Beginner’s Luck: 6 Essentials Tips for the New Triathlete

"Remember to keep a strong heart and an even stronger determination."

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“Remember to keep a strong heart and an even stronger determination.”

I spoke at a triathlon clinic this past weekend in Montana (sidebar: for those of you around Helena, Mont., check out the Montana Women’s Triathlon in July each summer for an amazing race!). As I spoke to the group, I shared some of my tips for the beginners, and I thought I should write and share them here.

Where You Look You Go. On the bike, where we look our bodies and bike will go. So if we are focusing on the tree on the side of the road instead of looking down the road where we really want to go, we might find ourselves veering into danger.

Survey the Surroundings. While it’s true we want to focus on where we want to go—we must also be aware of our surroundings—in running and cycling. This requires a laser-type focus forward, but then a second layer of sight that allows us to see dangers and obstacles (like cars or dogs) that might be coming. One of the reasons that we say never to ride with headphones is this reason. When we are on a bike, we especially need our ears to hear sounds of warning. The same could be said for running—that we should run without headphones to always be aware of our surrounding. I do think, however, there is a distinction somewhat; since we aren’t running on wheels over 15 MPH, the danger of crashing is a little less.

Be a Student of Triathlon. When we are beginning to tri, most of the mistakes, injuries, and accidents come from just not knowing things about triathlon. I encourage everyone to study the sport when they are starting out—like it’s your job. Okay, not really. However, we must learn the rules and the etiquette of the three sports. You will still make dumb moves and do embarrassing things, but you can certainly semi-save yourself with some reading, some dedication, and some research. Take advantage of the endless triathlon resources in books, magazines, and online media. Before your race, absorb the race packet, read every single word the race director sends you, and follow the rules on race day. Be prepared mentally, and it will translate to fewer embarrassing (not to mention, dangerous) mistakes.

Practice is a Thing.  In summary, we should: Swim. Bike. Run. Repeat. You must do these things, and semi-often. Then you must put them together in a row in a race—that’s called triathlon. If you only swim twice a year, bike never, and run occasionally, you are asking for the race to be a series of embarrassing moments. You will fall down on the race course and you might stay there. Swim, bike, and run often—you will thank yourself on race day—and enjoy the process much more.

Your Thoughts are King (or Queen!). What we think in our thoughts becomes our truth, so we must be encouraging and kind to ourselves. Sure, as a beginner, you will get your feelings hurt.  Someone will inevitably make a comment that stings. For me, it was someone inadvertently stating, “Oh em gee, I am so slow!” Then I saw they crushed my race time by hours. Remember to keep a strong heart and an even stronger determination. What matters is what is in your heart and head. You have no reason to be embarrassed when you are putting forth your best effort.

Enjoy Becoming (and Being!) a Triathlete.  One day you will look back and laugh at your newbie chronicles. Yes, you really will. Don’t forget in your quest to whatever triathlon things you dream, to take a breath and appreciate the journey… and just keep moving forward.

More “Beginner’s Luck”

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

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