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Advice for New Triathletes

Y’all submitted some great advice for newbie triathletes this week. SUCH great advice! So many of you have asked for a pure post for beginner triathletes (or those who are teetering on the edge of tri-ing).

Here it is! As much goodness as I could squeeze into one post. And when you want “more”… just follow the links in the post. Enjoy!

First SBM Advice: If you are size of small whale,
do not buy Whale Named Wetsuit.

“Your” Advice to Your Newbie Friends:

Amy: 1st piece of advice…to have fun! 2nd, your body is more powerful than you think, don’t hold back-you will be surprised by what your body is capable of! 3rd-make sure you find time for stretching, putting 3 sports together requires training, lots of people choose to skip the time for stretching, it is SOOOO important and can help prevent injuries! πŸ˜‰ NOW GO OUT THERE AND DO A TRI!!!!!!
Tim: Above all else, believe in yourself.
April: Lay out all your transition items and do a mock run thru (both mentally and physically) so you know how to put things on in order. Bike helmet first or socks/bike shoes first? I use a small golf towel on my bike because when my nose starts to run, and my tri suit is wet, it is nice to have a dry towel to use.
Brenda: β€Ž”Don’t be upset by the results you didn’t get with the work you didn’t do”.
Jill: Stay calm, trust yourself, be grateful for what your body is capable of, smile and always, have fun!!
Danielle: Regardless of how fast you are or how slow you are, remember when you toe the line, It’s My Race, My Pace.
Kandi: Always Remembers – the last one over the finish line… sitting on their ass on the couch!
Abbie: Beware, triathlon races are highly addictive!
Kelly: Guaranteed you are not the only first time triathlete in your first race!!!!!
Kimberly: PRACTICE open water swims! πŸ™‚
Karen: Train with supportive friends whenever possible, enjoy the journey, and make it an expression of gratitude for a healthy body, mind, and will. It will make you an even stronger mom! πŸ™‚
Robyn: Just click “register”.
Abigail: Train as much as possible, this isn’t every min of the day. but train as much as your body is capable of while making sure you rest xxx
Kandi: You will never know your limits unless you push yourself to them….so push on!!!
Amy M: Try (or TRI) out every new “equipment/gel/food/technique/gear/clothing” you want to use on race day BEFORE race day. No going out to that fancy new restaurant the night before a race to “carbo” load.
Mickey: Practice transitions & practice swimming in open water *before* the race; the swimming pool is not the same.
Melissa P: Swim, swim, swim … try some open water work outs if possible!
Laura L: β€Ž”Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are usually right.”. Henry Ford.To “train” your mind and gain the confidence to know that you CAN do this!!!
Lori: My best advice is to find a coach or a training group. The information you learn from seasoned triathletes is invaluable!!
Jennifer: Find like-minded people – otherwise, you’ll risk alienating your friends and family with detailed discussions of transition times, bike splits, fartleks, etc. (It also gives you a nice social outlet possibly for training)
Kacie: Practice sighting when you swim…you don’t want to get off course and have to work extra hard to get back on track!
Marison: Make time the morning of the race to do a walk thru of the T1 & T2 – start the walk thru from the swim exit, look around for visual aids on the best route to get to your bike and then the bike exit – bike in and the run out. I always do this for every race and it helps to know where you’re going, especially when your heart is beating a mile a minute!
Holly B: I still am a newbie, so from one to another I would recommend smiling as much as possible. People will smile back, you’ll feel more relaxed and immediately supported. Other newbies will appreciate the friendly attitude too. Once the idea of triathlon is more comfortable, you’ll be ready to tackle getting faster and more competitive without freaking out about that stuff at first.
Amy P: Pack your transition bag the afternoon before so you know you have everything! Baby powder is great at drying feet after the swim. Know the entrances/exits of the transition area and at what point you can mount/dismount the bike. If you can volunteer at a tri before you do one, that will give you a great perspective. On race day- have fun!
Erin L: Just keep swimming…just keep swimming…
Joelle: My advice is to enjoy the process. Have fun and celebrate each and every accomplishment, even the little ones. Find a training buddy if you can. It is more fun to train with a friend and encourage one another.
Sara Relax. Get from the start to the finish. It will all be ok. That’s my mantra when I tri. πŸ™‚
Joanne: I was told this before my first Ironman last fall: “Relax and enjoy the event. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.” I followed his advice and I had a really good day! And I’m now an Ironman πŸ™‚
Trish P: Stop worrying about how you look in your tri suit/shorts etc! :)(this is a Swim Bike Mom favorite… thanks to Slow Fat Triathlete author, Jayne Williams!)
Kelly K: Bike / Run bricks! And have fun!
Luke H: Two things: never pass up an aid station and make your longest workout ~20% beyond race distance for each discipline
Coach Carrie: Only compare yourself, to yourself.Unclip your foot before stopping!
Have a packing list for races so you don’t forget anything.

