Starting Out


By Brad Beven

So you want to do a triathlon? Following a few simple directions can help you shortcut your way to completing your first triathlon or getting a little more out of your training. Here are a few tips that might help you get to the start line and on the way to a fun and successful beginning in the sport that has taken off across the world.
“Take the plunge and I guarantee you’ll be hooked like I have been for the last 30 years.”


Make sure you have a defined set of goals that are achievable. They can be daily, weekly, or season based. These are 1) race goals, completing or competing, 2) training goals, e.g performing a workout a certain way, 3) life style goals i.e. lose weight, meet new people, capture lost youth as we all do (cheaper than buying a Ferrari and a hair piece for a mid life crisis). We are performance-based beings and need to have some sort of vision and goal orientated plan to stay motivated and focused. To do this before you start just write these down on a piece of paper and put it somewhere you can see it regularly.


It’s probably best to take it to a bike shop to bring it up to speed so it is safe. The mechanic can make sure the brakes are working, everything is tight and running smoothly, and most of all performing so you’ll have no problems down the track, it’s no good doing all the training to have a mechanical problem on race day. To begin triathlon you don’t need to fork out the $$$ to get the best of the best. New flash wheels may improve you a minute or two over 40km but smart training can improve you 20-30 mins. It’s better to invest in a new helmet that has all the safety certified standards ticked off.


  • You can begin training out the front door but the benefits of triathlon is the social aspect so maybe you could search for a squad on the internet that you can train with and get some tips, motivation, and laughs. A group can also point you in the right direction for the best rides and runs. Swimming is traditionally not the most fun for triathletes but that’s why a group can make “diving in at the deep end” far more rewarding and enjoyable.
    • It’s a great idea to plan your training, maybe keep a diary so you know if the training you are doing is being effective or not. It helps you work out what works and what doesn’t. The big upside to doing a bit of planning is that in this day and age with busy lifestyles, you can plan how you fit in training, family, socialising, work etc. It’s no good training heaps and having a great race if you’re divorced because you are never home. Life balance is the most important thing when adding triathlon to your repertoire.
    • Starting out it maybe a good idea to do some sessions on the wind trainer or stationary bike so it is safer and someone qualified, if you are in a group situation, can assess your technique and even bike position. It is also possible then to train with the guidance of someone who can maximise your training time.
    • If you want to get involved in Triathlon look for a club or coach in your area and find a race to get your teeth into. There are many “Enticer” races for beginners. The distances are short, usually around 300-500m swim, 10-15km bike and a 2-5km run. As you get proficient you can broaden your horizons and increase the distance if you want.
    • One of the biggest mistakes people make in preparing for a triathlon, wether a beginner or a pro, is training too hard with no adequate rest. The whole simplistic concept of training is to tear down the body through slight overloading, resting so the body can repair, and improving through adaptation. You do this over and over again cycle after cycle lifting the bar just a little each time. Professional guidance maximises your time and minimises mistakes along the way.  
    • As a guide training each week, if you are fit enough, should include a workout of about 75% of the distance you want to complete. This gives you confidence and the ability to finish your race strongly. This is mainly for distances up to Olympic (1.5km, 40km, 10km) as obviously 75% of Ironman still has a lot of “iron” in it.
  • For the preparation of your first tri you should look at doing about 3 sessions in each leg per week. Once a week you should include a long slow ride and run. These are very easy and as a guide you should be able to talk without getting out of breath. If you struggle to ride/run continuously then build into your fitness by starting with 2 minutes jog 3 minutes walk for about a week and then 3 minutes jog 2 minutes walk, 4 minutes jog 1 minute walk until you can run without stopping for at least race distance. Initially all your workouts should be orientated to getting some distance without the intensity. Too many people go ‘bull at a gate’ and end up injured.
    For example when running you are putting about 7 times your body weight through your legs so if you aren’t used to this load then injuries are inevitable. Swimming is a little bit of an exception so your workouts can be longer than race distance. A week’s workout for a beginner broken down could be; swim 1 hour (2 x 30 minutes), ride 3 hours (1 x 2hr, 1 x 1 hr), and run 1.5 hours (1 x 30min, 1 x 40min, 1 x 20 min). Also combining the ride and run can be a way of simulating your race so that when you hop off the bike the jelly leg syndrome doesn’t hit too hard. For example ride 1 hour and then run for 20 minutes immediately after the ride so you know what it feels like.


To get the most from your triathlon experience you need the right fuel. There are a few simple rules that you should stick to. Most of you diet should consist of fresh fruits and veggies, which have most of the vitamins and minerals we need and is made up of carbohydrates to fuel muscles. Also lean meats, which has protein to rebuild the muscles. Complex carbs like pasta, whole wheat bread or muesli are great foods for triathlon. Also include fats such as nuts and olive oil, which are also essential for proper organ function. At the end of the day if you want to lose weight and race well, eat healthy and ingest less calories than you exert within reason, the basic philosophy isn’t rocket science. If you are training though you will have to increase your food intake to keep up with the demands on your body, yippee!