This post is dedicated to the beginners out there, whether you’ve just signed up for your first triathlon, you’re trying a longer distance for the first time, or maybe (even more importantly) if you’re a seasoned athlete that’s just getting back in the saddle after an injury or sabbatical. This is the first in what will become a weekly Back to Basics Tip series that we’ll run regularly to make sure that no one misses a chance at the finish line.
First, a word about starting something new, or getting back into the swing: it can be hard. It can be uncomfortable, awkward, and frustrating. And it’s very easy to get into the downward shame spiral of thinking of how good we were before that injury, or how fit we were 10 years ago, or how every other athlete in this race looks so fit and fast and strong. Endurance sports are not for the faint of heart, but most athletes have at least one moment of self-doubt once in awhile – and that’s the point. There isn’t one racer out there who hasn’t fought at least one battle to get to that place. So the battle, the uncomfortable, frustrating, and awkward part, is also the fun part. Or, rather, it will become the fun part, if you let yourself get there. So, on to the battle…
Our Back to Basics Tip of the week is: Benchmark It. New athletes, seasoned athletes, recently rehabbed athletes all could use a log of their current baseline fitness test, depending on the goal. If this is your first tri ever, test each event individually, as soon as possible, to gauge your current fitness level. Once you’ve done a trial run of each distance, hopefully similar in terrain to which you’ll be competing on, write down your times. If you think you can or want to improve on any of them, set yourself a goal – don’t you love those? – and keep training. Then see where you land in a month or six weeks time with another trial run of the same distance, on the same course. The beauty of the multisport event is that you have moments to shine, and moments to challenge yourself. If you’re a killer runner but almost drown on the swim, then you know where you can lean on your strengths and where you can work on your weaknesses.
For the recently-rehabbed athletes, the same goes for you: find that benchmark and start working from there. Maybe the goal is running, biking, or swimming without pain, which alone is an incredible achievement after an injury. The benchmark is the baseline from which to measure and celebrate your improvements, not the standard to which you think you “should” be better. When you’re starting out, you’ve got to start somewhere.