Your First Triathlon: A Beginner Tells All
For many of us, exercise plays a large role in our lives. We’ve figured out how to incorporate workouts into our bustling work and social schedules, from early morning yoga to lunchtime jogs to after-work lifting sessions. But perhaps you’re looking for something more than a 5k to challenge yourself, and I’m here to tell you that you can accomplish a triathlon. So you’re probably asking yourself: how do I make the time to train for this 3-sport event when I can barely find the time to go to Trader Joes or watch Modern Family? Now before I convince you that training is manageable with your current schedule, I want to briefly share my story of how I came to love tris.
I’ve always been a very active person, so imagine my distress when I tore my ACL and meniscus in a freak ski accident last year. The injury totally debilitated me physically and emotionally. I went from working out daily to limping around and going to physical therapy 3 times a week—meanwhile losing muscle mass and falling out of shape. My stress relief tends to include lifting heavy things at CrossFit, so without this outlet, I was a hot mess. I opted to rehab and strengthen my other leg muscles for a few months before I had surgery last July.
It wasn’t until the following February, when I was having drinks with my dear friend, Allison, that we discussed training. I had found a race in Maine that supported the Maine Cancer Foundation (Tri for a Cure) and was an all-women’s event. We decided to act on impulse, register, and then worry about the training later. Because once you’ve committed a bit of money to something, it becomes real. I’m here to tell you, however, that training was fun and I was never bored with the workouts because we had three sports to train for.
My suggestions for you:
1) Find a race that has a cause. Raising money for the Tri for a Cure was surprisingly easy. Registration was $75 and each participant had to fundraise a minimum of $350. Everyone from my fabulous ex-boyfriend to co-workers to cancer survivors pitched in, and knowing that 100% of the funds went to the Foundation made me feel like I was making a difference.
2) Do an all-women’s race. My first triathlon was one of the most empowering things I have ever done. It was such a fun and supportive group of women; the smiles and words of encouragement were endless. Of course some ladies were there to compete, but I felt extremely comfortable being in an all-women’s environment.
3) Be patient with yourself. Even though I grew up on a lake, I could not swim from one end of the pool to the other when I first got in the water. I was literally flailing around, coming up for air every other stroke. (And by stoke, I mean doggy paddle.) Allison immediately signed up for adult swim lessons and it was best decision she made. She learned technique and form, and it was very affordable at the public pool. It takes a while to build up your “swim muscles,” but by the 5th or 6th swim practice I could swim 6 laps without stopping.
4) Schedule you workouts. Just like you schedule meetings and happy hours, put your workouts on your calendar. I suggest swimming twice a week, and make sure you can swim a bit longer distance than your actual race distance. Most pools have early morning hours, and my public pool was open until 8pm on weekdays. Also, if your race is in open-water, sign up for an open-water swim practice. Super helpful! Secondly, it’s important to do a few double workouts so you get accustomed to the different legs of the race back-to-back. The most difficult is the bike-to-run portion. Your legs will feel heavy like lead–but just power through slowly; your body will adjust soon enough.
5) Complete, not compete. You do not need to finish top 5 in your race. Train for yourself—for your health and your own accomplishment.
Image from http://www.deaxlesports.com/images/triathlon_1.jpg