Updated: Jan 6, 2020
Do it! Sign up for that race you’ve been thinking about but haven’t had the guts to pull the trigger on. It’s only January. You’ve got plenty of time to get ready before race day. Stop thinking about it. The race is like forever away but if you don’t sign up now, you may lose your spot. You can do it – I swear it won’t be as hard as you think. And I promise that by the time it’s over you’ll feel great about yourself, probably have made a couple friends, will be objectively healthier physically and psychologically, have picked up a new hobby, learned some helpful things about yourself, connected with nature, and possibly motivated someone else in your life to try something they’re unsure of - that’s pretty cool! And don’t just take my word for it – science agrees that the benefits of exercise are much more than physical health!
After you’ve signed up, come back here and we’ll figure out the rest together. I won’t leave you alone on this one, promise.
Okay … did you do it? No, not yet? Read the first paragraph again and come back.
Do it yet? Okay, good job! You won’t regret it! Seriously, you won’t – just like that morning workout you sometimes dread, I promise you’ll feel great afterward. And this great feeling won’t easily dissipate like that cookie you’ve been craving – this kind of feeling will solidify and form a base for you to stand on and reach even higher.
Now let’s talk about what you’ve gotten yourself into. First, you’ve taken a huge step and deserve a pat on the back. There is only one way out of this situation we’ve gotten you into – prepare, train, and finish the race.
Step Two: Blast out your amazing news on social media. This’ll serve a few purposes: help lock you into your decision through the public nature of your announcement, provide some immediate and gratifying feedback as your network of friends and acquaintances tells you how awesome you are, possibly motivate others who are on the edge to take the plunge, and connect you with others who are doing the same thing (you are not alone!).
Step Three: Let’s set some goals and write them down. In the words of a good friend “setting meaningful goals increases motivation, improves decision making, and strengthens commitment. When you hit setbacks, having a sense of purpose keeps you on track.” You can set outcome goals related to your final objective such as finishing in the top 50% of the field. You can set performance goals, which are often within your control. They could include running the whole race without walking or giving it your best effort no matter what. And you can set process goals such as sticking to the training plan or keeping yourself motivated throughout the race with positive and motivational self-talk.
My friend recommends posting your goals in a place you'll see every day, like on your bathroom mirror, on your computer monitor, and on the lock screen on your phone. This constant reminder will help keep you motivated when the going gets tough.
Step Four: Let’s get you a training plan. If you are a true beginner and want to do a 5k, you could check out Couch to 5k or even Couch to Marathon if you’re feeling ambitious. If you’ve got some experience and want a multi-sport structured training plan, I’m a fan of Training Peaks. There are number of plans available for sale and the app integrates well with other watches and gadgets you might have. But you don't have to pay for a plan - check out Mytimetotri.com for a host of triathlon related resources.
If you’re looking for some extra motivation and a good group to train with, you could consider joining a team. January is a great time to find a team given that most training programs are just getting started in preparation for spring and summertime races. Joining a team is also a great way to meet like-minded people and can be a wonderful way to make friends outside of work. Hopefully there is something in your area – check out a separate blog we wrote on the benefits of training with a team.
Step Five: Let’s assess your equipment needs. If a running race is your goal, you’ll just need some descent running shoes and clothing. My wife and I are currently loving our Brooks Launch 6 shoes. You might also want to pick up some running pants or tights – I’m not as big a fan of tights, so I got these running pants and find they are the best of both worlds: keep me warm and I don’t feel awkward sitting down in a coffee shop afterwards. I recommend layering up if its cold – a non-cotton wicking base layer, a warmer second layer, and a water-resistant outer layers is a good default option. You can add or lose layers based on the weather.
If you’re aiming for a triathlon, your equipment could vary depending on the distance you are racing. Check out our short Guide to Your First Triathlon if this is your first race. If you’re a vet and looking to up your distance, you might want to use the opportunity to finally invest in that tri bike you’ve been thinking about – don’t start getting all rationale on me now – you’re the one that just impulsively signed up for a crazy long race!
Step Five: Let’s take a glance at your nutritional needs. If you’re shooting for a long race, you might want to consult an expert. There is an increasing prevalence of qualified sport nutritionists and many will offer you a free consultation. If that’s a stretch for you, I’d recommend cutting out most added sugar and sugary drinks from your diet and upping your water consumption. Check out a handy primer I found on the internet that breaks it down in fairly simple terms.
This is probably enough to get you started – there’s no turning back now! You’ve already blasted your news all over social media. Joking aside, you will likely face challenges along the way, but you can do it by staying focused, remembering your goals, and keeping your eye on the prize. Of course, if you are feeling significant physical discomfort or pain beyond simple fatigue and soreness, it would be wise to consult your doctor or a physical therapist. You could even meet with a therapist as a preventative measure. During Ironman training last year, I regularly met with an amazing physical therapist who helped keep my muscles loose and avoid injuries.
But most importantly, you can do this! We believe in you!