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How to get involved in triathlons

March 2011

The triathlon is considered by some to have its beginnings in 1920s France but the first modern swim/bike/run event to be called a 'triathlon' was held at Mission Bay, San Diego, California on 25 September 1974. The International Triathlon Union was established in 1989 and there are now hundreds of events happening all over the world each year.

I can see the appeal: the personal challenge, training hard and then achieving something that you didn't consider yourself physically capable of at the start. For us, the bottom line is that an event is a physical challenge but the training is regular physical activity, and it all goes towards helping you reduce your personal cancer risk.

But how do you get involved?

Dimity Gannon is not only the SunSmart Community and Sport Coordinator, she's also an experienced triathlete. When quizzed she guessed that she has competed in over 50 triathlons over the last 10 years.

Dimity joined the Nunawading Triathlon Club in 2001 and started out by taking part in their six week ‘Get Into Triathlon' program. Dimity said, "It was a good introduction to the sport because I had first timers around me working towards the same goal with plenty of  guidance and support from the club. At the end of the training program we all took part in a mini triathlon."

Dimity worked her way from training a few times a week and taking part in novice triathlons, up to training twice a day for Ironmans. Triathlons can range from a beginners triathlon – which might be swimming a few hundred metres, cycling 5km and running 2km – to an Ironman. An Ironman is a 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and then 42.2km run. That's a combined distance that is further than Melbourne city centre to Yarrawonga!

Each season the number of events across Australia is increasing, and with that so are the number of people involved in triathlon clubs. There are over 150 people that are part of Dimity's current club. "There are members of varying levels, training for a range of upcoming events or just training to keep fit and socialise."

Do you want to find out more about taking up triathlons?

Here are Dimity's tips for people that have never done a triathlon before:

  • Look into where your local triathlon club is. Do they have a beginners program? If not, make contact and find out how they would feel about supporting you through the training for your first triathlon.
  • Find people to train with – it makes it fun rather than a chore.
  • For your first race make sure you write a list of the things you need to bring with you ... helmet, sunscreen, runners, bike, bathers, etc. Writing a list will help take the stress out of the day.
  • Remember to have fun! Enjoy the crowd support. It's a mass participation event and it's not about the winning.
  • It's important to be well hydrated before the event and keep drinking during and after.
  • As with any other endurance sport make sure you think carefully about what you eat before and after your triathlon – for energy eat a nutritious carbohydrate rich meal or snack.
  • If you want to take your training and racing to the next level, consider working with a coach, most clubs have access to one.

Common mistakes and misconceptions or what not to do:

  • Don't think you need to be an athlete or incredibly fit and sporty to get involved. There are triathlons at all levels.
  • Don't give up on triathlon because you can't swim or you don't have a bike. Get a couple of friends together and do a team triathlon. Most events have a team category.
  • Don't buy all the latest gear. There's a saying, 'all the gear and no idea'. Having all the latest and greatest stuff just isn't necessary. Beginners should be more focused on having fun.
  • Don't start at the front of the swim pack unless you are a strong swimmer, or you want to get swum over by the masses.

"When it comes to triathlons the important part is the initial step, having the confidence to have a go. Anyone can do it, the hardest part is getting to the starting line," Dimity said.

To find out more look at the Triathlon Victoria website or Triathlons Australia.

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