4 training tips for new triathletes

CNN Fit Nation coach April Gellatly, right, helps Ron Cothran work his core during Kick-off Weekend in Atlanta.

Story highlights

  • Start in your comfort zone to improve your fitness level before tackling a new sport
  • Never get on your bicycle without a helmet -- safety first!
  • Swimming is a great non-weight bearing, aerobic exercise to incorporate in your training
  • Follow Coach April on Twitter @Aprils_Awesome

It's hard to know where to begin when you start a new sport -- and in the case of triathlon, you're starting three.

The good news is that, more than likely, not all of these are completely new to you. It may have been many years since you have swam, biked or ran, but that doesn't change the nature of each activity. There's a reason they say, "It's just like riding a bike."

With these tips, we'll have you racing toward the finish line in no time.

Start within your comfort zone

The goal of most individuals starting a triathlon-training program is improved fitness. But your fitness level will only improve through consistent training.

Starting within your comfort zone will allow you to find the joy in triathlon. If you enjoy it, you will keep at it.

Are you more comfortable running than swimming? Are you better at biking than jogging? Pick the sport that suits you best to start.

Cancer survivor works out again
Cancer survivor works out again


    Cancer survivor works out again


Cancer survivor works out again 02:29
Fit Nation team starts journey to tri
Fit Nation team starts journey to tri


    Fit Nation team starts journey to tri


Fit Nation team starts journey to tri 02:30
Fit Nation team works out with Hawks
Fit Nation team works out with Hawks


    Fit Nation team works out with Hawks


Fit Nation team works out with Hawks 02:19

For the first two to three months of training, the CNN Fit Nation Sassy Six did more fitness-oriented training than triathlon-specific training. During this time, I allowed them to choose one or two of their cardio sessions each week.

It wasn't important to me that they were doing a specific exercise, but simply that they were exercising. Focus on getting fit before you tackle a new sport.

You have more to lose than pounds

With cycling, safety comes first

The Sassy Six has a rule: Never touch your bike without your helmet on.

If you are new to cycling, I recommend you become a student of the sport. We take a risk every time we go out on our bikes, especially when riding with automotive traffic.

The best place to start is by asking a lot of questions at your local bike shop. These guys will have knowledge of how your bike works -- shifting, braking, clipping in/out, etc. They will also likely have knowledge of safe places to ride locally.

The first time you head out to ride, I recommend going to a large empty parking lot. Pedestrian traffic can be just as dangerous for new cyclists because they are unfamiliar with basic bike skills such as braking and turning.

Remember, the hybrid or mountain bike you rode as a kid is a lot different than the road bike you're on now. It will take some getting used to.

5 rules for new triathletes

Swimming should be a key part of your training

Whether you are comfortable in the water or not, swimming should be an important part of your training program.

This non-weight-bearing, aerobic exercise is going to help you get fit without as much wear and tear on your body as cycling or running.

We had the Sassy Six in the water every day during Kick-Off Weekend, and now have them swimming two to three days a week leading up to the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. After all, we are preparing them to swim in the Pacific Ocean, which is no small feat.

I taught them a series of drills that encourage proper body position and breathing. Learning to swim properly first will save you a lot of wasted effort in the long run (or swim). If you don't have a fitness swimming background, take a few lessons or join a group like U.S. Masters Swimming.

Set goals and follow a program

Setting S.M.A.R.T. mini goals will provide direction to your training and keep you moving forward. These goals can be anything from working out three days a week for a month to finishing a sprint triathlon in 12 weeks.

Following a training program will help you reach your goals and encourage balance in your training. This balance will ensure that you go into your event prepared and help prevent injury.

With the Sassy Six, we set the goal: The Nautica Malibu Classic Distance Triathlon. They knew when they applied for the CNN Fit Nation Program that we would be preparing them for this event. We provide a training program, which includes daily training instructions, and most of their equipment.

So in less than five months, they'll be ready! How about you?

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