Considering Doing Your First Triathlon? Read This!

Here's what you need to know.


Amy Hopkins |

Teetering on the edge of the pool… Thinking of jumping in? Hmmmm, I’m not quite there yet. I am a runner and, only as of the past year, a cyclist now too. And I’m about to do my first duathlon (run-cycle-run) at the Clanwilliam Freshpak Fitness Festival.

But unlike me, my colleague and partner-in-crime for the festival, WH writer Michelle October is a natural water baby and she’s doing the open water swim. If only our two powers could be combined we’d be a triathlon machine!

Michelle keeps trying to get me to just get in the water with her. And not the pool at the local gym. She means the icy Atlantic. Not trusting her wayward seafaring ways, I asked a running friend of mine, Jess, about transitioning into the sport of triathlon.

The truth is, fit girl Jessica Ashley-Cooper is also a really good swimmer. And I mean REALLY good. She has represented SA at the Common Wealth Games, World Champs, World University Games and more between the years of 2009 – 2015.

BUT she is not a cyclist and yet she’s chosen to take on triathlons. I asked her why she decided to make the transition and about triathlon training in general – she too will be competing at the Freshpak Fitness Festival.

READ MORE: 6 Amazing Triathlons That Are Perfect For Newbies

Why is swimming such a great sport?

“There are a number of reasons why you should start swimming. Swimming is great for rehabbing injuries, switching up your workout or simply wanting to cool off. Swimming is also a total-body workout and is great for your mind and body. Once you get in the pool for the first time and start swimming, you’ll wish you had started sooner.”

What made you decide to get into triathlons?

“I have always been a competitive athlete. After my swimming career I wanted to find a new challenge. My current goal is to compete in the Half and Full Iron man. I am lucky enough to have a swimming and running background, however I haven’t focused a lot on cycling. The bike will be the toughest part for me.”

Do you think the most successful triathletes come from a strong swimming background?

“Having a strong swimming background definitely gives an advantage, however you need to be strong in all three disciplines to be a successful triathlete.”

How do you break down your training for a triathlon event?

“Being a beginner in triathlons, I like to have variety in my training programme. I focus a lot on my running and strength work to maintain my fitness levels. I will alternate between swimming, running and cycling in the week and will put in the extra hours of cycling on the weekends.”

For people like me (doing the duathlon), who run and cycle, but have no swimming background, how easy is it to get into triathlons?

“You can do anything you put your mind to! Start slowly and set small goals. Look at starting a swim squad to help you with stroke correction and technique.”

Can you give three survival tips for the swim part on race day?

1/ Try save your legs for the bike and run. Focus on a strong pull under the water.

2/ Get into a good breathing pattern – breathe every three strokes – to get as much oxygen to the muscles.

3/ Try keep warm before the race for as long as possible. Keep a jacket on until the last minute before the race.

Tell us about your tri gear? What shoes do you run in? What bike do you ride?

“I recently got given a HUUB trisuit from a friend of mine that used to swim with me and now competes in sprint triathlons. I run in adidas shoes and cycle with a specialized bike.”

READ MORE ON: Fitness Fitness Advice Triathlons