9 things I wish I’d known before my first triathlon
Advice for tri beginners
Triathletes make mistakes and hopefully learn from them. Learn some lessons from a pro triathlete, Will Clarke, based on his own experience, as he shares the 9 things he wished he'd known before his first triathlon.
Written by Will Clarke
Will is a British triathlete. He's a former U23 World and European Champion, competed at Beijing 2008 and has twice been British national champion. He now competes on the World Ironman 70:3 circuit.
1) Not to expect a linear improvement
However your career may start, you’re never going to have that linear improvement all the way to the top. Even the youngest luckiest, most talented champions go through trials and tribulations along the way. The first part of my career was very, very smooth and I was pretty good quite young, however as I have gotten older this is the period where things start to get more difficult and I’m battling to keep on improving.
2) Having a baby is a game changer
As soon as that little fella came into my world, life completely changed. Instead of being selfish I now have to be selfless. I’m probably stronger than ever in sport but I have to keep a very regimented routine and run a very tight and organised ship if I’m able to perform to the best of my ability again.
3) Trust your instincts and learn from your experiences
As your career goes on you will learn a whole lot along the way through various mistakes and trial and errors. It’s all useless unless you learn from your experiences and implement that into your career. Make sure that you go with your instincts and not listen to too much of the noise around you. Of course you should listen to the experts and people that you trust but you’re the one that knows best. If you keep on doing the same thing you’ll never improve...
4) Learning to back yourself in races - don’t look over your shoulder
Confidence is key in triathlon, as soon as you let down your guard and you stop believing in yourself the race is lost. This is racing, everyone is hurting just as much as the next athlete otherwise they’d have dropped you already. So go for it, keep confidence and never look back at what’s coming from behind!
5) I wish I’d have focused more on my technique
Technique is one of those aspects that’s very hard to change once you get a bit older, but in a sport like triathlon it’s crucial to operate with efficient technique otherwise you’re giving too much away. It’s worth spending time on it; short and long term you’re likely to improve faster by becoming more efficient then you are carrying on with the same old training programme.
6) Look after your body
For young athletes or athletes just starting out your body is likely to feel kind of indestructible, like it can withstand anything. However as time goes on the body won’t be the same as it once was and niggles start to creep into the frame. Look after your body as you go along. Stretching daily can be a real ‘get out of jail free’ card, and core and glute work and lower leg conditioning will keep you out of trouble for a long time.
7) How sport will affect other people around you
You are the one out training every day and racing your heart out, but it’s not just you on your sporting journey. What you do each day will effect other people around you even if you don’t realise it that much. Be sure to involve them in a positive way and and keep them on board but also give back to them to thank them for their time.
8) Listen to your coach and think of the big picture
As an athlete in the moment you’ll often only be able to think day to day when analysing your training and often think emotionally making bad decisions, going against the plan. Whereas a coach with a plan will be able to see the whole picture of what you’re doing and what’s coming up. Now I’m coaching a bunch of athletes I understand that now. It’s not the end of the world if you have a bad session or indeed you miss training all together. If you’re not coached, think about the training block as a whole and remember the consequences of each session that you do.
9) Enjoy and realise why you’re doing this
When you do the sport for a long time and it becomes that engrained in your life you can really get stuck in a rut. Essentially you started the sport because you enjoy it and want to do it. If you’re no longer enjoying it then maybe you’ve lost some of those values that you started with so try to work out ways to find the love again. Since I started Ironman I began doing more and more on my own, I wasn’t being pushed so much by my training partners so much and in the end I wasn’t performing that well because of it. This year I’ll go back to finding friends to share the journey with again and at the same time push each other on to a new level.