Don’t be fooled by the hype that can sometimes come with triathlon training — contrary to what you might hear about the schedule, putting in the time to complete your first multisport race doesn't need to be an all-consuming affair. In fact, for most women, getting through your first sprint triathlon takes little more than the preparation that goes into a 10K.
Focus on these four tips to carry you through to race day.
Plan in the right order
The key to successfully making triathlon a part of your life is to find a way to make it work realistically with your other responsibilities.
Step 1: Look at your calendar and determine the times you can regularly dedicate to training — which days have open windows, and how much time during each of those days can you reliably devote to training?
Step 2: Find a plan that fits comfortably within your available time. Many training books and online resources will bucket plans according to how many hours per week you plan to train, making it easier to choose the best fit. Don’t get hung up on the specific workouts and days laid out in the plan, as you can shift things around as needed to accommodate your schedule without sabotaging your growth.
Step 3: Outline the plan on your calendar week by week – shifting things to the days that work best for you, and realizing that some weeks it might not be possible to hit every workout. The key here is to be mindful and consistent with your training, without letting it stress you out. Missing a workout here and there is okay — especially if it’s due to stress, injury or illness.
Maintain a healthy obsession
New things have a way of sucking up all of our attention, and preparing for your first race is no different. If you let it, it will consume you. Striking the right balance between commitment and compulsion is key to avoiding burnout and injury. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and taking time off when stress or illness sap your energy. A healthy, rested body has a better chance finding the finish line than an exhausted one.
Keep it close to home
One of the most stressful factors on race day can be logistics. Whereas a 5K race might have you looking for the porta-potty and the starting line before the gun goes off, a triathlon will have you carrying a bundle of items (including a bike!) from the parking lot to the transition area, while mapping out the swim, area, bike dismount, and running exit at the same time. Choosing a local race not only eliminates the need for packing up the car with more than just the race-day necessities, it provides a comfort level you’ll appreciate as you make your way through the course. There’s also something special about conquering a goal on your home turf — you’ll see the roads around town differently after you’ve covered them as a triathlete.
Set the bar low, and enjoy the high
For your first race, allow yourself to simply focus on finishing. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers in the heat of the moment — athletes will be passing you, spectators will be cheering, and your adrenaline will be pumping. The driven side of you might balk at a numberless goal, but there will be plenty of opportunity to quench that thirst in future races — your first race is special, so take in the experience without worrying about time.