Triathlon training for every level

Empire Tri ClubA few years ago, triathlons were the last thing on Jessica McDonald’s mind—the 30-year-old was about to have a baby. But nine months after giving birth, she completed her first-ever triathlon.

Now, she and her cousin Alison Cooper, 28 (a veteran triathlete) have launched the brand-new Empire Tri Club—a training team for a younger generation of triathletes. “We’re trying to introduce more people to the sport,” Cooper says. “This is something that’s so much more realistic than a lot of people who haven’t been athletic for 30 stryears might expect.”

Tempted by doing a tri? We’ve got their three insider tips.

1. Set a goal and plan accordingly.
According to Cooper and McDonald, triathlons really are about mind over matter. Which is why they’re into setting goals that are realistic and personalized.

For neophytes, good goals could be anything from boning up on your skills to actually finishing a race to. Once you’ve zeroed in, plan to make it happen. If, say, you want to improve your swim, hire a swim coach, go to a clinic, or register for a duathlon (run, bike, run) to build your confidence. Clubs help with this, too.

women triathletes on bikes

2. Train for your transitions.
“When most people train for a triathlon, they practice swimming, biking, and running, but neglect transitioning between each leg of the race,” the cousins explain. “Transition is a skill that must be practiced.”

For novices, that could mean focusing on what to pack on race day and how to lay it all out: “Practice setting up a mock transition area beforehand, so you know exactly what you’re going to do and how. Many beginners make the mistake of bringing too much.”

For more experienced folks, the cousins suggest checking out time-saving gear like a race belt, which saves you from having to pin your number onto your shirt. “Some die-hards even clip their shoes onto the bike ahead of time, so they can jump on and secure their shoes mid-ride!” they say.

3. Test drive your clothes and nutrition for race day.
On race day, you don’t want to be experimenting with new equipment, a new outfit, or a different nutrition strategy, the cousins explain.

Newbies should test their outfit and wetsuit well in advance, lest your shorts chafe or your wetsuit fills with water. And no detail’s too small: the athletes even suggest practicing how you’ll drink from your water bottle on your bike.

More advanced peeps should really hone their nutrition strategy. “If the course serves GU Energy Gels, practice with them to see how your body reacts,” the cousins say. “All the training in the world won’t help when you spend half the race in the port-a-john.” —Catherine Pearson

For more info about Empire Tri Club, visit

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