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For many, getting into the sport of triathlon is easier than they think.  Many are already recreational runners or cyclists, or at a minimum active enthusiasts, so rounding out the ability to do all three triathlon sports (swimming, cycling, and running) in a single event just takes a little different training.

Every triathlete out there once had a first race. If you are thinking about training for your first triathlon, here are a few tips, gearing specifically to a sprint triathlon (longer triathlons require more prep and considerations).

Assess Your Fitness

As with any new active pursuit, it is always a good idea to get an idea of your current fitness level.  The training required to finish a triathlon will differ if you have been sedentary for years, versus if you are already an avid runner or workout enthusiast.

If in doubt, visit your physician as well.  They can help guide you to the right pace for getting more active.

Not only do you want to understand your overall fitness level from a cardiovascular standpoint, but it is a good idea to assess your strengths in the three sports of triathlon – swimming, cycling, and running. Many people are pretty good at one, or maybe two, but not at all three without a little training.

Whichever sport needs more work, get to work on it!  Start small, and work your way a little further each week.  There are tons of great videos, training books, and even local coaches if you have a little budget to spend on triathlon training.

Start Building Your Base

Let’s assume that you are planning to do a Sprint triathlon, your first ever.  Great!  The next thing to do is start building your base.  You will want to look at your fitness in two ways:  Do you have the muscular and cardiovascular conditioning you need, and are you able to swim, bike, and run well enough to finish.

For many of us in colder climates, starting triathlon training is complicated by the weather. A solution is to start biking a couple times a week indoors.  You can use an indoor trainer setup – like these – or you can join a health club that offers spin classes and indoor bikes.  If you are fortunate enough to live somewhere with warm and dry winter weather, then get outside!

Running is a little easier to fit-in, because you can run nearly anywhere.  Plus, treadmills are always an option if you are wanting to stay inside.

As for swimming, doing a once-per-week indoor lap swim will really start to pay off after a few weeks.  Start small – swimming is difficult at first – but you will soon see that you can go a lot further every single week.  Find a pool that works for you, and make it a habit to go for a weekly swim.

Generally speaking, try to do each sport at least once a week in your workout rotation as a minimum.  If you can sneak-in a second run or bike, great.  Or perhaps you are going all-in, and want to have daily training.  Great, however it is always good practice to give yourself one or even two days of rest per week.

Look at Your Equipment

You don’t need a ton of gear to do a triathlon, but it is helpful to have a basic level of triathlon gear.  

Perhaps the biggest consideration is the bike.  You can use any type of bike you want in a triathlon.  If you want to be more competitive and finish with a good time, you may want to opt for a road bike or triathlon bike.  But if this is your first race, rest assured there will be many sprint triathletes on mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, or whatever they already own.  Don’t forget you will need a helmet – most races require it.

As for the swim, many people use a wetsuit if it is an outdoor, open water swim.  Wetsuits are not a must-have – I have been at some races where they were not even allowed because the water was too warm – but a majority of racers often use a wetsuit.  Wetsuits not only help keep you warmer in the cold water, but they allow you to be a little more buoyant.  This can be nice for people who are less confident in their swim mastery.

What Do You Wear?

Triathlon attire is a bit all over the map, and the good news is that you don’t need to go and spend hundreds of dollars on clothing for your first race.  

You can refer to this piece on triathlon clothing for more detail, but in general you will want to have something that you can swim in, and then some additional gear for your bike and run legs.  The most common outfit and basic setup at a sprint triathlon is a pair of triathlon shorts, along with a singlet top (especially for females), and then the appropriate shoes for the run and bike legs.