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If you are an avid triathlete, you love to workout. You may be surprised to find not everyone shares your passion, enthusiasm and possible addiction. The fit triathlete knows the positive impacts of the triathlon lifestyle. Talk to the uninitiated, and you may hear some of common barriers to getting started. Even if they show interest, they may lack motivation or could simply be overwhelmed by the learning curve. As a coach, I hear many valid reasons and also many excuses. Here are my top five, and some handy solutions which you can share to overcome these:
5. “I don’t like to train; it’s hard and it hurts.”
Most people enjoy what they are good at, and if they are way out of shape or unfamiliar with the skills required (such as swimming), all they can foresee is pain and/or inadequacy.
Solution: Start slow, don’t push to discomfort and focus on fun. Or better yet, get distracted with music, create playful training games or exercise tasks, and engage in conversation while you are out there. Make it social. Find a friend who is also just starting out. Enjoying exercise may initially seem impossible, but it can be done. Once routine is established and fitness is gained, training intensity can increase. Step one is simply getting out there regularly.
4. “I start to work out, but then lose motivation.”
Gyms sell a high volume of cheap annual memberships, banking on the fact that most people stop after three weeks. Continuing past three weeks greatly increases chances of sticking with it.
Solution: Don’t do too much, too soon. A plan that includes going from no exercise to seven days a week is doomed to fail. Get good advice from a coach or experienced athlete to determine meaningful sessions, rather than guessing. Avoid boredom of the gym machines, get outside, and don’t do so much you are too sore to move the next day. If you’re tempted to quit, that’s a good sign you need to make some changes to your routine.
Last, avoid skipping your planned sessions. Once you miss one, it is easy to miss more. Reward yourself for consistency—buy a new run outfit after a month of completing every session.
3. “I can’t afford it.”
Triathlon is not cheap. Race entries, equipment, etc. really add up.
Solution: First, over the years I have found that many triathletes are enthusiastically supportive about newbies starting, and often have lots of extra equipment. Try borrowing a few things to see if you like them and if they are necessary for you.
Decide to buy one meaningful piece of equipment, because once you are invested, you are committed. Buy used. Bikes depreciate quickly, and are the one piece of equipment you will use frequently. Look for run shoe sales, and if you know they are the ones you like, get two pairs and save one for later so you aren’t stuck paying full price next time. Items like wetsuits can often be rented for race day only. Equipment swap meets are handy.
Save on race fees by picking a couple of events and register early, it’s always less expensive that way. Do practice triathlons in training—these cost nothing! Items like race wheels, aero helmets and racing shoes can all wait for future seasons, once you have saved up you pennies.
2. “I don’t have the right body type.”
There are still misconceptions out there that triathletes are all superior genetic specimens, solid muscle and 5 percent body fat. Taking on triathlon is adopting a lifestyle. You don’t put weight on overnight and it won’t come off that quickly either.
Solution: For athletes who are intimidated, encourage them to come volunteer or spectate at the local triathlon. There they will see athletes of all ages, shapes and sizes enjoying being outside and getting some exercise in a festive environment.
Once you start exercising, give your body time to react. It could take up to 12 weeks before you start seeing major changes, so make sure you’ve set realistic fitness goals. Focus on preparing for an event, like a sprint triathlon or a relay, rather than on losing weight—this is more motivating. The event is the focus, weight loss is the bonus.
1. “I don’t have time!”
Physically inactive people have just as much free time as exercisers, so you can cancel that excuse. You don’t have to neglect your family to do triathlon. Carving out workout time will not only give you the energy you need for a busy schedule, it shows your kids what it means to be healthy. I have coached many busy family people and executives to completing Ironman. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Solution: I often ask people if they watch TV or surf the internet. This often highlights several hours available each week, if you are organized.
Schedule shorter focused training sessions during the work week. Exercising first thing in the morning dramatically increases odds of sessions getting done. Get to bed earlier, so you can get started earlier. If you can’t find 45-60 minutes training time during your day, break it up into 20-30 minute segments. Split workouts can be as effective as continuous workouts. Having a training calendar with a plan makes it much easier to program your overall week, fitting everything in.
Look for gyms, parks or pools near work to sneak out for a quick noon hour session, while packing a lunch to save restaurant time. Commuting to and from work is another great way to time efficiently get in your training. Take the long way to work when you need an endurance ride, and leave late when you want a fast ride! If you travel, choose a hotel with good facilities in them or near them.
For busy parents, try joining a pool or community center that has a daycare center. Planning workouts for the start of the day before the family gets up is a sure way to get them in. Share morning routines with your partner and alternate workout days with getting-kids-ready-for-school days. If your kids are little, sneak in a workout while they nap. Invest in some indoor equipment so you can quickly hop on. If they’re old enough, have the kids participate in your routine by carrying water on their bikes for your runs (being helpers), or they can play at the pool while you swim laps before you join them for games. Rather than sitting and watching the entire soccer practice, run laps of the field, or train for half the duration of practice and watch the other half.
Remember that exercise generates energy. The more energy you have, the more you’ll get done each day.
Lance Watson, LifeSport head coach, has trained a number of Ironman, Olympic and age-group Champions over the past 28 years. He enjoys coaching athletes of all levels. Contact Lance to tackle your first Ironman or to perform at a higher level.