Triathlon is on the rise. If you’re a cyclist, the multi-sport offers a range of benefits to compliment your training and, for longest part of the race, you’ll be sat on your bike so you’ve got a head start! But why should you get into triathlon, and where do you begin?
Sometimes, triathlon gets bit of a bad rap from cyclists. There are a few reasons for this: the rise in Cat 4 race disasters have been, in-part, attributed to multi-sporters lacking in bike handling skills, and let us not forget the contentious issue of the lack of sleeves. But make no mistake — triathlon is on the up every year. Here’s why, along with how to get started.
It’s Your Injury-fighting Friend
Out of the three sports, running is by far the guiltiest when it comes to causing injury. But whether you’re a runner, cyclist or swimmer first, going multi will enhance holistic strength and fitness and decrease your chances of being out for a season. What’s more, when you do pick up that inevitable niggle from one sport, you’ll have another two to focus on and, as most athletes can attest, this can be a life-saver.
“You’ll grow new muscles, meet new people and keep things fresh.”
It’s Great for Mental & Physical Fitness
Taking up another two sports means that you’ll do less of your main sport, which, if you’re a cyclist, will impact plans to specialise or race. If you’ve considered it, and you’re ready for the triathlon challenge, then welcome to a new world of supreme fitness. On the physical side, you’ll grow muscles in new places whilst, on the mental side, the variety will compliment your wellbeing on many levels, from meeting new people, to learning new skills and keeping things ‘fresh’.
Keep it Simple at First
When you’re just getting started, forget over-complication. The idea of all the new kit and unknowns around the race itself on a practical and physical level can be daunting, so just start with the ‘do’ attitude. Aim to do a swim, ride and run a minimum of one each per week if you are totally new to the multi-sport, or right at the beginning of your new training programme (which usually lasts between 3–6 months depending on whether you’re starting with a super-sprint or planning to go long). The ‘do’ attitude takes the headache away from getting going, which can be the hardest bit. But there’s one strict rule — decide which sessions you are doing and when, and avoid missing these sessions at all costs unless you are ill. Simply put, you don’t need to complicate it at first with zones, heart rate, power and perfect nutrition, just aim to get out there and swim, ride and run.
“At first, forget over complication.”
Getting Your Kit On
Increasing your kit three-fold can be expensive and confusing, but sites like Wiggle offer all the kit in once place for decent prices. Once you’ve got yourself the essentials you’re ready to go. You can build in the ‘nice-to-haves’ later. Most of the kit essentials are obvious, for example your bike, trainers and swim kit. Some of the overlooked items which are really handy for your kit list include ‘spit spray’ to stop your goggles steaming up in races, a pair of wetsuit gloves to keep your neoprene nail-free, a rub-stick to avoid chaffing during the swim around the neck area, a pair of elasticated laces, enabling you to easily slip your trainers on and off, and finally, a tri-belt, which will enable you to spin your number around without safety pin faff.
Finding Your Race
The temptation is to go for gold from the off. Whilst it sounds like an impressive idea to head straight into Iron distance races, there’s a lot to be said for building up to going long. Unless you’re not very fit, start off with a sprint distance (as opposed to a super-sprint) to get a gauge of transition and how you cope with ‘jelly legs’ (this improves with experience). Next stop, Olympic distance, and from there you can build up to a half Iron distance. These three distances will form the races within the plan for your full distance, which ideally will be undertaken from your second season of triathlon or later to ensure you get the most from going long. There are an ever-increasing number of races to choose from these days. New, local companies usually offer a more personal approach, whereby the branded races are more costly but provide crowds and atmosphere — it all depends on what floats your boat (and your bank balance!).
Keep Learning: Coaches, Clubs & Books
Once you’ve started your three sports, you’ve got the kit and you’ve ear-marked a race you’d like to aim for, consider social or training support. Triathletes tend to have very busy lives, so working with a coach can take the extra thinking stress out of your planning and provide unbiased feedback and support. Coaching is great for newbies because you’ll probably have a lot of questions and need some guidance in your first season. If the budget won’t allow, or you’d rather seek another option, then joining a triathlon club will get you face to face with lots of people willing to impart their experiences, and buying a decent triathlon book and taking it to bed every night will also be an advantage!
With all of these tips in mind, your key takeaway should be to adopt the ‘do’ attitude and just give it a try. It’s the best way to learn — you’ll be at your first finish line with a massive smile on your face before you know it.