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03-09-2021 - Reading time: 4 minutes

Five tips: get the most out of your first triathlon

He once rode the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. Today, Bekim Christensen is a triathlete, and he helps promising sports talents as a performance coach. The Dane, who lives in Girona (Spanish Catalonia), shares five important tips based on his extensive experience. They will help you get the most out of your first triathlon.

Tip 1 Try to relax

“Your mind is so powerful that you can waste a lot of energy just by thinking too much about the race in the days before the start. Then when the day of the triathlon arrives, you can feel completely drained. It’s important that if you get too nervous, you must try to direct your thoughts to something completely different than the race day. Think about a moment in your life when you were happy: Christmas, vacation, your birthday. Try to relax.”

Tip 2 Get used to open water swimming

“Even the pros get nervous before the swimming discipline. Make sure that you train open water swimming as often as you can. If possible swim in a group and practice keeping your orientation. It’s important to swim in a straight line. Before the start, be realistic about your level. If you expect to swim 3.800 metres in 75 minutes, then don’t start at the same time as the 60-minute group to make sure you don’t blow yourself up. Try to start at one of the sides of the start line. If the first buoy is a right turn, then start on the left side because the ones closest to the buoy are really going to fight for their position.”

Tip 3 Keep your aero position for five to six hours

“I see many people buying expensive triathlon bikes, but when they are training they are not spending enough time in the aerodynamic riding position, mostly because it’s not very comfortable. Get a bike fitting and then spend as much time as possible in the aero position during training, at least five to six hours. Make the uncomfortable comfortable and you will achieve a fast bike split. In addition, if you are used to sitting in the aero position, your hamstring muscles will not get too tight. You will be better prepared for the run.”

Tip 4 Stick to your plan

“If you have a coach who has made you a race plan, then don’t overdo it. If he tells you to go with 230 watt on the bike, don’t push it to 250. The same goes for the run. If the plan is to finish the marathon in 4 hours and 45 minutes, then don’t set a pace for 4 hours and 30 minutes. Everyone can go fast on the bike for the first hour or run a fast first 10 kilometres, but, by doing so, you will have to pay the price at the end of the race. Stick to your plan, even if you feel strong enough to go faster. A world record has almost never been broken by a positive split! You must try to perform well overall.”

Tip 5 Mental power: focus on the present

“If you are doing a triathlon, short or long distance, it’s important to focus on the present moment, because if you start thinking about how much of the race you have left, you will get overwhelmed. Break it down into smaller parts. When you are swimming, don’t think about the bike. And when you are riding your bike, don’t think about the run. If you get really tired, break it down into even smaller bits. For example think: ‘I just have to get to the next aid station’. Literally take it step by step.”