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Training for Your First Triathlon

By Liesl Begnaud | Jan. 16, 2018, 5:36 p.m. (ET)

swim start

Whether you are training for your first tri or helping a friend, here are some tips to get to the first race feeling confident, healthy and excited.

Get a training plan, join a triathlon training group or find a coach. Start with a plan! It can come from a triathlon training book or online, but pick a plan for the distance of your race. Often running stores offer free local run clubs that you can join to do your running preparation. You may find a cycle studio where you can ride indoors with others during the winter. Or perhaps your local gym where you swim offers a spin class or swim class that you can take. If you are embarking on your first long distance triathlon, it is always helpful and recommended to hire a coach to help you lay out a specific training plan around your life to meet your first long distance triathlon goals. No matter how you decide to learn to swim, bike and run, the key is consistently putting in the time and doing the workouts so you will be prepared for your first race.

Find support. Look for local triathlon clubs. Joining one is a great way to meet new people, have fun training and get extra support from your club mates. For those in more remote areas, there are various online training groups and virtual social media triathlon groups for fun and information. 

Stay healthy. Learn to fuel your body and practice what you will eat on race day. Hydrate well the day before and always the day of the race. Make sure and incorporate electrolytes into your training, especially for hot, humid days.

Get comfortable. A common suggestion for your first triathlon is “nothing new on race day.” Make sure to have your googles adjusted, be confident with a GPS watch or gadgets, wear the triathlon clothing, try the Body Glide, adjust the race belt, practice in your wetsuit and use all your gear before race day. Break in your new running shoes and make sure your helmet is adjusted properly before the race.

Have a plan for race day. Practice transitions before race day. On race day, get to the venue early, check in with your race number, put on your timing chip, and set up your gear in transition. When you set out your gear, only use the space directly next to your bike. Put your bike into a low gear. Set out your equipment, eat your morning nutrition, and do a little run warm-up. After the warm-up, put on the wetsuit, grab your googles and cap and head to the swim start.

Keep perspective. As you line up to race, remember why you decided to tackle your first triathlon. Take a few deep breaths, remember all your great training and just press play. Have fun, smile along the route and finish happy!

Liesl Begnaud is a USA Triathlon Level I and Paratriathlon Certified Coach and a U.S. Masters Sswimming Level 1 & 2 Coach based in Denver, Colorado. She has competed in endurance sports for over 13 years including multiple IRONMAN finishes. She creates a caring partnership with athletes while working together to develop their skills and confidence. She coaches with Team MPI and can be reached at

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.