When I was in nursing school, our professors had us practice giving each other shots so that when we had to give one to a real patient, we wouldn’t be as nervous.
Ironically, the first patient I ever had actually asked me, “Is this your first time giving a shot?”, and I was able to confidently say, “Nope! I’ve done this before.”
Just knowing that it wasn’t my “first” time giving a shot gave me an instant confidence boost and that patient even told me that he barley felt it. YEA!
“Firsts” can be very scary and the fear of the unknown is pretty intimidating.
Think back and remember how you felt on your first day of school, or your first date, or your first day of work at a new job or your first time swimming in open water. I’m sure that not knowing what to expect caused some anxiety and fear, and I’m also sure that the second day wasn’t so bad because you had “been there, done that” already.
The same principal applies to your first triathlon. If you train and have done a few swims in open water, you won’t be so nervous about it on race day. So, to make your first triathlon as awesome as possible, here are a few things you can practice beforehand to ease your pre-race jitters and give you a huge boost of confidence.
1. Bike on the road
Riding a stationary bike or taking spin class is an awesome way to train for your triathlon, but nothing beats biking outside on the road. This will help you get familiar with your bike, how to shift your gears, when to shift your gears, and how hard you need to break in different situations. And don’t forget to practice these things to help you gain confidence on your bike.
Make sure you also practice drinking water while riding. My first triathlon was on a hot and sunny June day and I was so scared to take my hand of the handle to grab my water bottle that I ended up biking the whole distance without a even one sip of water. Needless to say, I was pretty dehydrated and had no energy for the run. It can be tricky to grab your bottle, drink and put it back in the cage while pedaling, so make sure you have this skill down before the race.
2. Swim in open water
We can’t stress this enough. Swimming in open water at least once before your first triathlon will help eliminate SO MUCH anxiety and fear! Swimming in open water means that you have to swim without having a designated pool lane and without being able to stop at either end of the pool.
By training in open water in a controlled environment before your race, you’ll be able to conquer your first time fear and you’ll know what to expect. For example, it took me 3 open water swims to get used to how murky the water was compared to the crystal clear water at the pool. The murky water creeped me out so much that I could feel my heart race and I started to panic the first time I swam in open water. On race day, I was so glad that I had not only overcome that fear and was mentally prepared for the swim, but that I knew that the water would be murky. Seriously guys… it’s the little things that can make a huge difference!
3. Train in your race day outfit
Over the weekend, Davey and I did a bike/run brick that was the actual distance of our upcoming Sprint Triathlon. We tried to stimulate race day as much as we could, and so we wore our race day outfits and we even picked out exactly what socks we would wear.
You know what? Davey got a blister from his socks and my tank top chaffed my arm when I ran. This is exactly why it’s a good idea to test out your race clothes before the race. Make sure your clothes are comfortable and that nothing rubs or chafes or causes blisters. Then on race day, you’ll have one less thing to worry about because you’re wearing an outfit that is tried and true.
4. Practice your transitions
It may sound crazy to practice changing your sneakers and putting on your helmet, but it’s not. Just do it.
This is an often overlooked part of triathlon training and coming up with a routine that works best for you can really help your race day go smoothly. With all the excitement and adrenaline you’ll have on the day of your first triathlon, it can be easy to forget something during your transitions if you haven’t rehearsed it.
For example, I forgot to put on my shorts and had to do the run in spandex. That was a big deal for a spandex phobic like me and I was so nervous and preoccupied with the fact that everyone would see my butt jiggle that my run sucked. For more transition tips, click here.
5. Practice putting on your wetsuit and taking it off
I think putting on a wetsuit is a sport of it’s own. It should be Swim, Wetsuit, Bike, Run. This is probably why I don’t wear a wetsuit during my triathlons unless I have to.
When you practicing putting on and taking off your wetsuit, you may come up with little tricks that make it easier for you. Putting plastic bags around your feet and ankles when putting it on is an old surfer trick that Davey and I used to use when we lived in California. Also a little magical stick of Body Glide really helps.
6. Do a few bricks
Knowing how it feels to bike after swimming and then to run after biking can be very benificial. Most beginner triathletes are surprised at how dizzy they feel after the swim or how weak their legs feel after the bike. It’s totally normal to feel this way, but the “first time” shock of these feelings can make for a pretty rough start on bike ride or run.
Becoming familiar with how you feel after the swim and after the bike can help you determine if you’ll need some water, a sports drink, a bar or a gel to give you some extra energy on race day. By doing a few bricks in your training, you’ll also develop more endurance and be able to push yourself harder on race day.
7. Change a flat tire
Aside from swimming in a crowd, getting a flat tire is one of the biggest fears of many beginner triathletes. I am thankful that I got a flat tire when I was training for my first triathlon, because it forced me to learn how to change a bike tire. But if you’ve gone your whole training period without getting a flat then make sure you practice changing a tire… just in case.
Hopefully your good no-flat-tire luck will carry over to race day, but imagine the shock of getting a flat tire during your triathlon and not knowing how to change it. So practice this and make sure you remember to pack a spare tire in your bike bag. To learn how to change a flat tire, click here.
If you devote some time to practicing these things during your training, then you’ll have a lot fewer of those “scary first experiences” during your first triathlon. So when you’re standing on the shore ready to run into the water and you feel butterflies and start to get nervous, remind yourself, “I’ve done this before… I have nothing to be nervous about”.
And when in doubt, fake it till you make it. I remember during my first triathlon, I had no idea how to run with my bike. The thought of practicing that hadn’t even crossed my mind. However, the bike start was pretty far away from the transition area, so I snapped on my helmet, grabbed my bike and looked around to see how other people were doing it and I just copied them. Fake it till you make it. It works. (Oh, and practice running with your bike too).
What are some things you practice before your triathlon?
What do you wish you practiced before your first triathlon?