For the average person, the thought of triathlon can be a terrifying thought. Who has the stamina to compete for up to 17 hours?

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For the average person, the thought of triathlon can be a terrifying thought. Who has the stamina to compete for up to 17 hours? The good news is, when it comes to triathlon there are a number of different race lengths, which means the daunting thought of an Ironman challenge can be replaced with more achievable distances that can be completed in a couple of hours.
We’ve put together a novices’ guide to triathlon training that will have you mastering the art of this unique sport in no time.

The basics
Triathlon is a multisport endurance event that combines swimming, cycling and running over various distances. While the most famous of triathlons is the Ironman, covering a distance of 3.86km in the swim, 180km in the cycle and 42.2km in the run, triathlon distances are as different as the people who compete in them.
“When it comes to triathlon a lot of people can be quite scared,” says Ironman athlete and PT Stef Hanson. “But there are a lot of small triathlons that lots of people will be able to get through, such as a 200m swim, a 10km bike ride and a 2km run.”
The versatility of triathlon means it’s no longer just a sport for the elite and super-fit athletes we see on our television screens. It can also be a fun and social pastime for anyone looking to take their fitness to the next level.
Preparation is key when looking to start your first enticer (beginner) triathlon, so before you turn up on the day it’s essential to find out if you need to register before the event day, and suss out where the transition areas are to help you move through the race with ease.
Triathlons are generally timed in five sections:
The start of the swim to the beginning of the first transition (swim time).   
The beginning of the first transition to the end of the first transition (T1 time).
The start of the cycling leg to the end of the cycling leg (cycling time).
The beginning of the second transition to the end of the second transition (T2 time).
The start of the run to the end of the run (finish).


Getting started
If you’re looking to start out with an enticer triathlon, you will need a basic level of fitness. Find out the lengths you will be racing and make sure you can finish each leg, no matter what your time is. As long as you are able to finish the race you will be well on your way to triathlon success.
“You don’t have to do the race fast; you can even walk the two kilometres if you want to,” Hanson says. “Because the race is so small you’re still going to finish it without doing any damage in that short amount of time.”
Beginners can generally manage their own training regime; however, if you’re looking to move towards the longer races, a coach or trainer may be needed to help you achieve your goals.
“If you’re just looking to get out there and have a bit of fun in a small triathlon, you don’t need a very structured program, but if you are looking to participate seriously in triathlons and want to improve, you should definitely get some advice from a coach or trainer,” Hanson says.
“There are so many things that need to be incorporated into your training apart from just the swim, bike and run, such as mental training and knowing when to take a break to prevent exhaustion.”
If you prepare properly for your triathlon, it’s likely you’ll develop a love for the sport and never turn back, as it provides endless benefits to both your body and mind.
Because of the highly intense cardiovascular element you are likely to see vast improvements to your energy and endurance levels. And because it can also be a very disciplined sport, you may also begin to see improvements in your mental focus and alertness.

The tools
When you think about all the equipment and clothing used by professional triathletes, it’s no wonder many perceive the sport to be very expensive. But beginners don’t necessarily need a tri-specific bike as the race can be competed on your trusty mountain bike hanging in the garage.
“For anyone starting out there’s no need to spend thousands of dollars on a bike when you can simply get out on a mountain bike, try the sport, fall in love with it and go from there,” Hanson says.
When it comes to clothing, you can compete the swim leg in a basic swimsuit then cover up with a pair of shorts to finish the race. There’s no need for fancy clothing designed specifically for triathletes when starting out, as long as you’re comfortable and covered up.
One essential tool you’ll need for triathlons is a good diet to give you the energy to finish the race and recover.
“These days lots of people are scared of carbohydrates, as many think they lead you to put on weight,” Hanson says. “But when you do endurance or aerobic events you need lots of carbohydrates for your immediate energy source.
“A healthy, balanced nutritional intake is important for life in general, but a healthy combination of carbohydrates, good fats and protein will help with your recovery as well.”
Hydration is also key, so make sure you drink lots of water and keep a sports drink handy to replace lost electrolytes.

The risks
As with any sport, competing in triathlons is not risk-free. Because of the endurance aspect, you need to take extra care when training, competing and recovering.
Even in the small events, if you haven’t previously trained in similar distances your body may be overwhelmed by the workload, so make sure prepare your body and cool down afterwards.
“Make sure you include recovery strategies as well as your normal training because that’s where a lot of people can get injuries and cause harm,” Hanson says. “It’s important to include recovery techniques such as massage and stretching to help your body recover from the race.”
By following these simple tricks and listening to your body, you’ll be able to determine the perfect triathlon to suit you. Search online for a list of events in your area and you’ll be mastering triathlon in no time.
Remember that when starting out, it’s not about your finishing time or how far you go. If you want to enjoy the race it’s essential you listen to your body, respect its needs and enjoy the rush of adrenaline when you cross the finish line.