Introducing Kids to Triathlons
By Elaine Ryan on Momtastic.com
Get into the Swim of It
Swimming is the first component of triathlon, and tends to be the most technical. While it’s not required for kids to have their strokes mastered in ordert to participate in a race, getting comfortable and just having some confidence in the water is a good place to start.
Learning how to swim properly extends beyond training for a race. Children need a strong background in swimming for basic water safety, and it is an effective cardiovascular workout that benefits the whole body, without imparting any impact.
Where to start:
Look first into small stroke classes for your kids, and then reinforce what they are learning on your own time in a backyard or community pool. Mastering a new sport usually takes time, and swimming is all about consistency. Check your local community center, YMCA, health club, or public recreation center for a list of swim classes offered near you.
Swimming Equipment Requirements:
A swimsuit is necessary, while goggles and a swim cap (for longer hair) are preferred. Don’t forget sunscreen, depending on where you live and what time of year you plan to train and race. Fins, kickboards, pull buoys, and any other floatation device or aid are not permitted on race day.
Riding a bike is the second leg of the trio, but don’t think your kid is counted out if he is still on training wheels. There are plenty of kids’ triathlons that allow for younger, inexperienced children still dependent on extra wheels.
Learning to ride a bike is a childhood right of passage. While many kids are motivated to get on and go, sometimes having a goal provides just the amount of extra incentive needed if there is any hesitancy on their part. Encourage your kids to get on their bikes by allowing them to have a hand in choosing an event. Ironkids leads the race here, but often there are smaller venues. Check your local paper or recreation brochure for opportunities that exist in your own region.
Where to Start:
With or without training wheels, figuring out the mechanics of how to power the machine takes some getting used to for everyone. Allow your kids ample time to sit in the saddle and pedal in your driveway, at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac, or on safe, smooth park trails, if possible.
Biking Equipment Requirements:
Any reasonable bike in working condition will suffice. Bikes come in all shapes, sizes, speeds, and prices, but your child’s doesn’t need to be fancy to get the job done. Ensure her bike is in good working condition by taking it to your local bike shop for a tune up. A helmet should be worn for all training rides, as well as for the race. This is mandatory, according to USA Triathlon rules.
For more information on choosing the right helmet and other helmet resources, visit Bicycle Safety Helmet Institute:
Run For Fun:
Running is the third and final portion of triathlon. As one of the most basic forms of exercise, running is instinctual to children, and usually comes very naturally.
Running provides cardio benefits that are peerless. It requires almost no extra equipment, and can be performed most anywhere.
Where to Start:
Some schools offer running clubs, often before academic hours. If such a program doesn’t exist in your district, have your child run easy laps through your neighborhood, or around the field at a park or school. Start with short distances, as not to discourage him, and build distance each week. For most short distance triathlons, six to eight weeks is a reasonable amount of time to train while juggling three sports.
Running Equipment Requirements:
A decent pair of running shoes is all that is needed for your athlete. They should fit comfortably, and with about an adult’s thumb width at the end of the toe box to allow for some swelling when hot little feet expand.
Ready, Set, Go!
Swim, bike, run is as easy as one, two, three with a little time dedicated to proper training. Why not try on triathlon training this summer.