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Beginner’s Luck: The Path to Triathlon

Intimidated by triathlon? Meredith Atwood shares a formula that will help you get excited about reaching the start line.

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Listen up, baby triathletes, newbies, non-natural endurance athletes. Listen up, tired women and men—those who think triathlon feels impossible and scary, intimidating, and hard. This simple math equation is the only one you’ll need to tackle triathlon.

The equation goes something like this:

One Spark + A Little Permission = A Triathlon Burning Flame

Triathlon does seem like it can be incredibly intimidating in the beginning. Three sports instead of one? Equipment for three things? A race with all of those factors? It does seem like a lot.

But really, the equation is all you need to start, move forward, and successfully become a triathlete (or to just continue the journey in a more productive way).

A Spark

The Spark happened for me in a Spinning class. This Spark was unexpected, but it was the start of my desire (and need!) for a drastic change in my life. The Spark led me to triathlon—and down the road to many races, starting a blog, writing a book, and Ironman and beyond. That one little moment came when I was ready for a change. Finding triathlon when you are hungry for a change is the first part of the equation.

The Spark can be a rock bottom moment (but it doesn’t have to be). Maybe it’s a wake-up health scare. Maybe it’s a process of working through grief or failure. Maybe it’s a life-change such as a job termination, death, or divorce. Finding the Spark, however, is often a gift disguised as devastation.

The Spark is the reason we get going, we start and begin to search for something better.

A Little Permission

Once we have a shake-up moment, sometimes all we need is someone else to say: You can do this. My first coach (and Spinning instructor) told me: “You could do a triathlon.” And while that seemed razy at the time, it was that permission that made me think, ‘maybe just maybe.’ When we see people like us doing this sport, it becomes easier to envision ourselves out there training and on the race course—no matter our size, shape, or age. When I wrote my book, Triathlon for the Every Woman, I really wrote it just to be that weird stranger saying, “You got this. Go!”

Get some of this magic permission from the triathlon world. Of course, you don’t “need” permission. But it’s truly helpful and I promise you’ll find it out there—open your eyes and take it in. And if you don’t see it right away—look no further: you can (really really) do this.

(Note: Find your permission in the swim, bike and run world. Sometimes the “outside” world will not give you permission, and worse—they might discourage your new sport. People knock what they don’t understand. Let it roll off.)

The Flame

The flame—the fire that keeps burning—is beyond motivation. Motivation is fleeting. The reason we wake up and work hard is not because of the mystery of motivation—it’s because we have established a strong reason, discipline, and routine. Of course, we come to this burning desire many different ways, but it’s important to get there.

Oftentimes we can find ourselves doing a sport or a job because we “have to”—triathlon should always be a “get to” or a “want to.” We are adding this sport to our already busy world to enhance our lives, not to take away. Keeping the flame burning appropriately and for the right reasons is the final icing on the cake.

When we think of this proverbial flame to keep us going, the sport as a whole can become less intimidating—we are doing it for all the right and powerful reasons. There’s less to be afraid of, and more to celebrate.


Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of the newly released, Triathlon for the Every Woman: You Can Be a Triathlete. Yes. You.. She is the host of the podcast, The Same 24 Hours. Meredith lives in Overland Park, Kansas (for now!) with her husband and two children and writes about all things at Her next book, The Year of No Nonsense, will be released December 2019.