Remember you helmet when you drive to meet up for a ride (seems like a “duh” thing, but I just did this)
Olivia It’s amazing how hard a little run can be after a ride.
Beth: I’m doing my first tri this May. Best advice so far is from this blog–don’t worry about what you look like. I had been wearing cotton T shirts and I gave that up for the tighter technical shirts–they show off my belly rolls but they’re much more comfortable.
Laura B: Practice transitioning! (Related advice: invest in a belt for your race number (a safety pin stabbing can really ruin your transition, not to mention your day) and dry your feet off well!)
Lori: Find a coach or a training group. The information you learn from seasoned triathletes is invaluable!!
Sara: When [you hear] “go” on the swim start, count to 10 before you start. It will relax you and keep you calm while the thrashers get all thrashy. Take a few breaths, count to 10. Then go, smooth and calm. The rest of your race will feel so much better if you don’t get all crazy adrenaline rushy on the swim!
Emily S: I’m heading into my first tri season, so I’m soaking all the advice in. But I think the best advice I’ve picked up so far is to swim/bike/run your own race, and stop comparing yourself to everyone else. This will be my biggest challenge, for sure!
Tonja: These are YOUR races, don’t worry about what you look like or what kind of equipment you have. Practice with the items you’ll be using on race day and MOST importantly…HAVE FUN…you’ve trained for this and you ARE ready!!!
Rick: Invest in a Heart Rate Monitor because as a “Newbie” when you read or are told RPE (Rate of Perceived Effort) should be a 7 or a zone 3 you are not really sure what RPE feels like. [So having a heart rate monitor] will tell you what ZONE your HR is in
Louise R: Practice transition, it can make it or break it!. Go through your transition in your head as you lay your things out. I always have a towel on the ground to wipe my feet so that there is no sand or other yuck on my feet before I put my bike shoes on. I also do not wear socks on the bike or depending on the length of the run I don’t wear socks then either. I did on my 70.3 but, not for shorter Tris
Katie D: I have 2. To me they are equally important.
1) Don’t wear a one-piece tri suit for your first race! It will be really hard to take it off to pee, and you will be nervous. Or you could just go in the water. [SBM Note: I like one piece suits because they don’t ride up… so I suggest that if you wear one…you can just pee through your one piece tri-suit while sitting in the grass! :)]
2) Practice open water swimming with your wetsuit on before the race – like, days and weeks before, not minutes! It can turn into a horrible neck choking, chest constricting, arm tiring nuisance if you’re not used to it. And, of course, HAVE FUN!
Steve V: Just remember your training. You’ve logged the miles and done the laps so you are an athlete. Just go out and do it! Plus NOTHING new on race day!
Jenny: Be sure to practice the transitions, it makes the race a lot smoother if you have those down. Overall, just enjoy your first Triathlon! The races are a lot of fun and you are sure to meet many people who are in the same boat as you!
Kelly: Bricks. Learning that your calves are not actually going to tear open when you start running after the bike was a big lesson!
Bricks Training Momma: Get in open water several times before race day – it can be a daunting experience your first few times out! And, for me or anyone else that has nervous stomach – eat race morning, but get up early enough to eat and let it process – I generally eat oatmeal 2 hours before, a banana an hour before, and then a gel 15 minutes before – my stomach is a crazy mess with each race, so I find a firm tested, and tried routine is necessary – find a routine before race day (morning workouts on weekends) and find what works and stick to it!
Karen: Cold water can be shocking, especially if you have only trained in a pool. My first triathlon I panicked in the frigid water. If the water is chilly, before your swim wave starts, go in waist deep, bend over and put your face in the water(much like when you wash your face)and blow bubbles. I know it sounds so silly, but it gets your body/lungs ready for the cold without shocking your whole system. 2. Pack the night before your race and then repack/recheck in the morning. I always forget something. 3. Pack at lease two sets of goggles. One w/ smoked lenses if you will be swimming into the sun and one without! Decide when you get there which ones to use.
Ara My very first triathlon was a run/bike/swim order. If you’re doing a sprint triathlon & are going from being totally non-athletic (like me) to being athletic, I think the run/bike/swim order is awesome! My 2nd triathlon ever was a spring swim/bike/run order and the swim got me. I was super slow. Not sure why. But overall, just be satisfied with your finishing time. Go in to the triathlon just wanting to finish. P.S. Watch out! Triathlons become addicting…in a good way! You wanna just keep doing ’em![SBM Note: I agree – that was my first tri format also! Took the anxiety out of the swim.]
AJH: My advice as a newbie….. know you can do it. I am taking private swim lessons to help me get over some of my fear of the swim.
Kim H: I’ve seen it already, but probably the best advice I took to heart for my first last year was to practice in the open water. I would say (if able) even go to the place where you will be swimming (that’s what I did)! Had a panic attack on my practice, but was relatively relaxed during the tri! And, of course, have FUN! Be proud that you are DOING it!
Sarah: I just started tri, but the biggest hurdle for me was: just starting. So my advice is – do not put it off, just do it, you will like it, it will be amazing. Go to the pool – it seems like a hassle, but it will become a habit. Get on the bike, whatever one you have. Run, walk, run/walk, however you need to cover the distance. Just do these three things.
Jodi N: Time management! This sport is time consuming and it’s important to remember that family and friends come first. THEY will be your support system when the going gets rough, and it will. You are not a full time triathlete, but you have and need your wife/husband/friends. Don’t let the thrill of racing sidetrack you from what’s REALLY important.
Ryan C: Consistency…… the key to fitness is consistency
Hawley: Win from within…… matter what your equipment if you don’t commit to training success is iffy.
Brian: Use the water bottle all day, every day. See how many times you can empty it in a day.
DonJaque: Don’t set unrealistic goals, or you will find yourself beating yourself up when its over. Finishing is the greatest goal of all.
Issac: The swim is the biggest challenge for the newbie. To get used to the mayhem spend some time doing laps in the “free swim” section of the pool, not in the lap lanes. This will teach you how to sight and deal with unexpected swimmers bumping into you. If you can keep from getting angry and frustrated at all the disrupted swimming and still get in some meaningful yardage, then you can deal with swim leg.
Kim: Maybe not so much advice as useful info. If something should happen on the swim, it is legal to swim to a guard and hang on (to board/boat) until you get sorted out, as long as you make NO forward progression. I did not know this when I started and know several people who had issues on the swim and did not continue when perhaps they could have. I myself got kicked in the throat during a swim and had to do this. I was able to hang on until I could breathe, then was able to finish the race. I then channeled my frustration into one of my fastest run splits ever.
Greg: Train yourself to train in the AM, your success will not hinge on how hard to train, it will hinge on your ability to fit training consistently into your life without feeling selfish. 5AM is the one time of your life you can do that. Then you will train more, enjoy it more, and as a bi product, be more successful and enjoy it more.
Mark B: practice the swim more than you you think you need. expect contact from all sides, front and back, unless you choose the outside and swim the further distance.

