Rookie – noun

  1. An athlete in their first season of the sport
  2. A novice; beginner
  3. One who is just starting or learning to do something.

So you want to tri? Welcome to the most wonderful sport! If you’re thinking about doing a triathlon, you’re probably at the most exciting part of the journey, the beginning. You have decided you would like to try a tri but don’t know where to start? Whether you have a bit of fitness or none at all I reckon you can do it, and would love to hear about how you are going to make it happen!

Since starting this blog I have been contacted by lots of people considering giving triathlon or cycling a go, but they don’t know where to start. There is so much information on the internet from sources of varying credibility it can be difficult to find basic advice.

If you have aspirations to conquer Kona your first step should be finding a qualified coach to help you do so, but if you simply want some down to earth advice for your first tri, read on.

Triathlon is a rapidly growing sport, especially in Australia where we have beautiful beaches, safe roads and enviable weather almost year round. Triathlon season is generally Summer in Australia (November to June) and you will find a plethora of races all over the country of varying distances during the season. (Although don’t let the time of year limit you- with destination races around the globe you could potentially race at anytime and combine a holiday with a triathlon- one of my favourite things to do!) Read my 5 reasons I love destination races here.

Let’s start with the basics, triathlon involves a swim, bike and run (in that order), the distances of each leg can vary, but generally speaking the the most common distances are:

Sprint- 750m swim, 20km cycle, 5km run

Olympic- 1.5km swim, 40km cycle, 10km run

Half Ironman distance (70.3)- 1.9km swim, 90km cycle, 21.1km run

Ironman distance (140.6)- 3.8km swim, 180km cycle, 42.2km run

There are also super sprints (shorter) and ultraman (longer) but the above are the predominant race distances.

Team entries are also an option in many races, being part of a team can be a less daunting way to get into the sport, especially if one leg in particular is your weakness. Get two other friends together and do one discipline each, sharing the fun and crossing the finishing line together is the best feeling. Once you have the taste for it, my bet is that you will each want to do a whole tri yourselves!

My first team event- Mooloolaba Tri as part of Team Foher
So back to where to begin, my best advice would be to pick a race as a goal to work towards. Depending on your current fitness and other life factors (like work commitments, health and children etc) it might be 3 or 6 months away.

Or maybe you need to learn to swim first, or have very little base fitness so a triathlon is realistically 12 months away. Whatever your situation is- pick a goal race (then maybe pick some mini goals between now and then.) I wrote a post about goal setting ‘Dream then Do.’ Have a read, but my main advice is once you know your goal, write it down, and put it somewhere you will see it every day.

So you’ve got your goal, now what? It’s hard to say generically a one size fits all recommendation of how much to swim, ride and run, especially when first starting.

Everyone has different backgrounds and strengths, when I started I could swim fine (but was very unfit), I could ride a bike (but not fast) and couldn’t run further than about 200m without stopping.

On the other hand, one of my friends who has asked me where to start, is a great runner and is so motivated and fit but isn’t a strong swimmer and hasn’t ridden a bike in years.

Another friend really wants to learn how to run, and learn to love running. We have been friends for years and once upon a time, not very long ago we used to ‘run’ together. What I really mean by ‘run’ was struggle in the Darwin heat to shuffle around for half an hour then reward ourselves with milkshakes… And sometimes cake. I now love running, yep actually love it, and she wants to as well… Fingers crossed I can help!

Anyway, my point is that both of these women need different plans on how to start training, but what they both have in common is that they want to give it a go… I’m not a coach but here is what I would do…

  1. Pick a race or goal. Write it down, you ARE going to get there.
  2. Count backwards to work out how many weeks from now until the race.
  3. Draw up a calendar of the weeks between now and then. Make it on the computer or use a large piece of cardboard, if your goal is further away than a few months make sure you create mini goals to keep yourself on track.
  4. Decide how many hours per week you realistically have to train.
  5. Fill in any work/family/social commitments that you have during that time, weeks that are heavy with other commitments can be scheduled as lighter training weeks.
  6. Fill in the blanks with training, try to fit in at least 2 sessions of each discipline per week to begin with. There are plenty of 8 or 12 week free training programs available online or in magazines. Using one of these could help with ideas of how much you need to swim, bike and run, but adapt it to work with your life and schedule. Alternatively if you decide being accountable to a coach will help you achieve your goals, here’s a list in Australia.
  7. Reflect at the end of each week, how did your training go? Did you fit in everything, did you find yourself making excuses not to train? You might need to readjust the next week, but little by little you will get into the swing of it.

Good luck, I look forward to hearing and seeing your triathlon goals being smashed, if you have any questions or ideas on topics you think would like to see covered please email me.

Also if you have a success story or race report that you would like to share, I would love to hear about that too. Have a look around my blog, there are plenty of articles that you might find interesting or useful, Things I wish Someone Had Told me From the Beginning is a great place to start.

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