Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In



Beating The Recession: Triathlon On A Budget

For access to all of our training, gear, and race coverage, plus exclusive training plans, FinisherPix photos, event discounts, and GPS apps, sign up for Outside+.

Photo: Larry Rosa
Photo: Larry Rosa

Professional triathlete Samantha McGlone provides advice on how to keep up on triathlon training and racing in the struggling economy.

Written by: Samantha McGlone

Some experts claim that the recession is almost over.  But with bank CEOs forfeiting their private jets and Escalades on fire sale at local dealers it seems like it might be a long time before the economy truly recovers.  Until we can all once again enjoy drive-through, no-money-down, interest-only, 50-year jumbo mortgages, I will be counting my pennies and looking for ways to trim the fat from my triathlon budget. Here are some frugal training and racing tips till we are back in the black.

•    Ditch the gym membership and find a strength program you can do on your own with a stability ball and dumbbells.  Some of the most effective and sport specific strength exercises for triathlon are plyometrics and core exercises, most of which can be done with body weight and minimal equipment.  On a cost-per-muscle-shredding basis, jump squats, planks and lunges will give you a bang for your buck.

A proper initial bike fit can save you money down the road. Photo: Jay Prasuhn
A proper initial bike fit can save you money down the road. Photo: Jay Prasuhn

•    When purchasing a new bike ensure you are fit correctly the first time.  A good bike fit with a trained professional will save you money in the long run.   Going through three or four stems to find the right position once you make a purchase is no bargain.

•    Become a “locavore” athlete and support local races; there are many great, small races across the country.  Don’t think you have to enter a big branded race half way around the world to be a real triathlete.   Some race organizers will even offer discounts for entering the entire series or signing up in advance.  Also, consider volunteering at an event in exchange for a free entry later.

•    Race for free.  If you really want to do an interesting race in an exotic local, race for a charity.  By raising money for certain foundations, race entry fees and travel expenses are covered by the organization.  Plus, racing for something bigger than a PR is a great way to add some incentive to get your butt out there and train.

•    Use your commute to work as an excuse to fit extra bike or run mileage in.  If you are spending time and money in the car driving to work, surely you can find a way to make that commute into a bike workout.  It might involve some logistical planning (not to mention liberal use of handi-wipes) but it can be done.  At the very least, run some local errands on your bike.  A couple miles to the post office can be incorporated into any training route.

•    Swap gear with other athletes.  Invite some triathlete friends over for a party where every body brings gently used gear to trade.  Maybe that wetsuit that never fit right can be turned into some race wheels.

•    Definitely still take care of your body by having regular massages, but check out a local massage school.  Often, an hour massage is priced at about $30 from an experienced, but still-in-training therapist.

•    Consider bartering for services.  Almost everyone has a skill that can be used in exchange for someone else’s expertise.  Offer to baby sit your massage therapists kids or do your bike mechanic’s taxes.

•    Ask if your employer or health insurance provider offers healthy living discounts; all those miles of training and having the cardiovascular system of a 20 year old ought to count for something.  Some employers are trying to cut medical costs by promoting prevention and health – maybe the boss will chip in for that pool membership.

•    Get a small group together and hire a coach for a few private sessions.  With four to five athletes sharing the cost of individualized coaching you can get the benefit of (almost) one-on-one attention without the cost of months of expensive service.

•    Check out tax rebates for kids involved in sport. Many states are now offering credits to offset the cost of children’s sports activities and summer camps.

•    Eat in.  Quality food cooked at home is always cheaper than even a middle-of-the-road restaurant meal.  The markup for a pasta dish in a restaurant is about 400 percent.  Cooking whole grains, lean protein and fresh fruits and veggies from scratch will save you money, taste better and improve your health and performance.

•    Leave the family at home.  It’s always nice to spend a weekend with the kids, but extra flights, rooms and SUV rentals can really add up.  Relive the good old college days and slum it at your next race.  Find some other athletes from your area and make a weekend of it.  Share a ride to the race, split a hotel room or condo with a kitchenette and cook communal meals together to shave the food bill.  Think of it as an “athletes-only” weekend – no non-racers allowed.  So you may have to pump your own tires on race morning but think of the money you’ll save by not having to rent an SUV with a car-seat.  Convince the family to give you the weekend-pass by promising to bring them to Hawaii when you qualify.

•    Spend where it counts on equipment.  A decent set of aero race wheels will make more difference than saving a few grams on the extra-light titanium bolt kit.  Skip dessert instead.

And then there are definitely places not to scrimp:

•    Never sacrifice safety to save a few dollars; even a minor crash or ding requires the purchase of a new helmet.  The same goes with a crack in a carbon frame.  You don’t ever want to doubt your equipment on a 40 mile/hr downhill.

New tires are always worh the money. Photo: Jay Prasuhn
New tires are always worth the money. Photo: Jay Prasuhn

•    Always get new rubber for important races.  Spending a hundred bucks on some new tires is much cheaper than risking a puncture and sacrificing thousands in race entry and travel fees.

•    Don’t skimp on quality food. High performance and optimal health require proper nutrition.  Fresh, healthy food may seem more expensive in the short term but in the long run that dollar value menu is really no value at all.

•    Don’t bonk.  It might seem like a good idea to use the failing economy as an excuse to shed a few pounds by under-fuelling but don’t try this on longer workouts.  Cab fare home from a failed 100 miler can add up quickly.