Thank you all for your AWESOME advice! In case you didn’t notice, the recurring theme for new triathletes is: get in the open water! Agreed.

Now, here is the SBM Quick & Dirties.

Swim Bike Mom Quick & Dirty Advice for New Triathletes:

  • Be brave, be bold and make declarations that you can and will meet your goals.
  • Find a race, any race and pay the registration fee. Set your goals early. Imprint the goals in your brain. (Yes, imprinting…Triathlon is your Renesmee.)
  • Before you step butt on your bike, get some chamois (padded) shorts. The Queen will thank you.
  • Believe. Create a space for yourself. Then, work your ever-loving tail off. Train hard. Harder than you believe you can.
  • Get fitted properly for shoes and a wetsuit.
  • Lube up your entire body (including the Queen) before any long ride or run with Bodyglide, Aquaphor or TriSlide. Your inner thighs and other slightly rub-bier parts will thank you.
  • Get a Fuel Belt for your longer runs.
  • Learn how to change a tube on your bike.
  • Most of all: do it because you love it. Or, do it to show someone you hate that you are better than them. However your motivation begins… it’s still motivation and that’s good. Eventually, you will be tri-ing for yourself, and that’s the good stuff.

My Triathlon Journey in a Nutshell:

As many of you know, I started tri-ing in October of 2010 with a horrific first triathlon event. For the new readers, I thought I’d give you the list and the lengths to my triathlon journey. The posts may inspire and horrify… but at least you know that someone has been through it… and probably with significantly less grace than you will! [If this is too much reading for you, the YouTube summary is here.]

You can read about my first triathlon here and witness the horror in pictures. Still, I kept moving forward with a 5k here and another 5k there. Then I entered the land of purchasing a wetsuit (horrifying), and then a panicking first open water swim (you may or may not want to read about that nightmare here). But little by little, over the course of the year… I learned to run longer distances.

Peachtree Road Race, 2011

You can read about my poopy milestone 8 mile run here, my crying 10 mile run here, and the first time I ran 13.1 miles (when I should have only run 11) here.

I had amazing highs in training, but then I failed many (many) times. Over and over again, actually. I hurt myself. I ate too much and went to war with my fatness (constantly) and more times than you want to read. I had good races, and horrific races.

I broke down mentally, when life broke my family down. I wanted to quit. I talked myself out of quitting, and I revamped my obsessions into positive energies.

And after moving forward for over a year, I found myself… changed.

The Expert and I finished an Olympic distance race, St. Anthony’s, a handful of other triathlons here and there… training until we finished a half Ironman, just a year after starting.

Then I signed up for another half Ironman, and broke my foot (5th metarsal, two places) only 8 weeks before the race (which is where I sit now).

Of course, my best advice is to stay mentally strong and… just keep moving forward.

Swim Bike Mom and the ladies from GOTRIbal.
Sporting new gear from Bia-Sport, a fabulous triathlon community for women!
We’re a community of people who will love you. Trust me. Come play.
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One Comment

  • Steven

    April 25, 2013 at 5:25 am

    I remember when I first started running, I was so nervous that people would judge if I didn’t accomplish certain miles. It was stupid because as soon as I met up with the people from my group, I realized how supportive they were, and how their support had helped me get through the miles… Really thankful for your blog for this..


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