triathlon for beginners

How to get in triathlon? Who can help me get in triathlon? Why should I get into triathlon? It seems to be the constant questions I’m often asked by all sorts of people, so today I’m going to answer those questions, but firstly explaining what it entails. Triathlon has been a rising fitness trend for a good few years, with epic tales like the Brownlee brothers doing incredible challenges, it’s no wonder everyone is becoming more and more intrigued. My husband got me into triathlon back in 2014 when I did the famous Blenheim Palace Triathlon, and since then I’ve been hooked on the multi-sport. I’ve also become somewhat of a promoter, telling everyone how fantastic triathlon is and that just trying a super -sprint distance is a great starting point. So let’s get into triathlon.

blenheim triathlon

So if you are here because you are intrigued by this popular activity, I’m going to give a break down of what it is all about. Firstly, if you aren’t aware, the sport is built of three separate activities, swim, bike and a run. You do one after the other with a transition in between, something I personally refer to as the ‘dressing up game’, where you need to quickly get out of the finished activity attire, to swiftly move into the next. You can lose a lot of time if you faff in transition, so it is alway a smart idea to practice that. Although depending on your distance sometimes your legs and arms feel a bit like jelly, and quite honestly won’t do anything you’re telling them to do!

The distances vary and here is a breakdown of that.

Super-sprint 400m/10km/2.5km

Sprint – 750m/20km/5km

Standard – 1500m/40km/10km

Middle- 2.5km/80km/20k

Long – 4km/120km/30km

Iron – 3.8km/180km/42km

Just to confuse you further there are also variations of a triathlon, for example if you absolutely hate swimming, whether it’s a pool swim or an open water swim, you can do a duathlon, which is run, bike, run. The same rule of thumb applies, so you’ll start the race running, then head to transition and get set up for your bike, do your cycle part, then return to transition to rack your bike and head off on the run. It’s the same mind set of a triathlon, taking each activity as comes, not overthinking what you still have left to do.

Duathlon – Run, Bike, Run

Aqualthon – Run, Swim, Run

Relay – Team – one does swim, one does bike, one does run

If you do want to get into triathlon and you’re okay in all activities, you’d be fine to do a super-sprint as this is nice and short, but gives you an idea of how it feels going from one activity to the next. I will say that if you want to be ‘good’ and get a decent time, or at least feel like everything is smooth, sufficient training should be included. There are small races that happen at local leisure centres, like one near me called the Derby Triathlon, where it starts with a pool swim and you give your estimated swim time for the distance prior. For me, I can’t deal with the idea of having to pigeon hole my swim time. I fear I’ll put that I’m too fast and be too slow, or I’ll put too slow and go too fast. You’ll be sharing your lane so it’s important to really know your swim. This is the reason why I personally will always trump an open water swim. I just can’t deal with the pressure of someone behind me, forcing me to go faster, or me behind someone else being put back because I’m going faster than I anticipated.

open water swimming

Whilst I am on the subject of open water swimming, it’ll come as no surprise that swimming in open water is very different to that of a pool. I’d strongly advise doing some separate open water sessions before doing any triathlon, regardless of distance, if that race has that as your swim portion. Even though you somewhat float better in a wetsuit, you’ll need to learn how to sight when you swim, as obviously the water won’t always be clear and you will often unfortunately come up against weeds. This is also why it is good to learn bilateral breathing when you swim, (breathe on both sides) as when you do an open water swimming race, you will head off in a pack, you’ll possibly get splashed and kicked, people will be close to you so it might make it very difficult if you breathe only one side. Having the option to breathe the other way is such a big bonus and will make your swim, and the experience far more enjoyable. If you feel panicked about the idea of all the other people, just keep yourself to back and let the crowd thin down. Most people will go off too fast anyways and you’ll end up passing them. I like to let everyone get out the way and then I can get into my swim rhythm and I’m normally around the middle of the group even when I kept myself right at the back.

If the idea of doing a triathlon straight away really scares you but you still want dip your toe so to speak, give Triathlon England’s initiative, Go Tri a go. These are events all over the country hosted in leisure centres where you can do a triathlon but on an exercise bike, in their pool and perhaps a run in the sports hall. It does give you that feeling of how a transition feels, like I was talking about but isn’t a race.

The main thing I feel is super important, is to enjoy it. I know that sounds daft as I always get so nervous before a race regardless of how prepared I feel, but if you don’t bask in the fun element, what is the point? Often we get wrapped up our times, and yes, I completely understand why that is, because I like to do well, but at the cost of enjoyment? Not worth it. I tell you something, I did the Huub Staunton Harold race last year, and I hadn’t really trained too hard due to injury (story of my life!) and I made my peace that, okay, I’m not going to break any records, and I pulled back, smiled at every camera, sang to myself as I ran around, chatted to everyone, and came away loving it all the more.

blenheim triathlon

So, if you are interested in this incredible sport, without sounding corny, try it. You don’t know until you give it a go. You may love it, you may hate it, you may even be better than you think. I’ve since joined a triathlon club called Race Hub, and I’ve joined people who just doing it for fun like me, but also those who are competing at the world championships, but being part of that community really helps. I got chatting to someone on Instagram who had done Blenheim Palace triathlon as their first race, like me, and has qualified for Kona six times in a row. Kona is the world championships of triathlon, so only the best of the best get to go – unfortunately I’m not of that amazing standard… but there is time! Ha.

Anyway hopefully those of you who requested a blog post about triathlon have found this somewhat useful, and hopefully I’ve inspired rather than put you off and you’ll finally get into triathlon in some fashion. Do let me know if you want me to cover an element in more detail and I’ll happily talk about it – after all I love triathlon!