Triathlons: Make Waves, Get in Gear, Take Strides

June 30, 2009

Cycling in a triathlon

Humana's own Michael Seiler shares tips on getting started on the road to triathlons.

If you've ever seen a triathlon, you've probably found yourself inspired by people testing their physical and mental limits. You may have even thought of competing in a triathlon. Moving from inspiration to participation often can prove a daunting task. But making that move may be easier than you think.

About triathlons

Sprint triathlons offer an easy entry point into the world of triathlons. Triathlon distances fall into four basic categories:

  • Ironman – 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run.
  • Half Ironman – 1.2-mile swim, 61-mile bike ride, and 13.1-mile run.
  • Olympic – 1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer bike ride, and 10 kilometer run. That's a 0.93-mile swim, a 24.9-mile bike ride, and a 6.2-mile run.
  • Sprint – anything shorter than Olympic. Due to the shorter distances, sprint triathlons are often easier to find near your hometown.

Sprint distances are usually low key affairs with lots of beginners dipping their toes in the triathlon waters. Training for a sprint distance is much easier from a time-management perspective as well. Here are my seven tips for getting started:

  1. Find a group or training partner - Many cities have triathlon training groups. These groups are a great resource for information and tips from experienced triathletes. Training partners help me stay motivated to push myself but they also supply that little extra I need occasionally to get out of bed to train.
  2. Pick the right distance based on your strengths or weaknesses - Swimming is my weakest event. To get started, I looked for events that had shorter swims and longer bike segments. Visit TriFind to find races in your area.
  3. Focus on your weaknesses, but don't over focus - As a competitive cyclist, I decreased my riding time to pick up some additional time in the pool to strengthen my swimming.
  4. Get an equipment checkup - You don't need the latest and greatest gear, but make sure the gear you have is in good working order. For my first tri, I used my road bike versus the specialized tri bike I use now. Take your bike to a local bike shop for a checkup. Visit your local running store for shoe advice.
  5. Become a sponge - Once I decided to do my first triathlon, I read everything I could get my hands on related to triathlons and training. Two great sites to start with are Beginner Triathlete and Xtri.
  6. Set realistic goals - Be honest about where you're starting from and set goals that push you but are realistic. My goal for my first triathlon was to finish and be comfortable doing so.
  7. Have fun - This is my most important tip. Triathlons are hard work, but you should have fun doing it. Of course, get your doctor's OK before starting any training regimen.

Follow my seven tips and you'll be well on your way to becoming a triathlete. As a triathlete, you get all the benefits of cross training and the variety of having different workouts throughout the week. You are also participating in events that most of us did as kids. You'll be surprised with just how easy it is.

Warning: This can become addicting!

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