Those are often the first words East End Tri coach Vicki Edwards hears before signing her clients up for their first triathlon.
A half-mile swim, followed by roughly 12 miles on a bike and a three-mile run can intimidate even the most fit beginner.
But Edwards says that with the right guidance, anyone can go from couch to competition in as little as three months.
“I work with a lot of people who haven’t done this before and they’ll ask, ‘Do you think I can do this?,’ ” said Edwards, a USA Triathlon certified coach who’s been training athletes for more than a decade. “I think anybody can do this.”
It’s you against yourself, she said.
The Mattituck resident said almost every newcomer she coaches at her Pike Street facility and through her virtual training programs continues on to compete in more events.
“You’re going to go out there and do your first one and then the next one you’ll be out there hoping to beat your last time,” she said of triathletes.
Hampton Bays resident Kristine Odell said competitors find training is actually harder than the actual race. She’s gone from casual runner to Iron Man competitor with Edwards’ help.
“You have to put in the time and effort, but if you have a training program you trust it never feels like too much,” she said.
Let the spring air invigorate your workout and allow these tips to get you to the finish line.
START FROM THE BEGINNING
A triathlon consists of swimming, biking and running — in that order. The distance of each leg of the course varies from race to race. The most basic (read: easiest) is a sprint, followed by an Olympic and half and full Ironman courses.
Locally, the Mighty North Fork Triathlon is a sprint first-timers tend to flock to.
The first step is to get out of your own head, Edwards said.
“No matter what level you’re at the stress is the same,” the coach added. “There’s something in the back of you’re mind saying: ‘Can I do this?’ Even after doing all these Iron Mans and races I still think: ‘Am I going to make it?’ Or ‘Can I finish?’ I know I can, but there’s a stress. You have to compartmentalize it: swim, bike and run.”
As for equipment, the startup costs are low. All you need are running shoes, a bicycle and goggles for swimming.
“You don’t need watches or fit trackers, you just need to be able to swim, bike and run,” she said. “As you progress, you can take it to the next level and get all the upgraded gear.”
GET WITH THE PROGRAM
The training program begins with a full evaluation. Edwards analyzes your current fitness level to design a custom program. Clients can choose from different packages that include a mix of one-on-one sessions, virtual training and nutrition plans.
“It starts out with what their ability is with strength training,” said Edwards, a personal trainer certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. “Strength training is how you stay injury-free.”
It takes moderately fit beginners about six to eight weeks to train for their first triathlon. If you are coming right off the couch, it will take about 12 to 16 weeks. And it’s not too much of a time commitment. Edwards recommends four to five hours of exercise per week. A basic program is typically two or three days of strength training and at least one or two bikes, swims and runs.
“It progresses as they get stronger,” she said. “It starts with short time frames or mileage and as you go along you’ll find that 20-minute run gets easier and you’ll know you’re ready to take it to the next level.”
MAKE ROOM FOR REST
Edwards’ programs are cyclical — three weeks of training followed by one week of recovery.
“There are people who will go out there and train 20 or 30 hours a week for a sprint and it is not necessary,” she said. “They are more susceptible to injury.”
Overtraining is a common rookie mistake. Those new to the sport often focus on the aspect they enjoy the most and scale back on other components of the training, putting too much stress on certain areas of the body.
“I didn’t realize how important recovery was to training,” said Odell. “I am a runner and without the guidance I would have put more time into running than into biking or swimming. Plus, having that week of downtime is a game-changer because you can have your regular life — work, family. On the week off, Vicki will schedule in fun activities like biking with my son. It’s something I look forward to.”
Don’t be concerned with extreme dieting. Balance is the name of the game. Edwards, a certified nutrition specialist, recommends cutting back on processed foods and heavy carbs. It’s not that you have to give them up altogether, but rationalizing a macaroni binge as carb loading doesn’t fly when it comes to fueling your workouts.
“Carb loading is portrayed as having a huge pasta dinner the night before the race,” she said. “If you do that you’re going to go to bed crying with a bellyache. You’d just want to add in one additional carb per day the week before the race.”
