Your First Tri: Three Training Pitfalls You Can Avoid by Planning Ahead


Crossing the finish line of your first triathlon is a feeling like no other. It represents the culmination of months of diligent preparation and planning.  The elation of that moment and the sense of accomplishment it brings is what keeps the sport so incredibly popular.

In sharp contrast to that satisfaction is the intimidation aspiring triathletes may feel as they begin to train for their very first race.  Stepping out into the unknown can bring anxiety and stress.

The best antidote is the wisdom of experience.  By listening to those that have gone before, first-timers can avoid some common pitfalls and arrive on race day prepared and ready.

The takeaways

  • Completing a triathlon can be incredibly gratifying
  • Proper preparation is crucial for first-timers to enjoy the experience
  • Avoiding three common training pitfalls can help

Training Pitfall 1: Injuries

Undertraining is the most common fear among first timers, but injuries and chronic pain are far more likely to impact race day. Taking care of yourself throughout training can help mitigate your injury risk.

  1. Pace Yourself- on a good plan only 20% of your training is done at race pace. Resist the urge to over-train and scale distance increases slowly.
  2. Make Rest a Priority- rest days are as important as workouts, hydrate properly and take time out, your body needs time to grow.
  3. Find Balance – keep a balanced training schedule between swimming, biking and running to reduce the likelihood of repetitive motion injuries. Incorporate brick swim/bike and bike/run workouts to simulate the race.
  4. Engage a Mentor- you need to listen to your body and continually adapt. A trainer or a seasoned mentor can be invaluable in helping you manage aches and pains and keep you on track.


Training Pitfall 2: Ego

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” – Walt Kelly

Confidence is a wonderful thing, but only in moderation.  Training for your first race there are many obstacles; it is imperative that your ego is not among them.

  1. Start Small – Find a short course, stay local and allow a minimum of 12-weeks to prep
  2. Set Goals Carefully – A good initial goal is to finish and enjoy your race. Think of your first outing as a building block rather than a destination.
  3. Squelch Competition – Focus mental energy on proper form, not competing against others—this goes for race day and training
  4. Simplify – Gear, strategy and training must be manageable your first time out. It is easy to get carried away, avoid this trap.


Training Pitfall 3: Focus only on swimming, biking and running

One component that is often missed by those who are new to the sport is that it is so much more than just three disciplines.  Savvy competitors address many additional factors

  1. Get the Right Gear- some basics are essential. Invest in a good helmet and have a professional assess your bicycle.  Consider a race belt, newer shoes with quick ties and an inexpensive wet suit.   Make sure all your gear is in good working order!
  2. Practice Transitions – you must practice to ensure you have all the correct gear in the right spot, know what to expect and can move efficiently.
  3. Know Your Course Rules- for too many the rules are an afterthought reviewed for five minutes at packet pickup. This is a mistake.  Courses have nuance, and organizers enforce rules.  Know both and be sure to visit your course the day before.


Planning ahead is the key to both completing and enjoying your first triathlon.  With a little forethought and a modest investment of time and money, you can ensure that when you cross the finish line you are not just exhausted but also exuberant.


Have questions about your first tri?  Lessons learned from your own experience?

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