When it comes to sport, my 2 favorites are Cycling and Triathlon.

I can still remember my first triathlon so clearly. I was part of a team (my team mates were in my Sport Science class at University), and one was a pretty good swimmer, the other a pretty good runner and I could ride a bike. I was 19 years old and I never thought that the experience would have such a huge impact on every single aspect of my life.

My work, my choice of wife, my friends, in fact nearly every aspect of my existence has been touched by the experience on that Sunday morning. That race was a Sprint distance and at the end of that race I knew that triathlon and I were going to have a long and exciting relationship.

My wish for you is to have an unforgettable first triathlon experience - just like I did, and develop the same, long lasting relationship with this great sport that I have.

These 10 pointers will hopefully guide you safely around the many obstacles that litter your path to your first event.
  1. Choose an event that you can commit to:
    The act of selecting an event and registering for it has an incredible way of amping up your motivation to get training. Whatever the source of motivation, you will be rearing to get the ball rolling once you have paid your money and are registered.

    Here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting and event:
    • Be realistic about your abilities - if you are not a strong swimmer, an ocean swim might not be the best the experience for your first triathlon.
    • Set a realistic training time line - select an event that gives you more than enough time to train is very important. 10 - 12 weeks is a good time frame for your first Sprint event, 16 weeks for your first Olympic distance event.
    • Destination events vs events at home - Doing races in other countries and cities are great fun, but there is a lot of additional stress associated with the travel, so for you first event, why not look close to home? Do an event in surroundings that are familiar and comfortable for you.

  2. Follow (and stick to) a training program:
    Having a training program is as essential as having an event to take part in. Your training program will lay out the direction your training needs to go in to ensure you reach the start and the finish line in the best shape possible, with the highest levels of confidence possible.

    Your training program should clearly and specifically lay out what each training session entails, at what intensity you should be working at, and over the course of the program, assign training volumes and intensities that are suitable to your level of fitness and your requirements.

    Once you have a program that meets your requirements, resolve to stick to it as closely as possible - consistency is the key to success.

  3. Avoid injuries at all costs: (Stretching, Yoga, Resistance Training, Program)
    Remaining injury free should be your first priority. With an injury, you are not taking part in any event, you will not be training and you certainly will not be finishing you first traithlon.

    • Pay very close attention to what your body is saying to you - if you have a niggle in your knee that seems to be getting worse, see Sports Medicine specialist.
    • Stretch after every workout for at least 10 - 15 minutes
    • Include Yoga and Resistance training in your training

    The primary cause of injury is a result of the individual doing to much to soon. This means the training program assigns to much training at to high an intesnity for the body to handle, which ultimately leads to breakdown (injury, illness, fatigue).

  4. Safety first:
    This applies to everything you do, whether it is how much training you are doing, ensuring you are riding with a helmet or taking in fluids while training, all of these examples will ensure you remain healthy and safe.

  5. What gear do I need?
    To get things started, the list is not really that big. These are the essential items you will need to get through the training, ad make it through race day.

    As you get more proficient in the sport, you will come across literally hundreds of items that can be purchased, but for now, the following will do just fine:

    • Swimming:
      • costume (not a pair of baggy shorts)
      • swimming cap
      • swimming goggles
    • Cycling
      • A bicycle that has been thoroughly checked and serviced (what are the different types bicycles available?)
      • Cycling helmet (make sure it has approval from Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
      • A pair of cycling shorts with chamois between the legs.
    • Running

  6. You are only as strong as your weakest link
    For most of us the swim will be our area of weakness (it is mine), but if you have a background in swimming, the bike or the run might prove to be the challenging discipline.

    Whether it is the swim, bike or the run, dedicate a little extra time to improving your performance.

    If you struggle with the swim, I highly recommend getting some professional coaching from a qualified swimming coach (steer clear of family and friends if possible)

  7. Stay hydrated all day - every day
    Water is essential to our survival and our ability to function optimally on a daily basis - both during training and during everyday activities.

    With an increase in the amount of exercise you are going to be doing, you can expect to lose a greater volume of water throogh sweat, and this means you will have to replace it. This can, and should, be done while you are exercising, but rehydration should take place throughout the day, every day.

    Dehydration not only has a number of health consequences, but it has an enormous impact on your ability to preform optimally during training. So keep taking in fluids, and I also recommend an electrolyte replacement.

    I have been using Elete Electrolyte Replacement products for 2 years now and highly recommend their range of products

  8. Knowledge is power
    Become a student of the sport.

    Read and learn as much as you can about Triathlon, its 3 disciplines and everything associated with them. This will give you knowledge and this knowledge will ultimately make you a better athlete.

    The fact that you are reading my Blog means you are on the right track.

  9. Did you know there is a fourth discipline in Triathlon
    Yes, you heard me correctly, there is a fourth discipline in Triathlon and it is nutrition.

    I am talking more specifically about your food and fluid intake during training and racing. It is said to be the fourth discipline because it something that requires a little of practice and it can really make or break you on the big day.

    Think of your bodies energy stores like the fuel in a car, you can get so many miles on a tank, but when you are out of gas, you are not going anywhere fast. You could free wheel down a hill, but without putting more fuel into the tank, don't expect to reach your destination fast.

    Carbohydrate energy stores last for roughly 45 minutes before they become depleted, so the trick is to start replacing spent energy before you hit empty.

    This is easily done by taking energy gels, power juice and energy bars, all of which contain carbohydrates and perhaps some electrolytes - all designed to keep you moving forward as fast as you like.

    Keep in mind that what you put in is what you get out, and if your daily nutrition is poor, you cannot expect your body to deliver on race day. Fueling for Fitness will ensure you get all the essential nutrients in your diet and will make you a mean triathlon machine.

  10. Arrive early
    On race day day, be sure to arrive at the race with sufficient time to do all your pre-race preparation.

    There are a number of things you will need to be done before the race begins, so ensure you have sufficient time to

    • have breakfast (at least 2 hours before the race begins)
    • drive / get to the event
    • sign in , get your timing chip and your body marked (numbers written on your calf, arm and thigh).
    • set up your gear in transition and make last minute checks
    • warm up thoroughly
    • visit the washroom
    • complete a swim warm up
    • get to the swimming start line

    By allowing sufficient time before the race, you will minimize your levels of stress, and be sure that if anything untoward does occur, you have enough time to deal with it.

    Rather be standing around for 30 minutes than arrive when the starting gun goes off.
I know these tips will make your race day experience an unforgettable one, and if you implement these guidelines, you will certainly realize the goals you have set for yourself.


James Greenwood holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. He is the resident health and fitness expert at mypypeline.com, and has starred in a number of general fitness and multi-sport specific fitness videos. And if that isn't enough, James is level 1 Triathlon Coach and a competitive multi-sport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. James will not accept your excuses. He believes that you can be fitter and healthier today.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at MyPypeline.com, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.
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