Make sure you do these four things before you sign up for your next triathlon.

Make sure you do these four things before you sign up for your next triathlon.

Sometimes I am shocked when I read comments on social media. Not because social media is ludicrous (it can be), but because triathletes often appear to lose their minds. When I read things like, “Just signed up for my first half Ironman! I have four months to learn how to swim!” my eyeballs pop out of my head. Another good one: “I just bought my tri bike. This weekend’s race will be a good time to ‘tri’ it out!” And my absolute favorite: “I have my first race this weekend. It will be my first time in open water. I’m so nervous!” Boiiinggg! There go my eyeballs. No, no, no.

Act like a smart triathlete. A little common sense goes a long way. If you do not know how to swim, maybe swim lessons and a season of shorter races might be in order before you take on a long-distance triathlon. Related: Please do not do your first race with a brand new bike.

Be honest with yourself. If you have not stuck to an Olympic-distance training plan for longer than a week, perhaps signing up for Ironman Lake Tahoe is not the best idea—at this time. Be realistic in your fitness level and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Assess your base. Another common mistake that newer triathletes make is bumping up the race distance too soon. A goal should be to thrive on race day—not to simply survive (and end up in the medical tent). By taking time to build a strong base in all three sports, you will be setting yourself up for success when the time is right to tackle a longer race.

Respect the race. Each race deserves its own special level of respect. When you stand at a given swim start, you should be confident that you gave training your best effort. By always respecting the race distance, your training will move forward with the end goal in sight.

Meredith Atwood is the author of Triathlon for the Every Woman and blogs at

RELATED: Should You Race Unprepared?