How to Train for a Triathlon Without Going Broke
I had never thought about training for a triathlon. I've been an athlete my entire life, but over the years, I've gotten busier and busier. Soon, being an athlete meant hitting the gym every now and then to stay in shape.
But my gym membership wasn't satisfying my competitive nature. That's when I started thinking about triathlons. The idea intrigued me, but the only one I'd ever heard of was the famous Ironman in which you swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run a full marathon to top it off. Suffice it to say, it seemed a bit out of reach.
Still, I decided to do a little research, and I'm glad I did because I found that triathlons come in all shapes and sizes, including a "sprint" version that includes a half-mile of swimming, 12 miles on the bike and 3.1 miles of running. That sounded doable! So at the age of 25, having never swum, biked, or run competitively before—I started to train for a triathlon.
Fast-forward to my first race. It was a blast. My girlfriend, who was also new to triathlons, trained with me, and soon we caught the triathlon bug. But in the process, we realized something else: triathlons are incredibly expensive.
Luckily, it doesn't have to be that way. I've been a triathlete for eight years now, and I've learned more than a thing or two about keeping the price right.
Triathlon participants end up spending their money in four main areas—the bike, the entry fee and travel costs, the coach, and the hype. But there are a few things you can do to reduce or eliminate these expenses.
1. Borrow a Bike
A quality bike is the most expensive part of a triathlon. Most new bikes range from $2,500 to $6,000.
But you don't need a high-end bike for your first race. After all, who knows whether you'll end up liking the sport? Instead of throwing a boatload of cash at a brand new bike, borrow one from a friend or use a less expensive mountain bike.
2. Choose a Local Race
Most triathletes aim to participate in iconic races that cost hundreds of dollars in entry fees—not to mention travel fees if the event isn't local.
Start with smaller local races. They usually don't cost more than $100, you don't have to pay for travel, and you get to sleep in your own bed, which you will definitely appreciate after the tiresome race.
3. Skip the World-Class Coach
Quality training is essential, but high-end coaches can cost more than $500 per month. Of course, coaching has its place. Before my first race, I literally couldn't swim with my face in the water. I struggled for a while, but in the end I hired a private coach for a few weeks to show me the basics. Then, I joined a masters team and swam with the group twice a week.
If your budget is a big concern, there are plenty of alternative options. Start by browsing the Internet for useful, credible advice. You can also purchase a triathlon training package online for a small fee.
4. Don't Get Sucked Into the Hype
Triathlons are known for their expensive equipment. From bikes to wet suits to special aero helmets, an array of "essential" gear is are available. Do your research to ensure you're not just paying for the hype. You can often find nearly identical stuff for a fraction of the price.
In all honesty, the only thing the expensive equipment will impact is your bank account, and that goes double for nutrition-related gear. You don't need to spend a lot of money on fancy gels and energy drinks. They can be easily replaced by something more affordable, such as bananas or honey.
Training for a triathlon is all about consistently putting in hard work. If there's one expense that I consider indispensible, it's a good book on training theory. It takes years to reach your full potential, and learning how to build a consistent training routine is key. That's the real secret—no magical workout or expensive gear required.