Marc Caudron of Mastic Beach, who began training with Edwards two years ago at age 41, said diet was always an obstacle for him.
“I did nothing but eat, drink and be merry,” he said. “Nutrition is important, but I also have a life. Weighing all your food and giving up wine is too extreme and not necessary.”
Any health-conscious person would tell you to drink water and Edwards is no exception. She estimates that 95 percent of her new clients are dehydrated. She recommends clients drink half their body weight in ounces of water per day if they’re resting and even more if they’re working out.
There are many nuances to the sport and it’s important to know the rules before a race, said Edwards, who’s also an accredited race official. For example, failing to click your helmet strap before riding off will result in a penalty.
“One of the things I preach to my clients is learning the rules and to not be like how I was when I started, being afraid of the rules,” she said.
Navigating transition areas — where you change gear for the next leg of your journey — is an art that comes with experience and evolves from the first race. Find your transition area by your race number, rack your bike and set down the equipment you’ll need post-swim. Over time you’ll find the fastest changing method for yourself, but there’s one golden rule: Simplify.
“Don’t have too much stuff there,” said Edwards. “If you have four choices and you only need one, why are you going to keep it there to look at it and debate which option?”
The bottom line is to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
“If you ever go to a race, you’ll see people who are skinny, heavy, tall, short, handicapped … there’s no discrimination in this sport — everyone can do it and there’s a lot of camaraderie,” she said. “It’s fun.”
Earth Day 5K
Sunday, April 22, 10 a.m., Indian Island County Park, Cross River Drive, Riverhead
All proceeds benefit North Fork Environmental Council’s environmental education programs and scholarship fund. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.
Early registration is $25; day-of registration, $30. Registration for a family of four is $75. There is no family registration the day of the race.
John May Mile and 5K
Saturday, May 12, 10 a.m., Peconic Landing, 1500 Brecknock Road, Greenport.
5K entry fee is $20 in advance; $25 the day of the race; $15 for students. Entry fee for the John May Mile, a one-mile walk around the Peconic Landing campus, is $10 per adult and $5 for those 14 and under or 55 and older.
The event has raised $239,800 for the Greenport Fire Department since its inception. A barbecue follows the race.
The Survival Race
Saturday, May 19, 9 a.m., Long Island Sports Park, 149 Edwards Ave., Calverton.
The Survival Race is an outdoor 5K obstacle course.
Early bird registration is $59; regular registration is $69. The first wave of runners starts at 9:30 a.m. and the last at noon.
Run to Remember
Sunday, May 20, 9 a.m., Riverhead High School, 700 Harrison Ave., Riverhead
Hosted by the Riverhead Administrators Association, the race is to remember and celebrate the memory of lost loved ones and raises funds for Riverhead High School senior class scholarships.
Starts and finishes on School Street. Entry is $20 for early online registration; $25 for day-of registration. The first 150 registrants will receive a T-shirt.
Mighty North Fork Sprint Triathlon
Sunday, May 27, 6:50 a.m., Cedar Beach, 3690 Cedar Beach Road, Southold
This course is ideal for first-timers, with a calm 800-meter swim, a mostly flat 8-mile bike ride and a 3.5-mile run.
Entry is $130 until April 1, when the cost is raised to $135. Online registration closes Thursday, May 24, at noon.
Shelter Island 10K run/5K walk
Saturday, June 16, 5:30 p.m., staging area located at 33 North Ferry Road, Shelter Island
Tour picturesque Shelter Island during this charitable event, which is in its 39th year.
Registration is $40 for the 10K and $30 for the 5K before June 16.
The PBMC Northwell Health Jamesport Triathlon
Sunday, July 8, 6:50 a.m., South Jamesport Beach, Peconic Bay Boulevard, Jamesport
Enjoy the beauty of the North Fork as you swim in Peconic Bay, bike 25 miles through its streets and run through South Jamesport. The entry fee is $139.
Visit runsignup.com and search Jamesport Triathlon.