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Beginning Triathlon, What to Spend Your Money On Part 1: Swim

Triathlon is a very expensive sport. Between the equipment, race fees, coaching, and gym/pool memberships the cost of everything can really start to add up. As a former employee of Tribe Multisport in Scottsdale, AZ I often got asked my opinion for what to buy for a beginner. Also, as my friends began the sport, they would ask me for the same advice. In this 3-part blog spread out over 3 weeks I will give my opinion on how to best spend your money if you are looking to get into the sport.

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For this week I will focus on the first part of most triathlons. Swimming is fairly basic as far as sports go. To swim you technically don’t need anything besides water. However unless you feel like getting charged with public nudity, I suggest you buy a durable, chlorine resistant bathing suit. While at the store, pick up a pair of goggles (my favorite are the Speedo Vanquisher 2.0). There are dozens of swimming toys, and none are totally necessary, but if you have the money to invest, you should buy a pair of swim paddles, a pull bouy, and a kickboard. Other relatively common toys include swim fins, elastic band for ankles, and a freestyle snorkel. A website such as finisinc.com will have these items and more, but I suggest you visit your local triathlon or swim shop so you can try these things on and get expert advice.

For a beginner, it is not a bad idea to get a triathlon coach. Coaches offer structured plans which will give guidance while starting out, and specific workouts designed to get you faster in preparation for a race. The drawbacks or a coach are that they are usually quite expensive, and they limit creativity and freedom of workouts. It really comes down to your goals, personality, and what motivates you.

If you choose not to get a coach it is extremely important that you don’t just jump in the pool and start swimming laps. I strongly suggest joining your local masters swim team or other swim group. I have been a part of Sun Devil Masters while at ASU, Boulder Aquatic Masters, and recently the swim training group at Flatiron Athletic Club here in Boulder. These groups are all coached by elite level swim coaches, and for beginners and veterans alike these coaches will not only offer specific workouts, but will take the time to critique your technique and offer drills to help improve. Not to mention you will make lots of friends and be more motivated to get to the pool and push yourself in the workout. Even top pro’s who have a triathlon coach are often at the pool at group workouts because they enjoy the company of swimming with others.

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You bought the training equipment, you joined a swim group, and now it is time to race. Many races will take place in cold water, and you will need a wetsuit. There are lots of stores which will rent wetsuits for the weekend, but if you choose to buy a suit (and you should if you plan on sticking with the sport) there are a few tips you should follow. First, don’t buy a cheap, full-sleeved wetsuit. Yes, there are new suits for under $200, but it would be a mistake to buy one. These suits are cheaper because they are less flexible, especially in the shoulders. As a beginner, the last thing you want is to be spending extra energy fighting your wetsuit. I would look into a mid-level ($300-400) suit, or a mid-level used suit. If you are tight on money, a sleeveless wetsuit is a good option. The lack of arms allows your shoulders to move freely and therefore you can get away with a cheaper wetsuit. You can use the same goggles as you train in to race.

Beginner swim cost:

Suit and goggles: $60

Swim toys: $50

Swim group membership (Annual): $400-$800

Wetsuit: $100(sleeveless)-$400(sleeved)

Total: $610-$1310


Next week I will talk about my tips for getting into the second, most expensive leg of triathlon without breaking the bank.

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