5 Common Beginner Triathlon Myths

Beginner triathlete training for your first ever triathlon? Check out ImpossibleTRI and run your first triathlon in 3 months.


I’m back from the land of Target (aka Targetopolis aka Minneapolis) and things went really well. I’ll do a full write up soon but as I was talking to the Target Triathlon club, I ran into a bunch of first-time triathletes who wanted to do their first race but had questions about it (as do most people when they try out anything new).

Interestingly enough, as they asked questions, I noticed that a lot of their concerns and misconceptions were the exact same ones that I had when I was starting out. While they can be scary and hold you back from actually doing a triathlon, once you get over that and do your first one, you begin to realize that what you think, is a lot different than reality. Unfortunately, those thoughts sometimes keep you back from acting so today I want to bust up 5 common beginner triathlon myths.

Myth #1 I need a lot of really expensive gear to run a triathlon.

The truth – you can spend as much money as you want on triathlon. Like most activities, you can spend thousands and thousands on shiny, new, expensive gear if you want. But you don’t have to. In fact, when you’re starting out – you shouldn’t. You can do a triathlon on a budget. It’s nice to have nice things, but you don’t need to spend 10 grand to get started on your first race. You can get started on your first race with stuff you probably have in your garage – a bike, a helmet, compression shorts, and a good pair of running shoes. If you don’t have a bike, you can borrow or rent one. I did my first race on my brothers borrowed mountain bike and while it wasn’t the best idea ever, it definitely was possible.

Myth #2 I need to look like Lance Armstrong to run a triathlon.

Triathletes are all tall, chiseled, muscly demi-gods who think nothing of running impromptu marathons and swimming across any body of water they happen to come across. Not true. Most triathletes look a lot like you and me. They’re young, old, fat, skinny and everything in between. I guarantee you’ll never forget the first time that you see a 70-year old running by you or when a 250 pound clydesdale zips past you on a bike. Triathlon is one of the fastest growing sports in the nation and people of all shapes, sizes and ages show up to race – not just Lance Armstron and his friends.

Myth #3 The Swim Leg of The Triathlon is The Single Most Terrifying Thing Imaginable

The swim is the number one source of terror when I talk to new triathletes. Most people without a swimming backgorund are perfectly confident that they’ll survive the bike and run, even if it’s painful. I had the same attitude. My thoughts towards the triathlon was something like this:

If I get tired while running, I can walk. If I get tired while biking, I can coast. If I get tired while swimming….I drown. Crap.

It’s true, the swim can be tough, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. Yes, it can be easy to panic when you’re in a body of water and surrounded by lots of people, but the biggest obstacle is in your head. If you start to worry or panic, stop, tread water, take a few deep breaths, relax and swim at the pace you know you can swim at. On sprint races, most people finish the swim portion in 10-15 minutes, but usually no longer than 20 minutes – which makes it the shortest leg of the entire race by far. It can be scary, but if you slow down, breathe and The swim is the shortest leg of the entire race and once you get out of the water, you’ve got a  It can be scary, but if you slow down, breathe and keep your mental focus, you’ll do much, much better.

Myth #4 You Have To Train For Years To Do A Triathlon

But most triathletes train for years for races, right? Not really. Most sprint races you can train for in 3 months (or 12 weeks). Sure, if you want to do an Ironman and have been sitting on the couch for the last 5 years, you’ll need to spend more time so you don’t hurt yourself, but if you want to do your first race, if you have 12 weeks, you’ll have enough time to get ready!

Myth#5 Triathlons are Impossible For Me

This is what I used to think and what a lot of people tell me. Sure, other people can do it, but not me. I don’t know anyone who’s done a triathlon. I don’t know how to do a triathlon. I barely even know the three sports a triathlon consists of! Other people can it, but not me.


Just because you haven’t done something before, doesn’t mean you can’t go out and do it.

The only way you ever push your limits is by attempting stuff you’ve never done before. There’s no good reason not. In fact, the only way triathlons (or anything) remain impossible are if you let it.

Still have some questions about Triathlon? Impossible TRI is a 3 month training program designed to get you across that finish line and smash any remaining myths that might still be lingering. Find out more here.

Grow Stronger, Do The Impossible

Get weekly emails on how to build a stronger mind, a stronger body and stronger life and do the impossible.

No Spam. Ever.


  1. says


    Great list. It reads just like the list that was in my head when I first starting doing triathlons (the swim quote is priceless but thankfully, wetsuits make you float).

    Looking forward to the Impossible Tri and also hearing how fellow triathletes are training, competing and “fighting the bonk!”

  2. Drew Griffin says

    Joel- Hey this is a timely post for me. I have been on the proverbial couch for too long. After several failed attempts at actually doing something to improve my fitness, this seems like a good goal to set. I a looking forward to your recommendations in Impossible Tri. Heck I may even renew my blog and chronicle my progress. Thanks

  3. says

    Thanks Joel! My entire family is gearing up to start to begin to think about doing a triathlon (ages 41, 40, 12, and 10) – we were all hung up on the gear thing!

    I’m a swimmer so the bike ride always freaks me out – as for swimming, I tell people to “flip and float” if they panic….

    Great job…


  4. charlie says

    Triathlon changed the way I think for ever! The first triathlon I did was in Ft. Lauderdale – a Sprint. I almost drowned – seriously! I thought my legs would fall off on the bike and I was sure I was having a heart attack during the run. I was so proud of myself driving home then slept for 4 hours on the couch.

    Doing that race race again or anything longer I thought would be impossible for me.

    1.5 years later I completed the Louisville, KY Ironman – and kicked-ass (not fast-just strong) and it completely changed the way I think of life and everything in it forever!

    Don’t focus on what’s possible – think beyond what you think is possible – then go chase it!

  5. says

    Awesome post Joel, been thinking about doing a triathalon this year. Last year a few mates and I decided because we were all turning 30, we’d make it a year to remember, so we did 3 mud runs, 2 fun runs and finished the year with the 20km Tough Mudder. It was awesome. We never thought we could finish the Tough Mudder but because we’d trained and we worked together, we smashed it. You really can do anything, it’s all a mind game.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>