7 Secrets to Know as a Beginner Triathlete

Photo: Janos Schmidt/Triathlon.org

How to put more fun and less WTF into your first days of swim, bike, run.

Your first race is booked, your training plan laid out. Now get a jump on the competition by knowing these seven secrets about what it’s like to make the tri transformation.

Not every workout is going to be hard. You think, “Triathlon is a big deal! I need tough workouts!” But not every day. “You need easy, moderate, and hard workouts to train different parts of your physiology,” says exercise physiologist, coach, and author Joan Scrivanich, founder of Rise Endurance in New Jersey.

You have to trust the process. “Your body will adapt to training quickly, but not in three or five days,” says Boise-based Mark Sortino, a USAT Level III coach and co- founder of Team MPI. Athletes get impatient when they start focusing on results. “Instead, realize that results are a product of a good process,” he says. That means sticking with the purpose of each workout—yes, even if it’s a long, slow day.

Your car will never be the same. Clear out the beach chair from last summer and the stuff you’ve been meaning to take to Goodwill. You’re going to need that space. “You can always tell a triathlete’s car, because it’s filled with duffel bags,” Sortino says. And maybe a tire pump, those extra arm warmers, and the cooler bag with your pre- during- and post-workout nutrition.

You have to become a planner. Three sports, seven days. Unless you can figure out how to get another day in the week, you’ll have to streamline your prep process (no digging through five bins for your cycling gloves at 5:30 AM) and your training sessions. (“I’ll run to and from the pool.”) There’s a lot of trial and error…and maybe going commando at work. “If you’re not organized, you’ll forget stuff,” Sortino says. (Athlete hack: Keep an extra set of underthings at your desk.)

You’ll discover the unwritten law of swimming pools. You get in the car. Drive to the pool. And the moment you get there is the precise moment water aerobics starts and the pool’s not free for another hour. Which might be OK this time, because you forgot your goggles and cap anyway. (See: “You Have to Become A Planner.”)

You + the washing machine = BFFs. 5 x (outer layers, base layers, middle layers, thermal tights, socks, gloves)…just be ready.

You’ll be challenged. Sweaty. Exhausted. Rewarded. Triathlon is like life. It’s never going to be all good or all bad. Heed Scrivanich’s advice: “Enjoying it is the biggest thing.”

RELATED: A Beginner Triathlete’s Super Simple 12-Week Sprint Training Plan