Beginning Triathlon Tips

Absolutely!*  When I started my journey, I thought obese people couldn’t exercise, but I was wrong.  As an obese person, you’re probably not going to do sprints around the track, but there are plenty of activities that obese people can do to get your muscles, heart, and lungs working.  I started with walking, water aerobics, and riding a stationary bike. My first stationary bike was a recumbent bike which was kind of like sitting in a lounge chair with pedals.  

Also, think about enrolling in an exercise class.  I’d suggest calling the instructor to explain that you are significantly overweight and ask if they have alternative exercises during the class for people like you.  That’s what I did and it was wonderful. When the instructor told everyone to do push-ups, she’d tell me to do my push-ups on the wall. Push-ups on the wall were difficult at 300+ pounds, but I could do them, and I loved how encouraging everyone was toward me.  

Obese people can exercise.  I’m proof!

* IMPORTANT NOTE:  Mayo Clinic states that “moderate physical activity such as brisk walking is safe for most people,”  but suggests that you talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program if certain conditions exist such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, arthritis, cancer, and high blood pressure.  You should also check with your doctor if you have symptoms that may be related to heart, lung or other serious disease.  When in doubt, see your doctor.  Read Mayo Clinic’s recommendations for tips about when to check with a doctor before exercising.

Most people start endurance sports with a 5k run or walk.  That’s right. Most 5k’s allow walkers and there are plenty of them.  I walked my first 5k at 285 pounds. I started at the very back along with all the young parents who were pushing strollers.  I loved being outdoors with tons of happy people who, just like me, were trying to make it across the finish line. I came in dead last and felt like I had won the Boston Marathon.  To find a 5k or other endurance event near you, go to

There’s a WONDERFUL website for people thinking about doing a triathlon or preparing for their first triathlon.  It’s called My Time to Tri.  Go there for “everything triathlon” including training plans!

No! In local triathlons, you’ll see people doing sidestroke, backstroke, and even dog paddle during the swim. I swam breaststroke in my first triathlon. You just have to finish the distance. You don’t have to go fast. The official swim distance for a sprint triathlon is 750 meters, but most race directors shorten the swim to make it more friendly to beginners. Many sprint triathlons have a 400-meter swim = 16 lengths of the pool.
Afraid of getting tired? Boats line the swim course. If you get tired, you’re allowed to hold onto a boat to rest as long as you don’t make forward motion. Afraid of swimming in deep water? Swimming in a 50-foot-deep lake is the same thing as swimming in a 7-foot-deep pool. They are both over your head. Water is water. Afraid of swimming near people? Just line up at the back and swim by yourself. That’s what I did in my first triathlon.
The swim is easy-peasy. Just take your time and enjoy!

No. All you need is a bathing suit, bike, helmet, and pair of running shoes. That’s it. The bike doesn’t need to be fancy. In my first triathlon, the woman next to me was using a bike she hadn’t ridden since fifth grade. You can also rent a bike from a local bike shop for a triathlon.

Transition is the place where you store your bike and running gear during the race. Most transition areas have saw horses made out of galvanized pipe that serve as bike racks.

Before the race starts, hang your bike on the rack by the tip of the saddle. Then place a towel (to mark your space) under your bike and place the following things on top of it: 1) bike helmet (required), 2) running shoes, 3) socks (if desired), and 4) a shirt to which your race number has been pinned (or a special “race belt” to which your race number is attached).

After the swim, run or walk from the water to transition, and put your swim cap and goggles under your bike. Then put on your bike helmet and shoes (and socks if worn), grab your bike, and run or walk out of transition. Once you’re past the “bike mount” line, jump on your bike and ride.

After the finishing the bike course, get off your bike before the “bike dismount” line, and run or walk your bike back to your place in transition. Put your bike back on the rack. Then run or walk out of transition and start the run course. In my first triathlon, I took my time and walked through both transitions at a very leisurely pace.

No big deal.  Just get off your bike and walk!  You are not required to be ON your bike.  You just have to be moving along with it. In my first triathlon, many people walked up one particularly steep hill.  Remember, you don’t have to be fast. You’re just striving to get to the finish line for the bike segment. I rode super slow during my first triathlon and yelled “Wheeeeee!” as I passed spectators.

Absolutely!  Many people do.  Again, the idea is to get across the finish line.  It doesn’t matter how fast you go.

AMAZING!  Ask any person who has finished a triathlon and they will tell you that crossing their first triathlon finish line was one of the most amazing feelings in their life.  When you cross the finish line, you’ll know you had the courage to start and the guts to finish. I can virtually guarantee that you will feel so proud and deeply satisfied.  You are a triathlete!

