swim, and bike your way to the finish line of your first tri successfully.
1. It's okay if you only know one sport. "A lot of triathletes come from a swimming background and have since learned to ride and run," says professional triathlete Mirinda Carfrae. "Most people have some experience with one sport and are intimidated by the other two at first. And some triathletes are rookies all the way around." Whatever your case, as long as you put in the effort into each discipline, you'll make marked improvements, she says.
It's also a helpful rule of thumb to go short before you go long. Instead of aiming for the Ironman, try a sprint-distance event (400 to 500 yards of swimming, 11 to 15 miles of cycling, and about 3.1 miles of running).
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2. Enlist the help of a professional. Although anyone can complete a tri, the sport still needs to be taken seriously, says Laura Cozik, founder and CEO of Team Lipstick, the nation's largest all-female triathlon team. For a sprint distance, expect to put in at least a bike workout, a running workout, a bike-and-run combination workout, and two swimming sessions a week for about 12 weeks, she says, but added elements, such as open-water swimming, nutrition, and recovery, make it important to work with a pro coach. A good one will also help you avoid training fatigue or injury, and will keep both your specific athletic goals and lifestyle in mind when working with you, Carfrae adds.
3. Add "brick" sessions to your fitness plan. "For a lot of people, the hardest part about a triathlon is getting off the bike and running," Carfrae says. "You've been using your cycling muscles, so all of a sudden your body wants to stage a revolt." It's important to add brick sessions (a bike ride immediately followed by a short run) to your training plan.
4. Don't get discouraged. "If it were easy, everyone would do it!" says Jordan Metzl, M.D. "It's critical to remember that this is supposed to be fun and keep it that way."
5. Conserve your energy. Carfrae suggests putting in a light workout but conserving the rest of your energy for the afternoon and evening. "The day before a race, I like to do a short, easy session of each sport, just to get a good feel of my form. A good tip is to stop when you feel like you've found your rhythm but want to go further. This way you'll be chomping at the bit to get going the next morning!"