To Race or Not to Race

Last year you were a spectator along the course, cheering your friend, brother, co-worker to the finish. Your emotions waffled between awe and envy, and even thoughts of, “Oh, I could never do that!” The racers were of every weight, age, and size imaginable. And yet, watching them, one idea wouldn’t leave your head: “If that guy can do it, so can I!”

Fast forward through the winter and spring. Now you’re faced with the decision: To race or not to race. The reasons why you should sign up are as numerous as the thousands who will toe the line in September: the opportunity to be part of a world-class event, the pure satisfaction of completing a challenging goal, toeing the line with some of the best athletes in the world, improved health, and a strong sense of accomplishment.

It is also important to go into this endeavor with a good understanding of what will be required of you. Follow the steps below to determine if you are ready to sign up:

  1. Are you healthy? Have you talked with your doctor about the training needed to have a good race experience? If you are overweight, have high blood pressure or cholesterol (or don’t know your blood pressure or cholesterol numbers), or haven’t been active recently, you’ll want the okay from your physician before you jump in.
     
  2. Do you have the desire to finish? Training for a triathlon will be tough. There will be days that you won’t want to get up early for a swim. A run in the afternoon heat won’t sound as tempting as dinner with your friends after work. You need a strong mental picture of yourself crossing the finish line in September and the desire to succeed to get you out the door to train when your body is tired.
     
  3. Can you make time for the training? Triathlon training takes time. To be properly prepared for an Olympic-distance triathlon, you should plan to spend 12-16 weeks, depending on your current fitness level and goals. Some days will involve doing two workouts each day. During the peak of your training you may spend 10-12 hours per week swimming, biking, and running.
     
  4. Are you surrounded by a good support system? Having family and friends in your corner will make training a joy rather than a hardship. Talk to those closest to you about your goal and what you’ll need to be successful. You’ll be surprised about the lengths others will go to see you achieve your objective.
     
  5. Do you have a plan? How will you go about your training? Having a good road map to get you to the finish line will provide the consistency, accountability, and training needed for you to be successful. Talk to friends who have completed a triathlon. Ask about resources in your area – perhaps there is a local triathlon club or training group at your gym. Most triathletes remember being a beginner themselves and are happy to help steer you in the right direction.

The time and energy spent training for triathlon can be very rewarding. Go into the experience with your eyes wide open and soon you’ll be calling yourself a triathlete!
 

Julie Kirkpatrick, CSCS

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