Gathering athletes of varying experience and skill levels can soften the intimidation factor and keep training sessions fresh by alternating leaders. For example, a popular workout to get faster during the running portion of a triathlon is to do hill repeats. This is exactly what it sounds like, running up a hill over and over again. And by alternating which group starts first for each interval, everyone works harder.
When the slower athletes take a 30-second head start, they push their pace so they don't get passed. Middle-of-the-pack athletes, starting 30 seconds in front of the speedsters, push their pace because they have the fastest in the group bearing down on them. Finally, the fastest runners push it because they find themselves in unusual role of bringing up the rear [source: Hanc].
Joining a triathlon club has several benefits that go beyond pushing you toward your ultimate goal of finishing a race. The social element can be just as helpful as the physical training. Many clubs organize travel for events and gather for prerace dinners, as well as race-day pace groups. Most are led by professional coaches, or at least experienced triathletes, so they can offer tips and suggestions of form, technique and training plans. The voice of experience can be a powerful tool for beginners.
Members of USAT clubs are eligible for the group's National Club Championships and Regional Club series, where you win awards and prizes. Other benefits -- not exclusive to USAT training groups -- are discounts at area sporting goods stores and access to hands-on clinics or expert lectures on the finer points of racing.
In a discipline like the triathlon, knowledge is just as important as stamina. Knowing the best techniques for transitioning between the swim and the bike ride (and from the bike ride to the run) can make a big difference. Nobody wants to look lost in the transition area -- especially beginners. This is why some groups place high importance on getting experts, coaches and race organizers to come speak to their groups.
Hands-on clinics can also be a big draw for training groups. Learning the intricacies of your equipment, how to quickly change a flat tire or the best way to increase the efficiency of your swimming stroke are the minutiae of tri training that puts it in different category from running.
Getting involved with a fun, enthusiastic training group can help athletes at all levels and turn the challenge of completing one race into a lifetime activity.
Ready for your next triathlon? We have lots more information to help get you started on the next page.