How do you know if you’re ready to train for a triathlon?

Back in December I talked a little bit about planning for your 2017 season. But what about those of you who are just thinking about embarking on a triathlon journey? Where do you start?

In the upcoming months here at The Anxious Triathlete, we’re going to get back to basics. If you’re someone who has seen triathlon from the outside and want a step by step guide to tackling your first race, this is your time.

So where do you start? Well, you start with some baseline fitness.

A triathlon is a physically taxing event. For a sprint distance race, your body will be in motion for anywhere from one to two hours. Some people can gut it out- others can’t get past the fact that they have to swim first!

So how do you know if you’re physically ready to train for a triathlon? Answer the following questions to find out.

Can you swim?

If you said YES: If you can get into a body of water, be it pool, lake, or ocean, and feel comfortable enough to not drown, you’re already well on your way to becoming a triathlete. Proceed to the next question.

If you said NO: You have to swim in a triathlon. And it’s the first event, so there’s really no way around this one. If you answered no to this question, it’s time to look into some basic swim lessons at your local pool! Your first step towards doing a triathlon is to get comfortable in the water.

Cap + Goggles

Bonus to completing your first race: Free swim cap!

Can you swim 100 yards without stopping?

If you said YES: You’re ready to train for the swim! Go to the next question.

If you said NO: Start with some basic swimming to increase your comfort in the pool. When I started my triathlon journey, I honestly had to say no to this one! So before I started my official training, I spent 2 months going to the pool twice a week to figure out how to swim. Like, how to put on a swim cap and goggles, put my face in the water, breathe to one side swim. Take 30 minutes twice a week to go down to the pool and practice swimming laps. Once you’re comfortable with swimming 100 yards without stopping, you’re ready to continue!

Can you ride a bicycle?

If you said YES: You’re ready to train for the bike! Go to the next question.

If you said NO: Biking is the second discipline of training for a triathlon. You have to be able to ride a bike, be it road, mountain, or cruiser. And you need to have some basic biking skills, like turning and braking, for your safety and the safety of those around you. If you don’t spend some time learning to ride a bike and cruise around until you get comfortable. You will spend more time on your bike during training than any other discipline, so don’t worry- the literal pain in your butt will fade.

Can you walk a mile?

If you said YES: You’re ready to train for the run! Go to the next question.

If you said NO: Running (or walking, it really doesn’t matter) is the third discipline of triathlon, the final test before the finish line. In a sprint triathlon, you’ll need to go 3.1 miles. If you don’t yet have the stamina to walk or run one mile, spend time increasing your fitness level so that you can safely and comfortably tackle your training!

Are you physically active at least 3 days a week?

If you said YES: You’re ready to train! Let’s do this!

If you said NO: During your triathlon training, you’re going to workout 5 to 6 days a week. This means developing a consistent habit of physical activity. Now, you may want to just jump in and start training and say that the training IS your physical activity, but there are a lot of moving pieces to triathlon training. Without an established habit of physical activity, your chances of burning out during training are high. Spend one month getting in the habit of working out. Start with just three times per week, then add one day per week until you’re up to 6 days. I don’t care what activity you do- you can walk, you can go to a yoga class, you can spend 30 minutes at the gym. The point here is to develop a habit of including space for training in your daily schedule.

The Verdict

If you answered no to one or more questions, spend some time working on your baseline fitness before you tackle a full training plan. It’s not glamorous, but we want to set you up to have a successful training block, which helps ensure a safe and enjoyable race. For more on baseline fitness, check out my previous posts here and here.

If you answered YES to all of these questions, then you are READY to train for your first race!!! Let’s do this!


Your to-do: Work on your weakness (whether swimming, biking, or running) and get into the habit of being physically active 5 days a week. Also, sign up for the Anxious Triathlete newsletter to guide you through your first triathlon!

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