Steps to being a triathlete

Published 4:00 pm Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It’s a sport that captures childhood memories of summer time. It’s the swim at the lake, the bike race down the neighborhood hill and the foot race to the stop sign all wrapped in one.

It may be hard to recognize, but we’re all triathletes in training. That’s why triathlon coach Frank Myers’ message to kids and adults is simple, “Just do it.”

“So many people just sit on the couch and never consider there’s something fun out there,” said Myers, who coaches the YMCA Triathlete Boot Camp. “If you can swim adequately, if you can comfortably ride a few miles on a bike and if you can run a couple of miles without stopping, then you’re very well on your way to doing a short sprint triathlon.”

Triathlons are growing in number in Shelby County and so are training programs for those who want to try the three-part race for the first time.

The Shelby County YMCA and Greystone YMCA are offering a Triathlon Bootcamp this summer to beginners. The camp will conclude with a short triathlon Aug. 3. at Oak Mountain State Park.

If you’re not serious about the sport, but looking for a challenge and need something to keep you accountable, then a program such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training (TNT) may be a good start.

“Anybody who’s interested in doing their first triathlon, they really should do this,” said Audra Hill of Alabaster, who is two weeks into her program with Team in Training. “You need to find a support system that’s going to keep your momentum up.”

TNT has runners and triathletes to raise money for cancer treatments as their motivation to compete, while offering free coaching, individual training and group training.

Whether or not training help is sought or not, the key is to start small in your personal training.

Shoal Creek amateur Jackie Nolan, 51, suggests a short swim, bike and run two days a week each.

“From an overall health aspect, training in those three areas is a complete package,” said Nolan, who finished third in the XTERRA World Championships. “I did the first triathlon (at 29) and thought it was the hardest thing I’d ever done and I’d never do it again … But once you do it, you kind of get hooked on it.”

Nolan and Myers both are quick to point out misconceptions about the sport.

“Everybody is not looking like an Olympic athlete out here,” Nolan said. “Don’t let things like age or weight be an obstacle for you going out and doing something for yourself and going out and meeting this network of friends.”

Myers likes to point out that triathlon does not mean Ironman.

“Most people think a triathlon is an Ironman — this big, massive, ultra endurance event that they could never dream of doing, but that’s not what this sport is really all about,” Myers said. “If you’ve ever done a 10K run, you can do the triathlon, as long as you can swim and can find a bike to ride.”

Here are a few Web sites that will help offer training tips or programs in the area:,,,, and