Want to Be a Triathlete?

From the outside, triathlon can be intimidating, but in reality the sport is the combination of 3 activities most of us did as kids. Below you will learn what it takes to be a triathlete.


Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right

– Henry Ford


What is a triathlon?

A triathlon is typically comprised of a consecutive swim, bike and run. It is as simple as that.

Often times, people incorrectly use the word “IRONMAN” and triathlon interchangeably.

While IRONMAN is the biggest name in the sport, the reality is triathlon offers lots of options when it comes to races and race distances including many independently run events throughout New Jersey, New York & Connecticut.



Most Common Triathlon Distances:



Swim .5 mi, Bike 12 mi, Run 3.1 mi
(“Sprint” distances vary the most)

Olympic / International:

Swim .9 mi, Bike 24.8 mi, Run 6.2 mi
(Swim 1.5k, Bike 40k, Run 10k)


Swim 1.2 mi, Bike 56 mi, Run 13.1 mi
(aka “Half-iron, Half IRONMAN® or 70.3®)


Swim 2.4 mi, Bike 112 mi, Run 26.2 mi
(aka IRONMAN®, Iron-distance or 140.6)



It may come as a surprise, but the majority of triathletes are NOT “super athletes.”

In fact, it is not uncommon for triathletes to have no significant prior athletic background. Many have started running, learned to ride a road bike, and learned to swim for distance later in life as adults.

Further, triathletes come from all walks of life. There are mom’s, dad’s, busy executives, entrepreneurs, teachers, firefighters, veterans & waiters/waitresses. Some are overweight, others are cancer survivors and still others are missing limbs.

With that being said, the only thing preventing you from becoming a triathlete is YOU!


Getting Started

Stop thinking about it and just do it!


Pick a race

Picking a race is the first step in making your commitment of completing a triathlon and officially becoming a triathlete. This puts a date on the calendar and your idea of doing a triathlon now becomes a goal with a timeline.


Websites like Active.com and TriSignUp.com are good places to search for events in your area. The free Race Forum magazine and website can also be a great resource. This can be found at most local run and bike shops. It never hurts to ask a friend or speak to the people at your local bike and/or run shop as well.



One doesn’t need more then a pair of sneakers, a bike (any kind of bike), and goggles to get started.

“Nice to have” items include a sports watch, heart rate monitor, bike computer, wetsuit & sunglasses for eye protection. A pair of bike shorts can also be helpful.

After that, there’s PLENTY of extra stuff and gear to buy, but only if you want to. Just ask any triathlete and you’ll quickly find out most triathletes like their gear.



The amount of time and effort required to prepare for a triathlon varies for each individual for obvious reasons.

Are you already in shape? Perhaps you’re a runner looking to try your first triathlon. Do you know how to swim? Or are you starting from scratch?

Are you training for a sprint, olympic, half or full triathlon?

Regardless of your current situation and goals, training and preparing for your race is very important.

Following some type of training plan is advisable. This will help ensure you spend an adequate amount of time training in each discipline, especially the ones you may not enjoy most.

Additionally, as your fitness increases, a training plan will slowly build on your training volume. Not building at all or ramping up too quickly can lead to injury.

Training programs range from free to very expensive. You can find these online, in books or in magazines. You can even hire a coach to craft a custom program and provide additional guidance along the way. Generally, you get what you pay for and the longer the event, the more important the quality of the training program.

Swimming tends to give people the most difficulty. Lots of people know how to “swim,” but far fewer people know how to swim for distance (i.e. laps). If you weren’t a high school or collegiate swimmer, then it’s a good idea to take a few swim lessons with a local coach. This will be the fastest way to get up to speed.

If proper swim instruction is not an option, I recommend asking a friend who is proficient in swimming for help. YouTube videos and online articles can be helpful, but they can also cause a lot of confusion and provide mixed information. This often leaves the athlete with more questions then answers.


Join a Triathlon Club

Joining a local triathlon club and training for a triathlon with friends is a no brainer!

You’ll have more fun, learn from others who are more experienced and get a little extra motivation and accountability along the way.

Most clubs offer group workouts, provide training resources and discounts for race registration and gear.

If you don’t already have friends who are a part of a club, asking your local bike shop should do the trick. If they’re unsure, a simple Google search will usually give you a few options.



What Are You Waiting For?

Set a goal, make a plan and trust the process.

Aside from possibly having a screw loose, the 3 most important things it takes to become a triathlete are dedication, perseverance and the will to try something different.

There will be obstacles and there will be days when you question what and why you’re doing it. That’s part of what makes it fun.

Overcoming challenges and rising to the occasion is what life is all about.

Setting a goal and achieving it is an incredible feeling.

It’s time to redefine what’s possible and do something epic. I challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone this summer and do your first triathlon.


This article was originally published in LOCALadk Magazine (Summer 2018). Link

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