5 training tips for beginner triathletes

Don't let the thought of getting started in triathlon keep you firmly rooted to the sofa. Here are our top 5 training tips for triathlon newbies that will help you start your journey of a lifetime...

Credit: Daniel Seex

01 Fitting in the training around work, family and social life


Work’s full-on, you have a busy family and social life, and then your buddy suggests you train for not just one sport… but three. You think it’s a good idea, and then realise something has to give. The good news is this proves you’re mature enough to assess your priorities, giving you a far better chance of managing them successfully.

When four-time Ironman world champion Chrissie Wellington was asked how long she trained per day, she would always say 24 hours because she viewed rest and recovery as integral to her performance as swim, bike and run. You’re not professional – yet – so you also need to factor in work, family and friends.

When highly motivated, the temptation is to cram too much into your training plan. Err on the side of caution and only schedule sessions that can realistically be achieved week-in-week-out. Talk it through with your coach, if you have one, and involve your nearest and dearest in the decision making as it will impact them too. Finally, accept that sometimes life will take over and the tri life might have to be put on hold for a while.

02 Cutting out all comfort food

The further your triathlon adventure goes, the more you’ll be swamped with adverts for a variety of nutrition products, multiple articles professing to strip all body fat, and clean-living recipes promising to supercharge your performance. The slice of chocolate cake that once only resulted in a bit of a sugar rush, now threatens to add 5mins to your run split. Disaster.

Firstly, you don’t have to cut out all comfort food. In fact, if you do, it could even be detrimental to performance. Like triathlon, food is there to be savoured, and depriving yourself of occasional treats will make you miserable, you’ll feel less inclined to train, and won’t enjoy racing as much. In this light, comfort food is vital. A general consensus among nutritionists is that variety is a good thing in our diets, so take advantage of the smorgasbord on offer in the UK.

Finally, you don’t need to be a scientist to figure out that the more you train, the more calories you’ll burn. Therefore, if ‘comfort food’ makes up 10% of your grub, you now need more comfort food… not less!

03 Feeling body conscious

“My biggest fear was getting completely starkers in transition in front of everyone,” says GB long-distance professional Joe Skipper. “My mum held a towel around me. I was 13 years old at the Waveney Valley sprint tri and changed into fresh kit for the two mile run!”

It would be hard not to feel apprehensive the first time you’re handed a one-piece spandex tri-suit that leaves no bump to the imagination, but while you may believe all eyes will be ogling you, rest assured the other competitors will be equally self-conscious and the spectators’ only interest is straining to grab a glimpse of their own loved one as he or she flashes past.

If you really can’t face the humiliation of wearing tri-kit, then there’s nothing in the rules to say you have to. In fact, as long as it’s safe, you can wear pretty much anything you like, and for longer distances – where transitions times are not so critical – many triathletes opt to change outfits.

Finally, whatever you wear, you’ll have to accept the post-race photos will look awful. They always do. Even world champions have to put up with that one.

04 Becoming a tri bore

How can you tell when you’ve met a triathlete? They’ll tell you. But eschewing the lame gags, it’s natural to be excited about your new hobby, and like any subject you’re excited about, it’s natural to natter incessantly. The conundrum is how you stop becoming estranged from your family and de-friended on Facebook.

First, give yourself a break. Becoming a tri bore is no bad thing for a while. Those that care about you will be happy you’re invested in something you love. And, surprise, surprise, tri-bores actually learn about the sport, and make themselves better triathletes in the process. If you find yourself still crowing about power output and lightweight running shoes in a few months, give the family a break and dive into the 220 Triathlon forum.

05 Training with hardcore triathletes

The nervous feelings of heading out on a group ride with cyclists in matching kit and shaved legs, or turning up on club night feeling a fraud, are not dissimilar to the emotions of lining up for your first race. See it as practice for pressure situations ahead. Everybody who has ever completed a triathlon was in your position once, and rather than being snooty about your lack of experience, you’ll find just how encouraging and welcoming everyone will be.

If you’re worried about your level, then understand that tri clubs are set up to embrace newcomers of all levels – or they wouldn’t exist! And before long the situation will be reversed and it’ll be you putting an arm around that nervous beginner.

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