Beginner Triathlon: Avoid These Five Mistakes

Triathlon’s popularity has exploded in recent years. From single-sport athletes looking for a new challenge, to non-athletes interesting in using the sport as a vehicle for lifestyle change, every race sees first timers standing at the starting line next to veterans with years of tri-experience.

As coaches of a 500-member triathlon team, with nearly 20 years experience between us…we’ve seen it all. Rich is a former Team in Training head coach and the founder of the Pasadena Triathlon Club. Patrick started by leading triathlon classes at the local HealthWorks gym and running Masters Swim classes. In short, working with beginners was the foundation of our successful coaching careers.

We’d like to share our experience by telling you what NOT to do, and then offer you a free opportunity to jump several years up the learning curve.

Mistake #1: Investing in Gear, not Yourself
Three sports, each with its own complement of whizzbang expensive gear. Shiny magazines full of ads trying to sell you the latest carbon aero widget or supplement. For whatever reason, triathlon has a culture of buying speed rather than learning how to train and race more effectively. At the end of the day, it’s about the engine (YOU), not the $$$ parts hanging off of your bike. Invest in yourself, your tri-education and your fitness early on; Save the whizzbangery for later.

Mistake #2: Thinking the Swim is an Exercise in Fitness
You’re fit (or not), you can ride a bike and run (or not), so why is that 12-year old girl in the outside lane swimming laps around you?! Because she’s been swimming 1-2hrs per day, 5-6 days per week since she was six. She has the technique…you do not.

For you, swimming is not a fitness exercise, it’s a skill, like learning to play a musical instrument. Rather than just banging on the keyboards for an hour a day, with no idea what you’re doing, invest in quality swim technique instruction to maximize your time in the water.

Mistake #3: Waiting to Get Faster on the Bike
In our experience the bike is a very low risk activity: assuming your bike fits you, and you don’t crash, you’re just not going to injure yourself by riding too hard. There is no need to wait to begin getting much faster on the bike.

If you want to ride faster you need to ride faster and the time to begin is a soon as you throw your leg over the saddle and clip in. Work as hard as you can for as long as you can…then recover and repeat.

Mistake #4: Bringing a Running Plan to a Triathlon
It’s very common for new triathletes, especially those coming from a running background, to insert a run-only training plan into their weekly triathlon training schedule. If not that, then most try to hold on to the running schedule they’ve done for years, but now with the addition of cycling and swimming.

This approach is a surefire way to overtrain and risk injury. You’re training for a triathlon, not a 5k, 10k, or marathon. Ignore the addition of cycling and swimming into your training week at your own peril.

Mistake #5: Forgetting to Have Fun!!
Three sports, three sets of gear, how do I fit X number of workouts into only 5-6 days per week?! It’s very easy to get caught up in how much there is to learn and master, and to get stressed out and often obsessed with your first race.

We’ve got news for you: this is all just a game and it’s supposed to be fun.

Invest in your head, delay $$$ investments in gear, expect to make a LOT of mistakes in your first few races (you won’t be disappointed) and promise to laugh at yourself when you do!

For many triathletes, our multisport passion and pursuit of fitness merge into a singular pursuit: fitness as a lifestyle, not simply an exercise activity. Rather than meeting the boyz at the bar at 8pm on a Thursday, you now look forward to your Saturday ride or Sunday group run…your new social activity where you share your fitness lifestyle with like-minded adults.

Interested in learning more, in skipping several years up the learning curve, and in saving solid buck$ on high-dollar race entry fees?

We invite you to register for our latest FREE seminar: The Beginner Triathlon Seminar

Register & you’ll receive:

  • Nine seminar lessons, each with written, audio, and video content.
  • “Bonus” material: ebooks, webinars, and more
  • A 10% discount on any training plan.
  • Finally, a FREE Four Keys of Race ExecutionDVD, a $37 value! While you’re not yet an Ironman, you WILL turn a ton about triathlon race day execution…and did we mention that it’s FREE?!

Register today!

Sign Up for the Endurance Nation Newsletter!

* indicates required





AUTHOR

Coach P

All stories by: Coach P
8 comments
  • Chris Wilson
    REPLY

    Not sure it makes sense to say one cannot get hurt riding a bike as hard as one can on open streets. What about getting hit by a car? Hitting a walker/runner? Hitting another bike rider? Physical fitness includes sustainability – do the riding/swimming/running as if that menu of activity is something one plans to enjoy for 20 years. Plan around that, pls. Otherwise, lots of good thoughts here!

  • Chris Wilson
    REPLY

    Not sure it makes sense to say one cannot get hurt riding a bike as hard as one can on open streets. What about getting hit by a car? Hitting a walker/runner? Hitting another bike rider? Physical fitness includes sustainability – do the riding/swimming/running as if that menu of activity is something one plans to enjoy for 20 years. Plan around that, pls. Otherwise, lots of good thoughts here!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.