1. Join a club: Not to scare off those who are new, but that is quite a lot to learn when starting into triathlon. Whether it’s the gear, the training schedules, little things like changing a bike tire, or just camaraderie to get through the tough days, there’s a learning curve involved. Although joining a club may seem like a bit of a cost up-front, the amount of training support and advice you can get from coaches and team members is way more than you could afford to get from books or even online coaching. Consider it an investment in advance to start training with a group. The one challenge is you will want to adjust your schedule around the activities of the club, but don’t feel like you have to attend every session. Rather, train with the club when it makes sense, and use advice and support garnered there to also go out on your own. Most clubs will also have a Facebook page where you can pick up lots of advice, ask quick questions, or start picking out goal races. Your provincial/state or national triathlon association should have a list of sanctioned clubs, such as Triathlon Ontario where I am.
2. Have a priority: There aren’t enough hours in a day for you to excel at all three sports at once. I highly recommend when starting off with triathlon you prioritize one or perhaps two of the sports. This becomes the one where you are careful not to miss sessions, or where you add an extra session if you’re feeling well. For me this season it’s swimming, which means 5 swims a week versus 3 rides and 3 runs. Likely your priority will be your weakest sport, however, you may choose to prioritize your favourite of the sports to keep the joy and passion for the work. This isn’t going to mean you won’t improve at the other disciplines as well, it just means that you are targeting where you will approve the fastest.
3. Listen to your body: No matter what your training or race schedule says, you need to listen to the aches and pains to know when you have tipped the balance for healthy stress on the system, to injury. When those injuries arise it will sabotage all plans, so the best injury plan is prevention. This means being willing and able to take a break when it’s needed, changing your plan for the following day, or reaching out to your local physiotherapist. One of the biggest issues is simply being honest with yourself as you will know when something hurts in all the wrong ways, so admit it and address it. The best way to increase your likelihood of finishing your goal race to start at least make it to the start line, which won’t happen if you don’t listen to your body.
4. Don’t worry about equipment: Every website, magazine, and local triathlete will have ideas and advice about all the newest and greatest gear (yes, including this site). However, the best plan to get started is to ignore all of these until you at least get going. Swim with board shorts, bike on a mountain bike, run in whatever running shoes you already own. Really, the key is to just start training. As you progress in your training you will begin to understand your own needs and priorities for new gear. The right gear for now is what gets you across the finish line, worry about the best and brightest once you begin searching for those marginal gains. That said, comfort and quality of the race experience can improve quickly with several small additions such as a tri suit versus bike shorts, a race belt, and the right hydration setup.
5. Have fun: This is a hobby. This is how you are spending your free time. If the training isn’t fun then it won’t last, I guarantee it. So, think about the type of training that is going to be fun for you. I do all kinds of things outside of my regular plan to keep it fresh. Run with a friend who is slower than you just for the company, do a fundraising bike ride, swim with your kids, volunteer at a race instead of racing. Or, more simply, do more workouts without watching your time or pace. Maybe having fun means you don’t run outside when the weather is bad, or maybe it’s the opposite, and it means you don’t run on the treadmill. I did yoga consistently for five months before realizing I wasn’t enjoying it. So, even though it was good for me, I dropped it…I wasn’t having fun. This is your free time, so be selfish and make sure you enjoy it!