Try-athlon: It Can Be Done!

Are you thinking about participating in a triathlon, but aren’t sure if it’s doable? Take it from us: you can definitely achieve it, and it’s not too late to start training now!

First things first; if you’re new to the world of triathlons, it’s best to start small. Sprint triathlons are shorter distance races that include swimming, biking and running. The half-mile swim is sometimes indoors for this type of race, but most are outdoors, so you might want to consider investing in a wetsuit. The biking portion is about 12 miles, and the race finishes with a three-mile run.

This may sound a bit daunting; however, with the right mindset and a little dedication, it can be a lot of fun! It’s best to give yourself a few months to get in shape to avoid injuries. This makes now the perfect time to start training since many triathlons happen between May and September.

An Olympic-distance race consists of a one-mile swim, 25-mile bike ride and six-mile run. From there on, distances increase up to the Iron Man level. We’ll start with a sprint for now, though. Keep an eye out for registration dates for local races, such as the “Tri-Zou” in May, because they fill up quickly.

Here are some key tips to training for and completing a sprint race:

Hit the pavement

The best way to start training is to get out and jog. With the weather warming up, this is the perfect time to log some easy runs and take in fresh air along the way. Start with simple 10-minute runs around the neighborhood, and work your way up by about five minutes each week. Even if you need to take a few walking breaks in between, this is great interval training. Don’t ever push yourself beyond your limits; work up gradually to your ultimate goal.

Cross-train, cross-train, cross-train

Especially in triathlons, the most important thing you can do before the big day is cross-train. The three parts of the race require very different amounts of work, and it’s essential to be prepared for that before going into it. Pick two days out of the week to combine two of the three workouts and do them back-to-back. These can be shorter to start. Try running a mile or two, and follow it up with swimming laps for 20 minutes. This is a great way to prepare yourself for the big day.

Spencer Cope, a 2010 Mizzou grad, is currently training for an Iron Man and swears by the importance of cross-training. “Making sure that you proportionally spread yourself out between the swimming, running and biking is important,” Spencer says. “Sometimes you spread yourself thin in the other areas, so trying to get quality time in each one and really focusing on your weaknesses helps.”

Practice transitions

This one is a little tough if you’re working out at the Rec. Transitions tend to slow down racers, so you have to be prepared in order to be quick and efficient. The first and most complex transition will be from swimming to biking. Have a towel waiting at your station to dry off quickly. Bring a lightweight, water-repellent top and pair of shorts to throw on over your suit. Have your gym shoes and socks out and ready, and strap on your helmet. This is nearly impossible to practice, but pack your bag the night before, and organize your gear to make for a seamless transition. For the next transition, you will move from biking to running, which is a breeze to practice at the Rec. Hop off the bike and jump right on a treadmill. In the actual race, you will take off your helmet, shake out your legs and take off running. 

Sophomore Rachel O’Brien competes in the Mizzou triathlon each year with her older sister, senior Erin O'Brien, and says that in the end, the training is definitely worth it. “My favorite part is the end, because as you’re running through the finish line they announce your name so everyone can hear it,” Rachel says. “Even though you’re exhausted, you feel this adrenaline rush.”

Eat healthy, stay rested

During training, it’s extremely important to take care of yourself inside and out. Be conscious of what you put into your body, and realize that you need to be in optimal condition. Trade in the junk food for a healthy piece of fruit or whole wheat toast, and sacrifice that last hour of watching Hulu online to get a few extra Z’s. This is especially important the week before the race. When you’re soaring past that finish line, you’ll be glad you took care of yourself along the way.

Erin started taking cycling classes at the Rec to prepare for her race. She also pays a lot of attention to what she eats. “I think the most important thing should be the actual working out part and exercising,” she says. “But for me, just because I don’t have the time with school, I think it’s getting the nutrition that you need and eating healthy and paying attention to the food you’re eating to get enough energy.”

Follow this advice, and you’ll be racing with the best! Another fun tip is to sign up for multiple triathlons. You’ll already be in shape, and once you get your first one down, you’ll be a pro. All that’s left to do now is lace up those sneakers … good luck!