Read time: 5min.
By Coach Yan Busset
Busting the Myths
Are you thinking about trying a triathlon but have some worries? You're not alone! Let's bust some myths and see how cool and doable triathlons really are.
Myth 1: "I Need to be a Fitness Machine to Start"
Not true! Triathlon is for everyone, whether you're just starting to exercise or already fit. To be a good triathlete, you need to be a healthy human being, so signing up for a triathlon is the perfect excuse to hack your lifestyle and aim to build a better version of yourself, regardless of where you start from. Stop comparing yourself to someone who has already trained for years; they often compare themselves to faster athletes. Guess what? As good as you are, there will always be someone faster than you. We are built differently by mother nature. All you need is the will to build a healthier version of yourself. Sure, it won’t always be easy, but you have to accept that with the consistency and discipline required to build good fitness comes an extraordinary reward: the freedom that comes from your body not being so limited. You will benefit from this not only by being able to participate in cool endurance challenges but also by becoming more useful in your surroundings. You will have more energy, for example, to be a better parent if you have kids, be more productive at work, and your new fitness will allow you to deal with all your daily tasks with more resilience.
Myth 2: "Triathlons Will Break the Bank"
Guess what? You don't need the fanciest gear to start. A swimsuit, any working bike, a helmet, and running shoes are enough. You might even already have what you need! Also, local races are a great way to save money while experiencing the thrill of triathlon. Sure, getting new gear can be a great motivation to train more. And it's better to invest your money there than in booze and cigarettes or an expensive car. But again, don’t let the very nice gear you see age groupers racing with be a deal breaker that makes you hesitate to try triathlon. Try it without expensive gear, and if you fall in love with it (spoiler: you will), and if your budget allows it later, sure, you can gear up little by little.
Myth 3: "I Must Master Swimming, Biking, and Running"
Nope! Everyone starts somewhere. I know many of the age groupers I coach were scared of water or not great at bike handling. But with practice and support, they conquered their fears. Gradually improve your weaker areas. It’s as much about personal development as skills. The best quality a triathlete needs to achieve their goals is stubbornness! You don’t do triathlon because it’s easy; you start a triathlon journey because you want to challenge yourself.
Myth 4: "Training Will Take Over My Life"
False alarm! A realistic training plan fits into your daily life. You don't need to train all three disciplines every day.( I wrote an article about it: 5 Proven Tips for Balancing Triathlon Training in a Hectic Life.). There are tricks to combine your commuting time, combine disciplines, and time management that will help you fit it into your daily schedule. But also, you have to understand that staying fit and healthy requires a daily effort. And you don’t want to compromise your health. Especially in our modern era, people have a lot of time but spend it on not so productive stuff. Just have a look at your phone's daily screen time and your Netflix account, and I am sure you can easily find 30 minutes to 2 hours daily to use wisely without compromising other stuff. To start with triathlon and complete your first race, you can easily do it on a time-crunched schedule. Of course, if you look at age groupers who want to perform at their very best, it’s another story; no secret there, you will need to put more hours in. It all depends on your end goal. (Check also my article Ironman: How Much Should I Train?.)
Myth 5: "Triathlons Are Super Scary and Dangerous"
Safety is always a priority. Races have lifeguards and closed roads for cycling. Plus, some beginner races offer pool swims, which might be more comfortable for starters. Sure, accidents happen, and as triathlon gets more popular, statistically, the number of accidents increases. Most accidents are due to a medical condition that was already there, or a lack of preparation for race day conditions. Before you start your triathlon journey, and this would be valid for any type of intense sport activity, get a full health check-up to assess your health. It's better to find out about any conditions beforehand rather than in the middle of a triathlon swim. Swimming and cycling are the two more challenging disciplines of the three. Swimming in open water with people around you is a different beast than your morning swim at your local pool alone in your lane. Train for it, with friends in open water, challenge yourself with others to simulate race day so that what comes on race day won’t be a surprise. Join a triathlon group, to train with others like you and get the support of a coach. (Check my article How to Survive the Swim Start With a Smile. )
Similarly, for the bike, many people train alone or almost only indoors these days, and bike handling can be an issue if they don’t have a cycling background. So learn to control your bike properly, by joining a course, by yourself, or with a friend, master it to learn the right reflexes when it matters (cornering, breaking, mounting, dismounting…).
Myth 6: "I Have to Do Ultra-Distances to be a Real Triathlete"
Not true! Whether you do a sprint or an Ironman, if you swim, bike, and run in an event, you’re a triathlete. The sport is about challenging yourself, not just going long distances. Resist the "bucket-list" mindset that would imply that if you don’t do an Ironman, you aren’t a real triathlete. I waited 23 years before doing my first long distance. Find a distance that you like and get better at it. If you always try to push the limit, sprint then Olympic, then Half, then full IM, then what is next? Deca Ironman? This quest for doing more is not healthy and will leave you empty after all. But if you find the type of race you like and if your aim is to build a better version of yourself, you will find in triathlon the perfect endless game! Because perfection is not of this world, you can spend a lifetime improving, optimizing your training according to your lifestyle and age. It’s a much healthier approach to triathlon rather than always chasing the next high or hype. I see some people getting into triathlon for the wrong reasons, trying to impress their co-workers or their boss by pinning on their LinkedIn bio that they finished an Ironman. Then next will be climbing Mt. Blanc and one selfie doing charity not for themselves but more for waving at others "look, I am a good person." No need to brag, no need to impress; you do that for you. Sure, you can be proud and let others know about it, mead by exemple, but also ask yourself why you do what you do. Hopefully, I see people coming to triathlon for the wrong reason, just for the bragging rights, but… they stay in the sport for the right one: they fell in love with the process, the life-changing experience of training for a triathlon.
Ready to Tri?
Remember, triathlon is about personal challenges and fun. Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can. Sign up for a race, join a training group, a club, or start training. Let’s bust these myths and enjoy the triathlon journey together!
Looking for More Tips?
Check out some of my past articles that are in connection with this article:
Thank you for reading and see you next week!
Whenever you’re ready, there are 4 ways I can help you:
1. Only few places available! Join our Weekend Winter Training Camp 2024 at the Vierumäki Sports Institute (Heinola, Finland) 09.-11.02.2024 (more info here)
2. If you are in the Helsinki area and looking for the best training group check here
3. If you are looking for an online coaching service check here.
4. If you are looking for support for your triathlon journey, I recommend you book a 30min 1on1 video consultation with me here.
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