Looking back on my first mini triathlon (also known as a sprint triathlon) in 1983 I can honestly say I didn’t have a clue. Of course the sport was so young then, very few people did. Training for a mini triathlon can be fun and rewarding, but a little preparation is crucial before you set out.
I knew triathlons entailed swimming, cycling and running but that was about it. And frankly, I wasn’t even sure about the order of the events. Made sense to me that the swim would be last (which it is in some events) because you’d have a chance to cool off after a hard bike ride and run!
I’ve learned a lot since then and of course there is lot more information available to “would-be” triathletes than there was then. So, how would I train for a mini triathlon now if I didn’t have any experience? Here are 4 tips that I recommend:
1. Since the swim is what worries most newbies perhaps the best place to start is either with swim lessons (if your swimming is terrible) or join a master’s swim group. Swimming, more than cycling and running, depends on good form so if you start with good form, you can build the strength and endurance easily.
2. While you see all kinds of bikes out on the course in local mini triathlons it’s really best to get a good one. Yes, you can spend upwards of $20,000 on a fully decked-out bike but it isn’t necessary. Go to your local bike shop and ask if they work with triathletes. If they do, ask them about bike brands and size for you. Scour the internet and get a good used bike. THEN, take your bike back to the same shop for a thorough tune-up.
3. Doing well on the bike is all about getting miles in your legs. Personally, I love my CompuTrainer, but a simple bike trainer can work well too. Do at least two sessions of at least 30 minutes on your trainer each week and one on the road – which should be your longest effort (between one and two hours).
4. Be careful doing too much or running with too much intensity in the beginning. This is where many triathletes get injured. Yes, you want to go out and tear up the world but there is a huge risk to this. Start easy if needed and walk/run if you have to – there’s no shame in it. As your running fitness improves slowly increase the intensity and distance. You don’t need to go long. 30 minutes to an hour and a half at an easy pace is quite enough.
Beyond that you should absorb lots of information. There’s a ton of it out there now whether it’s websites, magazines, or fellow triathletes. Talk to everyone. Volunteer at a local race. You’ll begin to build your own opinions, and confidence. Pretty soon race day will be here- and you’ll be ready to roll!