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WHAT KIND OF SHAPE DO I NEED TO BE IN TO GET STARTED?

That’s an excellent question.  How much preparation it will take to compete in your first triathlon has a lot to do with your current level of physical conditioning.  If you haven’t moved from your couch in the past year and you’re on a first name basis with the pizza delivery guy, it will likely take a little more effort for you than for someone who is already active.  But that does not mean it can’t be done!

Plenty have gone from couch potato to athlete and beyond. You do not have to be genetically gifted to do a triathlon, just motivated.  First and foremost, we must recommend you consult with your physician.  Even if you think you are already in “good” shape, it is still an important step.  Triathlon has the potential to stress your body in ways that basic exercise may not (hey, we are about to juggle three sports here), so don’t risk it.  See your doctor and make sure you are cleared for this type of strenuous activity.  Once that’s out of the way the fun really begins!

DO I NEED A COACH? HOW DO I KNOW WHAT TO DO?

Need is one of those funny words.  The answer to whether or not you need a coach really depends on your personal goals.  Do you “need” a coach to be able to complete a triathlon?  Well, plenty of folks have done so without one.  On the other hand, if you have special circumstances you are trying to overcome, or a particular goal in mind that you are simply not able to accomplish on your own, a coach may be exactly what you need.

If you aren’t going to hire a coach, how do you know how to prepare?  Thankfully, there are some great resources out there to get you going.  Here are a few good ones:

Triathlon Training in Four Hours a Week by Eric Haar: This is a very straightforward and easy to understand training book for anyone who is seeking to participate in triathlon.  What we appreciate about this book is that it really puts all of the cookies on the bottom shelf.  In other words, Haar doesn’t get you bogged down in technical jargon, and he doesn’t offer you plans that require an advanced degree to understand.  He also gives you some basic tests to determine your current level of fitness, and then offers different plans based on those levels.  It is a quick, easy, and enjoyable read. The book covers basically all you might need to know in order to come out of your first event feeling, energized, informed, and successful.  The cover price is just under $20, but at the time of this posting it was available on Amazon for around $8 new and under $4 used.  That may be the cheapest tri-related purchase you will ever make!

BeginnerTriathlete.com: This site offers several free training plans for various distance races.  Some of the site’s content is user contributed, such as gear reviews, and it represents a growing community of beginner triathletes.  As with any site that has user contributions or forums, be advised that no guarantees can be made about the content or “family friendliness” of all postings.  This is not a slam on BT, just a heads up as you venture into cyberspace.  That said, FWE has first hand experience with the Half-Iron training plan they offer, and it seemed to work well.  These plans won’t give you the depth you would get from a personal coach, or really from Haar’s book, but hey, they are free.

Training Plans for Multi-Sport Athletes by Gale Bernhardt:  What can you say about Bernhardt?  Well, she has coached both the Women’s and Men’s Olympic Triathlon teams and she knows her stuff.  In this book she offers a variety of training plans for various goals and distances.  It is not so much aimed at the newbie as is Haar’s book, but it does offer plans for those with varying training time restraints.  It takes the workouts up a notch as you get a more in-depth explanation of training zones and intesities, as well as an understandable approach to concepts like periodization.  If you don’t understand what that means don’t worry, she explains it in her book.  In short,  Bernhardt’s book offers you more technical insight and specific workouts, while perhaps lacking just a bit of Haar’s “feel good” style.  Cover price is just under $22, but at the time of this posting it could be found on Amazon for under $15 new and around $12.50 used.  Not a bad price for an Olympic coach eh?

In the market for a coach? If you have decided to hire a coach, there are certainly plenty to pick from.  Choosing a coach is a personal decision, and there are plenty of factors to consider, such as the coach’s experience, personality, and coaching philosophy just to name a few.  Here are some excellent coaches that FWE has direct experience with and has found success:

HOW DO I FIND A RACE?

Well, if you don’t have a race to compete in all of this information is pretty useless.  So what is the best way to find a good event?  This is probably going to be the easiest part of your first triathlon endeavor.  As one of the fastest growing sports out there, it’s quite simple to find an event pretty much anywhere.  Here are some websites that will help you pick out your next race, or plan your next season.

SetUp Events: An EXCELLENT event production crew, with races up and down the East Coast.  We think one of the best around.

TriFind.com: This site has a listing of events all across the country, and the world.  A great, very easy to use, database.

Active.com: A  HUGE site with a searchable database, special sections such as “IronMan,” as well as links to training articles and other resources.

JUMP to next section, The Mechanics of a Triathlon.

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