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Triathlons for Runners Series: Taking Running into the World of Triathlon

Posted Jun 01 2009 10:11pm

This week we kick off a new series focused on triathlon information for runners.  Since we know cross training is good for runners and biking and swimming are popular cross training exercise, why not mix it up and add a triathlon race to your calendar?   Lana, from her blog The Fire Inside  offered her expertise in this topic in response to our Help Wanted ad a few months ago.   We were excited to have this marathoner turned Ironman share her knowledge with the Lounge.


By Lana Matthews Sain


If you have been running a while now, you may have entertained the idea of trying your hand in the sport of triathlon at some point.   Maybe you have some experience with swimming or cycling; or maybe, you haven’t swum a lap or rode a bike since you were a kid.   About 5 years ago, I was in the latter group, and I can tell you that it doesn’t matter – triathlons are super fun, and you don’t need to be a veteran swimmer or cyclist to jump on board.   Many sprint triathlons are extremely beginner-friendly; many even offer beginner award categories along side the age group ones.   Just like when you first started running, taking small steps in the direction you want to be will eventually land you right where you want – in this case, toeing the line of your first tri.


At this point in the year, we are getting right into the thick of the triathlon season.   That doesn’t mean you need to wait for next year, though.   Right now is a great opportunity to get out and watch, or even volunteer, at nearby triathlon events.   Observing first hand how the races are conducted and how the participants’ transition from one sport to another is invaluable information.   The sport isn’t nearly as intimidating as you may have thought.   At my first triathlon, I remember being surprised out how much encouragement there was out along the course among the participants themselves.   I can also tell you that the great thing about coming into triathlon with a predominately running background is that when you finally make it to the run – it’s a blast – because you’ll be passing those swimmers and cyclist all the way to the finish line!


A few steps that you can take towards doing your first triathlon are:

1)     Hit the pool.   If nothing else, just get in and start getting used to the water.   If you have a local masters swim club, join it.   An instructor can help you with your stroke and the class will hold you accountable.   If not, just jump in and start swimming laps.   A good reference, if you are teaching yourself, is Terry Laughlin’s line of Total Immersion books.   There are also video clips and many resources for swimmers on his website:

2)     Visit your local bike shop.   Don’t be intimidated, most bike shops are very friendly and accommodating to beginners.   We all have to start somewhere, right?   I’m going to go ahead and advise against picking up a cheap bike at retail store.   I know it’s tempting when you don’t know for sure how well you’ll like the sport anyway, but in order to have a good first experience with real cycling, I think a decent bike is a must.   If you don’t have the funds to get a nice, entry level road bike ($600 - $1000), then hop on the indoor trainer at your gym, or attend a spin class until you are ready to make the purchase.   Once you have a bike, get on and ride.   The main ingredient in gaining cycling fitness is time in the saddle.

3)     Pick out a race.   There is nothing more motivating that signing your name and paying your money.   There are lots of good races near the end of summer and up into the fall.   Get online (http://www.trifind.comis a good resource) and pick one out, sign up, and start taking those small steps towards the goal.


Your running fitness will not suffer from the cross training of triathlon, and it may well be improved.   Not only that, but the bike and swim workouts will give your body a chance to recover from the many miles you’ve been pounding out on the road or on the treadmill.   The variety involved in triathlons may very well be the recipe you need to spice up your fitness regimen.   If the thought has been in the back of your mind, now is the time – make it happen!

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