Congratulations! You’ve decided to sign up for your first triathlon!  You are about to embark on an awesome journey that can be so empowering and rewarding. This article was created to help you set yourself up for success.  Here are the Top 10 Tips for First-Time Triathletes.

  1. Stay Local – For your first race, seek out one that is close to home.  Being able to stay at home and drive to the event on race day morning takes a whole lot less thought and preparation than thinking about packing up the car, figuring out what amenities you will have at your hotel room and sleeping in a strange bed. It’s also helpful if you can practice on the race course prior to the event.
  2. Start Small – One big mistake some first-time triathletes make is starting out for a half or full Ironman. While that is possible, it may not be the smartest route to go.  Instead, start with a sprint or a super-sprint. Practice at those smaller distances and gradually work your way up to the longer events, if that is your desire.
  3. Keep it Simple – In the world of triathlon, there are a multitude of gadgets, gizmos and equipment all designed to help you perform your best. It’s quite easy to spend a small fortune on all the latest and greatest!  However, you don’t need all that.  As a first-timer, keep your equipment to a minimum.  Swim suit, goggles shorts, shirt, bike, helmet and running shoes. Everything else is gravy.
  4. Train Smart – Once you’ve signed up for your event, you might think you need to start training like a maniac. That’s really not true for a sprint triathlon.  In fact, if you are training properly, five hours a week is plenty of training to get you through to that finish line.  Instead of volume, focus on targeted workouts with a specific goal.
  5. Take Rest Days – Another common mistake first-timers make is that they don’t take days off. Science proves that your body needs time to recover from the training stress.  This means a day off each week (for most athletes). On your day off, you should do nothing of major physical exertion.  Home projects count!  It’s one thing to do laundry on your day off and an entirely other thing to rehab your deck! Take days off.  Your body does not get stronger during hard workouts, it gets stronger by recovering from those hard workouts.
  6. Practice Transitions – Transitions are considered the 4thDiscipline of triathlon. The time in transitions still counts for your total time in the race, so you need to practice every aspect of them.  In the simplest way, you can set up a bucket of water to get your feet wet, set up your bike and how your will put your things in transition and then practice going from swim (or just getting your feet wet) to bike to run.  For more information on how to set up for fast transitions, check out this video on YouTube:  How to Set up For Fast Transitions.
  7. Pacing Counts – As in any race you want to try and keep a consistent pace throughout each discipline in your event. In other words, it doesn’t do any good for you to take off in the swim like gangbusters for the first 100 yards only to be too gassed to put forth a steady effort for the rest of the swim.  The same applies to the bike and run.  Understand the distances you will be competing in and then work towards a pace that you can keep steady for the duration of each.
  8. Add Strength Training – Strength training can play a significant role in your racing.It doesn’t need to be long sessions, heavy weights or even lots of weekly sessions.  In fact, just two 30-minute sessions a week can provide great value if the proper exercises are performed.
  9. Block Out the Noise – Unfortunately, when other triathletes hear you are preparing for your first one, they want to start giving you tons of advice. Worse yet, you go to a triathlon Facebook group and start posting questions.  The problem with this is that the majority of triathletes really have no business offering advice and you will get tons of conflicting information leaving you in the very same situation you started with.  Find a coach, mentor or training program and listen to (or follow) that one source.
  10. Find a Friend – Search out someone to do the race with you. Better yet, join a local triathlon club.  Sure, you can do this on your own, but it can be much more fun and beneficial when you are going through it with a friend.  That friend can keep you motivated and held accountable on days you need to train and just want to sit on the couch.  This friend can also help you celebrate your accomplishments along the way.

Training for and completing your first triathlon is a big deal.  It will challenge you in ways and teach you things you didn’t know about yourself.  Be sure you set yourself up for success when you train for your first one.  I have also created a video on Training for Your First Triathlon.  If you need help of have any questions, feel free to contact meand I’d be happy to help you.

Train Right, Tri Right,

Coach MJ


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