Beginner’s Luck: How to Become a Triathlete

Step one: Decide that you will. Keep the promise to yourself.

Step one: Decide that you will. Keep the promise to yourself.

When I started in the sport of triathlon, I could not swim or bike or run. Judging by my years of mediocre triathlon finish times, many might contend that I still don’t swim, bike, or run. I have news for everyone—going slow instead of fast? Still a triathlete, still an athlete, and most importantly—still a better version of ourselves.

Over and over again people ask me—how do I become a triathlete? Where do I start? What do I do? Of course swimming, cycling and running are keys—and then putting those three things together in a little race called a triathlon is the main how-to.

That being said, there are two major components to get from the couch to the finish of a first (or next) triathlon. These qualities are important to embody for a first race, sure. But even more so, the qualities are paramount as you get further down the road in the sport—when jumping up to the next distance, feeling burned out or facing your first DNS (Did Not Start) or DNF (Did Not Finish).

Make a Decision

Every great action starts with a decision. We say: now is the time! Never again! I will ______! The decision is the first step.

In 2010, I decided that I would become a triathlete. I didn’t make any “Oh, I think I would like to ‘try’ a triathlon.” I made the promise to myself that I would become a triathlete—that I would become a type of person who does triathlons. Not just a one-and-done triathlon finisher (which, by the way, is perfectly okay too!). In making the decision to become something, I ignited the passion, the desire and purpose to change and take action.

So if you want to be a triathlete or do a triathlon?

Step one: Decide that you will. Keep the promise to yourself.

Be Relentless

One of my favorite words in the English language is relentless. I am not many things, but relentless is one of them. When I make a decision about a goal, I chase after it; I work hard and I am relentless in my pursuit of achieving the goal.

Finishing four Ironmans when I am fairly talentless in the sport of swim, bike, and run? Well, that’s an example of relentlessness at its finest. I just don’t quit or give up when I decide.

That’s the second key. If you want it (whatever it is), then be relentless in the pursuit of it.

When you make the decision to tri, simply adopt relentless as a mantra and “just keep moving forward.” Note also that your relentless is not to be measured by anyone else’s standards. This is a major point! If you are comparing yourself to other people, you are going to make yourself crazy and take your eyes off the prize—which is you having the best experience possible.

What other people think matters in some areas—but not in triathlon. Unless they are your coach or your close family, what people think about your training, your racing and your times—is also none of your business. Keep your head up, eyes ahead and push forward.

Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. You can download a free copy of the book here. She is the host of the podcast, The Same 24 Hours, a show which interviews interesting people who make the best of the 24 hours in each day. Meredith lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children, and writes about all things at