Could You Be a Triathlete?

You’re thinking about doing a triathlon, but the last time you can recall biking, swimming and running consecutively for any length of time was 20-plus years ago when moving your body was called "play."

Now, as an adult, your muscles are tight, your belly is bigger and, some days, walking up the stairs to your office is a feat in itself.

But, according to Mark Wilson, founder and president of the Hudson Valley Triathlon Club and a professional triathlon coach, you don't have to have any athletic background to become a triathlete.

"The biggest key to being successful in any sport is to fully believe in yourself," said Wilson.

A triathlon is a race consisting of several athletic events including swimming, cycling and running. In most ttriathlons, the various legs of the race are held back-to-back and a competitor’s time is based on the races themselves, as well as the time it takes to transition between the races.

Because the events range from cycling to swimming a change of outfit is often necessary and is included in the time it takes to complete the race.

Although a triathlon with its many facets may appear daunting, Ross Galisky, head coach of Tri Life Inc. in New York, said that everything is learnable.

"With time anyone can learn proper technique in each sport, improve and become more efficient," he said.

Matthew Babcock, founder and coach of, adds, "The most important attribute that a person should posses to have success participating in triathlon is related to their mental approach to the sport. You have to have a deep desire to be a finisher and to achieve one's goals."

Here are 10 "must do's" from some of the top triathlon coaches

in the country on how to train safely and effectively:

— Get a tune up. Galisky can't stress enough the importance of getting a physical from a doctor before starting triathlon training. "It is very important to get your engine and transmission evaluated for any possible imbalances."

— Clearly define your goals and make a commitment. "Once you have defined your goal, you can make a commitment to yourself to complete the necessary training and make the lifestyle changes required to reach your goals," said Babcock.

— Start simple. "Initially just get out there and ride, and don't get overwhelmed with all the gadgets and expensive equipment,” said Wilson. "Assess what level you are at first, and then go from there. Always get well-fitted equipment specifically from a triathlon shop, because they will be able to get you exactly what you need."

— Start slow. "Don't do too much to fast," said Babcock. Going from the couch to running, biking and swimming all in one day will burn you out fast, leave you feeling frustrated and potentially injured. Keep your training plan and goals realistic and manageable.

— Find support. "Join a triathlon club in your area to have a group of support for training and coaching help," said Mark Allen, six-time winner of Ironman World Championship in Hawaii and a triathlon coach.

— Eat well and stay hydrated. Wilson recommends eating about 500 calories three hours prior to your race and sipping on sports drinks to keep your electrolytes up and potential cramping down. He personally swears by Hammer Nutrition, an online company that specializes in supplements and energy foods for highly competitive athletes.

— Get a coach. To prevent making a lot of beginner mistakes along the way, hiring a coach to help you create a customized training plan, will save you time and money in the long run. “There are a lot of websites designed to help new athletes get started, but the safest and most effective way to train from the beginning is to find a coach," Wilson said.

— Be vocal about your commitment to triathlon. Babcock recommends letting your friends and family know about your goals and plans to do a triathlon to help you stay motivated. "These people will take on a role as a support group and will follow up with you on your progress," he said.

— Stretch and warm up. Lengthening and stretching out your muscles before and after training with help you perform better and prevent injuries. Balancing out your workouts with yoga is a great way to stay flexible and aligned.

— Get plenty of rest. Rejuvenation is key to letting your body rekindle its strength and energy. Make sure you get at least eight hours of sleep per night to ensure a full recovery from the previous days workout.

While physical strength definitely plays a role in getting you across the finish line, it is your inner desire, unwavering commitment, and a fun loving attitude that will make your first experience as a triathlete successful.

"Triathlon is not just a sport for the chiseled, gym rat or physical freaks of nature,” said Babcock. "Anyone, despite shape, size, or gender, who has the desire and commitment to complete a triathlon can easily find himself/herself among the coveted group of individuals that can call themselves triathletes."

This article was reviewed by Dr. Manny Alvarez