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January 29th, 2010
01:03 PM ET

You’ve decided to do a triathlon…now what?!

By Laura Cozik
Athletic Director, CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge
CEO, Team Lipstick Triathlon

1. Sign up for a sprint distance triathlon! I put this first as you will then have no option but to complete steps 2, 3 and 4, listed below.
* A good Web site for locating races is www.trifind.com.
* Give yourself at least 2 weeks to purchase equipment and find a local team, then give yourself about 12 weeks to train.
* Read about the race course and know what to expect (hills, flat, etc.).
* Check the water temperature for your swim. Low-to-mid 60s can be cold but doable, low-to-mid 70s is very comfortable.
* Find out how many participants there will be. A more intimate race, roughly around 300-500 racers, is better for your first experience. Save the 5,000-participant race for later.

2. Go shopping! This is the fun part. If cost is an issue, lots of stuff can be bought online, often at a discount. Remember that whatever you buy will last for years to come.
* Road bike – No mountain or hybrid. And no tri bike til you’re ready for your second bike.
* Helmet.
* Cycling Shoes – You must clip in! In order to pedal efficiently, you must connect to your pedal crank. No buts, just do it.
* Clipless pedals and cleats.
* Spare tube, CO2 cartridge/dispensor, tire lever – You will have to change a tire someday. Don’t get stranded 10 miles from home with a flat and no way to fix it.
* Floor pump – You should pump your tires before every ride.
* Sneakers and speed laces – You’ll never want to tie your shoes again!
* Swim cap and goggles.
* Wetsuit – So NOT fun trying these on as they are much more comfortable in the water.
* Extras that can wait, unless you decide to go for broke: Sunglasses, carry bag to attach to your bike, allen keys for bike adjustments, front and rear bike lights (if riding at dusk or dawn), water bottles for your bike, heartrate monitor, cadence/mph monitor for your bike (when your ready for the “gadget phase”), tri shorts (padded bottoms are nice), water-wicking clothes for training, hat or visor for sunny runs.
* Good Web sites for discounts: www.craigslist.org, www.nashbar.com, www.performancebike.com.

3. Find a local tri club that accomodates first timers. Most tri clubs will have beginner programs as they’re always trying to grow this sport. And the annual fees can be very affordable, anywhere from $50-$300 per year. Some good questions to ask:
* How many coached sessions do they offer weekly?
* Are there other beginners for you to train with?
* Do they have a pool facility?
* Do they offer open water swim clinics?
* Will they offer lectures such as “how to change a tire,” “nutrition,” “transition practice,” etc.?
* Do they receive discounts at any local swim/bike/run shops?

4. Show up and have fun! That’s all you have to do. Just show up to your training sessions and let the games begin!! See you at the finish line!

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soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. therunningcenter

    Not only are triclubs beneficial, but running clubs are great, too! There are plenty of clubs around the country, and many specialized training programs in NYC, such as The Running Center (www.therunningcenter.com). Check us out!

    February 3, 2010 at 08:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. rickeywilliams

    Thanks so much Laura!

    February 4, 2010 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. BikeGuyFL

    You can get lower prices on some stuff from places online... there is no subsitute for the benefits you get buying locally for your Tri gear, running and cycling equipment. The best gear to buy is the gear that fits you and your running/cycling style best. Bit fit, shoe fit, bike repair and maintenance can not be achieved from an online store.

    For a good start... hook up with a tri club, cycling club, or running club and find out where they go to get their gear, where the service is good and where you can get coaching and have your training questions answered.

    February 6, 2010 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Jim-Plano Texas

    I have been doing tri's for 10 years. This is my last year in the 50-54 age group. Still loving it. I have always found buying bike equipment used is good for beginners. There are a lot of people who go out and spend a ton of money for a new tribike, shoes, etc. and end up doing one or two races. You need to know what you are looking for like size, brands that good, components,e tc. but you can save a ton buying a used bike.

    It's a great sport that you can do for a lifetime. I see many 70+ triathletes out there are still getting it done! That is what keeps me goin'.
    JIM

    February 10, 2010 at 17:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. triathlete mommy

    I think this article has the order wrong – find the training group first, then find the race and lastly buy the gear. Why?
    1) The group may have a class or sub-group that is training for a specific race. You don't want to be the only one that's training for a race two weeks earlier!
    2) Some groups have evening workouts that are more likely to require lights for bikes, or head lamps for running.
    3) As the article mentions, most groups get discounts at bike, swim or running stores, so wait to buy the equipment until you have that membership card in hand!
    4) DON'T buy the wetsuit until you've done at least one race with an open-water swim. The first race you target may be in a pool! And wetsuits are expensive – far better to rent one if you need it.
    5) You can buy your equipment gradually – yes, it's far better to have clipless bike pedals, but conventional pedals are okay for the first few weeks – Pedals + shoes typically cost more than $200! And it's okay to borrow a bike for your first race (mountain bike, road bike, hybrid, who cares!) the important thing is to find one the right size, and get it professionally fitted to you. If you enjoy your first Triathlon, THEN you invest in your own bike. One thing that is NOT an "extra" (I disagree with the article) are water bottles – keeping well hydrated on the bike is vital, not just for performance, but for your health. Look for ones that have comfortable shapes and/or grip strips so that you can run with them too!
    6) One important step that's missing from the article is finding the right gym – treadmills and spin bikes fill a vital role in building and maintaining fitness during very cold or inclement weather. And regular access to a pool for training is so important!

    February 19, 2010 at 19:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mike

    Change your mind! Realize that running, especially on road, is horrible for your joints; swimming either in a pool or in open water goes against your natural land instincs; and biking is a made up sport for "athletes" who were not good enough, or too old, to do anything else!

    March 3, 2010 at 10:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. 43trimom

    I would never have started triathlon training had I read this article first! Buy a bike and a wetsuit? That will set you back hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars. Listen to triathlete mommy below. Ride any bike you have access to, and rent a wetsuit. Then, if you become hooked, you can invest the big bucks.

    March 6, 2010 at 22:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Rick

    Indeed, most bikes, like to the one you probably have stashed in the garage that you haven't looked at in a few years can be used to do an event.

    May 26, 2010 at 19:10 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.