What to do if You’re Scared to “Tri”: A Professional Triathlete’s Advice on Taking on Your First Triathlon

So you’ve thought about signing up for your first triathlon, but your brain keeps reminding you of all the tough training schedules and uncertainties you’ll face. If you’re scared to “tri,” our advice in a nutshell? Nah, don’t be!

Though the thought of participating in the sport of triathlon may seem a bit daunting at first, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.  

first triathlon

The rewards are plenty: setting and accomplishing goals; gaining health through cross-training workouts; enjoying the camaraderie; and the amazing feeling of empowerment you experience when you finally cross the finish line.

War veteran, professional triathlete, and motivational speaker Melissa Stockwell offers some good advice for women thinking about doing a triathlon: “Don’t be afraid to get out there and try something new. Who knows, you might find a new passion!”

Women come up with a ton of excuses to sidestep trying new athletic endeavors, most founded in fear (come on, we all have them!). Outlined below are some of the fears many of us encounter around triathlon, and our solutions so you can get out there and tri.

Your fear: I’m afraid of how I will look in a tri suit and of being judged for how I look.

Your solution: Don’t be afraid of not looking like your imagined ideal of a triathlete. “One of the best parts of a triathlon is seeing people of all shapes and sizes out on the race course,” Stockwell says. “You are beautiful, so believe it! Embrace whatever it is that makes you YOU.”

Your fear:  I’m worried I will come in last.

Your solution:  Even if you are at the end, it’s really fun crossing the finish line with everyone there encouraging you. During the swim, some athletes breast stroke or dog paddle. That is fine. Some ride a bike with a basket on it. That’s fine too. “Everyone is out there to be the best athlete they can be, whatever that means to them,” Stockwell explains.

Your fear: I’m anxious about competing alongside men.

Your solution:  “You will feel the bond with your fellow female triathletes before you even get to the starting line. As you set up your transition area you will see other women who are always open for a chat, to help answer any questions and to ease your fears,” Stockwell suggests. There will be men AND women out there on the course but you can be as competitive as you want to be.

Your fear:  I don’t know how to train.

Your solution:  “There are so many resources for you to learn how to train! Local triathlon groups, online triathlon communities and group training programs. Plus, there are so many other women to cheer you on from near and far,” Stockwell explains. Online you can get tips on everything from what wetsuit to get to what you should eat the night before the race. (See the end of this article for great female resource groups.)

Your fear: I’m concerned I don’t have enough time to train

Your solution: Finding time to train can be difficult, especially if you have a full-time job, a family, etc. But there are ways to get it done. “For a sprint triathlon, you can train as little as a few hours a week and still get to that finish line,” Stockwell maintains.

If it’s easier and more time efficient, you can bike on a trainer in your home. “Find a few early mornings that you can get out before work.”  Sit down with your loved ones, explain why training and the race is important to you, and together you can find a time to schedule everything.

Your fear:  I’ve heard it costs a lot of money for all the equipment/gear/clothes I need to train and race the three disciplines.

Your solution: “You don’t have to have the latest and greatest bike or wetsuit or even a tri suit to compete in a triathlon. There are plenty of deals on used bikes and everything else you would need,” Stockwell suggests.  If you chose a summer race, chances are you won’t need a wetsuit. If you don’t want to buy a bike, many bike shops also rent them. You can also borrow from someone. Any women’s tri group you find on Facebook would be happy to lend you clothes or sell them to you on the cheap.

Your fear:  How do I choose a race that is best for me?

Your solution:  “Smaller, local races are always a good place to start for a first triathlon. If you want an extra level of comfort there are many female only races or races that have all female waves,” Stockwell says.  A quick Google search, or a look on TriFind.com will pull up whatever is in your area.

Some “golden rules” of triathlon:

Never ingest something new on race day, no matter how good you think your stomach’s constitution is. While training, eat or drink what is available on the course (you can find that on the race’s website).

Equally important, don’t wear new socks, sneakers, sports bras or other clothes for  the race unless you ensure beforehand that they won’t chafe or cause blisters .  Not fun to experience these for the first time on race day.

And most importantly, don’t ever be afraid to ask other triathletes questions – either online or in person.  Every one of them was once a beginner like you and is usually happy to help.

Resources for women triathletes:

  1. Women for Tri (www.womenfortri.com)
  2. USA Triathlon Women’s Committee on Facebook
  3. Women for Tri Facebook group
  4. Many other all-female Facebook groups
Endurance Move

About Ronni Robinson

Ronni is a member of the Sandwich Generation; she's the tired lunch meat layered between two children and aging parents. She is an eating disorder recovery coach, a 3-time Ironman finisher, and is a certified spin instructor. Her first book, Out of the Pantry: A Disordered Eating Journey, can be found on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. You can find more of her professional writing and coaching info on her website (https://www.ronnirobinson.com/)

1 thought on “What to do if You’re Scared to “Tri”: A Professional Triathlete’s Advice on Taking on Your First Triathlon

  1. I’ve never done a triathalon… never even thought about it, but maybe these questions have been lurking subconsciously, and it’s time! ……….Nope. But I love living vicariously through women like you Ronni! Thanks for the inspiration

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