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The triathlon YOU could do

Want to try a triathlon without the ridiculously long miles? Lisa Buckingham, author of Triathlon Made Easy, tries new Urban Triathlon with shorter distances do-able by the rest of us – and gives five tips for your first triathlon

Ever toyed with the idea of doing a triathlon, but found it just that bit too terrifying? I felt the same way before I first started doing them. What if I wasn’t fit enough? What if I didn’t have the right kit? What if, what if, what if?

That’s why the brand-new Urban Tri is genius. You don’t need any kit beyond your usual gym gear, it’s for everyone from less seasoned exercisers to the super-fit, and it’s a brilliant way to taste the thrill of putting three fitness disciplines together with plenty of support.

Oh, and you don’t have to swim. No, this thoroughly urban event replaces the swim with 45 minutes of hot yoga in luxury Covent Garden studio, Yotopia. Then it’s on to a 3-mile run through central London, led by the lovely fellows from Sweatshop, followed by an 8-mile bike ride in the indoor cycling equivalent of hardcore clubbing, Boom Cycle.

The hot yoga class during the Urban Tri

In our little press testers’ group of ten (there will be around 30 for the real thing), we had a wide range of fitness. I’m a keen runner and cyclist, but a hot yoga newbie. After that session, I’m now a hot yoga addict. What an incredible way to get stretched, warmed and soothed in preparation for the next two disciplines. It was as challenging as you wanted it to be because the teacher gave adaptations for every pose and you could rest if you found it too much.

Then it was time to haul our sweaty bods downstairs and into our running shoes for a run through central London. It was the kind of run that makes you appreciate London afresh, we took in Trafalgar Square, St James’s Park, Big Ben, the river. And, again, no need to be worried about keeping up with a group. You can go at your own pace, guided by Sweatshop marshals.

The last exhilarating leg took us into the darkened studio at Boom Cycle in Holborn, where we monitored our own eight miles led by an insanely energetic instructor to the backdrop of loud, thumping, motivational beats that made us forget to even check how far we’d gone. How hard and fast you want to go is entirely up to you.

If you’re looking for an antidote to that same old run around the park, the Urban Tri is where it’s at. It’s a laugh, but hard enough to make it a real fitness challenge.

And, of course, if it gives you the triathlon bug, the next step is to find yourself a race to try. I can’t think of another sport that offers the same body benefits – with swimming, cycling and running, there isn’t a single bit of your body that doesn’t become taut and toned. You don’t suffer the boredom of, say, marathon training because you’re combining three sports, and you’ll have to experience the post-triathlon high for yourself to know what I’m talking about when I say it’s the biggest buzz EVER.

Womans Triathlon swim start

I did my first triathlon about 10 years ago. It was a sprint distance (700m swim, 20k bike ride, 5k run) and I’d signed up to get myself out of an exercise boredom rut. I had a few mishaps, such as getting my wet top stuck over my head in the transition between swimming and cycling (had to be rescued by a marshal), then almost took out said marshal with my bike because I was too busy waving to my cheering friends and hit a bollard. BUT, when I came over that finish line, I wept with joy at my achievement.

And I wept again when I ran over the finish line of my first half-ironman (1900m swim, 90k bike, 21k run) last September. My four- and two-year-old ran over the finish line with me (yes, it is possible to do triathlon if you have kids!) and I can honestly say, after several months of training and six hours and 46 minutes of racing, it was one of the greatest moments of my life. I have most definitely been bitten by the triathlon bug and I bet you will be too.

WANT TO TRY A TRI? Here are my five top tips for approaching your first triathlon…

1. Start with a sprint distance It’s a big achievement without being as intimidating as the bigger distances, and you can easily train for one by exercising three or four times a week. And pick a race with a pool swim, rather than open-water, so that you don’t have the added technicality of swimming in a wetsuit. A sprint is the perfect intro to triathlon and the technical ins and outs of linking the three disciplines. Visit British Triathlon to find races.

2. It’s the swim that typically puts people off the idea of triathlon. But let me reassure you – if you can swim, you’ll be fine It doesn’t matter if it’s a slow head-up breaststroke, as long as you can sustain it for the required distance. In open-water swims, the start can be a bit of a scrum, but it’s totally avoidable if you just hang at the back and let all the people who want to actually win the race set off, then you can have a nice leisurely swim at your own pace. Plus, there are always lifeguards in kayaks patrolling in case anyone is struggling.

3. Don’t skip the brick training This is tri speak for following a bike ride with a run when you’re preparing for a race. The muscles primarily used for cycling are different to those you need for running and it can take your legs a while to adjust. Training for this transition with one or two brick sessions a week means you prepare the muscles and become familiar with the sensation you get in your legs when your first hop off the bike and start running. I won’t lie – it feels a little bit like someone has pumped lead into your legs, but it wears off after a mile or so.

woman biking in city

4. Don’t worry about having über-kit Triathlon is the UK’s fastest growing sport, so at every race you’ll find a brilliant mix of ultra-fit bods with thousands of pounds worth of gear, mingling with total newbies that are doing it on Shopper bikes. For your first race, you just need a swimming cozzie/bikini, a functioning bike and helmet and your running gear. Getting addicted to fancy kit comes later…

5. The internet is a treasure trove of triathlon advice so use it to find training plans, chat on tri forums and get info on everything from kit to which races are best. Or join a triathlon club. Training with others is a lot more fun and they’re very welcoming to beginners.

The Urban Tri will take place on the first Sunday of each month – the next one takes place on November 2nd, 2014. Cost: £40. To book a place, contact Yotopia: 0333 405 8888 or Boom Cycle: 020 7426 0702

Lisa buckinghamLisa Buckingham is a health and fitness journalist, and co-author of Triathlon Made Easy (Published by Anova 21 January 2008)


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