SOUND MIND, SOUND BODY: A step at a time to triathlon

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Summer is fast approaching and it is the perfect time to tackle a new challenge. Have you ever thought of participating in a triathlon?

If so, it is not too late to start your training. Anybody can swim-bike-run a triathlon, even if you haven't exercised in years -- it just takes planning and determination to make it to the big day.

As with any exercise program, you need to schedule training into your day. Write it down on your calendar or plug it into your smartphone -- consider it just as important as a doctor's appointment.

Before starting to train you should determine whether you are healthy enough to begin an exercise program. Check with your physician if you have not exercised in a long time.

Now to start, you will need to determine what distance your first race will be. Tri-it, sprint or Olympic distance? The tri-it or sprint distances are typically great ways to start out in the sport -- they are the shortest distances and take the least amount of time to train per week. The tri-it is typically a quarter-mile swim, 12-15 mile bike and a 5K (3.1-mile) run. The sprint distance has the same distances for the bike and run but the swim is a half-mile. The Olympic distance is a little longer with a 1,500 meter swim, 25-mile bike and a 10K (6.2-mile) run.

The sport can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be. Here are a few of the essentials to get you started.

  1. Swim: You will need a swimsuit and a pair of goggles. Make sure to purchase a pair of goggles that fit your face, as this will make your swimming much more enjoyable. You may want to invest in a wetsuit, but it is not essential in the beginning -- many races give you the opportunity to rent them for about $40.

  2. Bike: This will be the biggest investment right away, if you don't already have a bike. You don't need to go out and purchase the most expensive bike there is. To start off, something simple will be just right.

If you have a mountain bike sitting around in your garage you can even use that. I have seen all sorts of bikes at triathlons. You will be better off starting with something simple and seeing if you like participating in triathlons first.

You will also need a helmet: All races require you to have a helmet that meets the standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Other items that are nice to have include: padded bike shorts, a breathable bike jersey, a pair of gloves and sunglasses. You will want to have a patch kit for your tires, and you will need to know how to fix a flat tire.

  1. Run: You will want to invest in a pair of quality running shoes that offer good support and are comfortable to run in. This will help in preventing running-related injuries.

When starting to train take it slow; don't expect to jump in the pool and swim a half-mile the first day or go out and run three miles if you haven't been swimming or running in years. If you're not sure where to begin there are many resources online that can help you, or you can check with your local triathlon club.

Today is the perfect time to get started on your training. With a little planning you could be a triathlete by the end of summer.

Valerie Rankin has been working in the fitness industry since 1998. She has a bachelor's degree in health education and fitness promotion. She is group exercise director at the YMCA where she manages and instructs fitness classes.

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Additional Resources

www.beginnertriathlete.com

www.active.com

www.usatriathlon.org

www.trifind.com

"The Triathlete's Training Bible and Your First Triathlon" by Joe Friel

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