I use these products and feel comfortable recommending them to others:  

Practice Suit – Roka Gen II Elite Aero Sleeveless Tri Suit
Race Suit – Roka Team USA Zip Back Tri Suit
Wetsuit – Blue Seventy Helix (full body)
Googles:  Roka R1
Pull Buoy:  Spedo Team Pull Buoy
Swim Paddles:  TYR Mentor 2 (small)
Open Water Safety Buoy:  Kiefer Safer Swimmer

Triathlon Bike:  Cervelo P3
Road Bike:  Cervelo S3
First Bike:  Giant Avail 5
Helmet:  Giro Vanquish (with MIPS)
 — Wheels:  Front – Zipp 404  /   Rear – Zipp 808
Bike Shoes:  Shimano WT-60 (size 9.5)
Glasses:  Tifosi Tyrant (readers) – 2.0
Trainer:  Wahoo KICKR

Running Shoes – Newton Fate 5 (brand ambassador)
Hand-Held Water Bottle:  Nathan 9 oz.
Race Belt:  TYR
Training Belt:  Fitletic (carries iPhone)
Glasses:  Tifosi Tyrant (readers) – 2.0

Bike Computer:  Garmin Edge 830
Multisport Computer:  Garmin Forerunner 945
Bike Power Meter:  Garmin Vector 3 (road bike) / Garmin Vector 2 (tri bike)
Run Power Meter:  Stryd
Heart Rate Chest Strap – Garmin HRM-Run
Recovery Monitor:  Whoop

Electrolyte Tablet:  Precision Hydration (Lemon) – 250 mg sodium / 20 mg Calcium / 130 mg Potassium / 10 mg Magnesium
Endurance Drink:  Tailwind Endurance Fuel (Lemon)
Energy Gel:  Gu Roctane Energy Gel (Lemonade)
Energy Block:  Clif Shot Bloks (Cranrazz) 

My Time to Tri – Triathlon Beginner Guide

Training Peaks – Workout Log

Redline Triathlon Club – Pace Calculator

Tri Find – Find a Triathlon Near You

Running in the USA – Find a 5k or Other Running Event Near You


Triathlon Motivation Facebook Group

I created this Facebook group for triathletes and triathlete hopefuls to come together for the purpose of gaining and giving motivation, encouragement, tips, and advice.  The group is extremely positive and has a wide variety of members ranging from triathlon newbies to seasoned triathletes with decades of experience.  It’s a wonderful safe place to share your triathlon dreams, ask questions, and encourage others along the way.  If you’re looking for triathlon motivation, this is a great place!  Click the link above to join.

Weight Loss Tips

Absolutely.  I am proof that you can lose 100+ pounds without surgery or weight-loss drugs.  Think about this: At the healthy rate of 1 ½ to 2 pounds lost per week, you’d lose 78 to 104 pounds in a year!  That’s exciting! It’s just a matter of making good choices over a period of time, and then bingo! You’re there!

I’m not a doctor or a dietician, so I don’t recommend diets to people. However, I will caution you to avoid diets that promise a quick fix. If a quick fix existed, we’d all be thin. I do recommend following a plan that teaches you how to be healthy in your eating. That’s the type of plan that will sustain over time. You might wish to read the US News and World Report’s Best Diets. This annual list has ranked Weight Watchers as the top weight-loss diet for ten consecutive years.

Over the period of time that I lost 200 pounds, I learned that I don’t have a lot of self-discipline when it comes to food. Even today, If you put a dozen ginger cookies in front of me, I’d eat one after another until they were all gone. In my book, The Athlete Inside, I wrote about several “tricks” I use to make up for my lack of discipline around food. One of my favorite tricks is to control my environment. While I don’t have enough discipline to stay away from the plate of cookies, I do have enough discipline to make sure that a plate of cookies is never in front of me. We just don’t have yummy foods in the house to tempt me. And if we do, they are hidden from me. As I write this, I know there’s a box of Special K cereal hidden somewhere for my husband’s breakfast. I just don’t know where it is!

We all have moments when motivation is waning.  But, that’s when discipline kicks in. You don’t have to be motivated.  You do have to be disciplined. Luckily, discipline costs nothing and is available to all.  You can be disciplined when the motivation is lacking.

We all mess up.  It’s not a big deal.  Just get back on your plan ASAP and all is good.  I found that skipping meals after over-eating is not the answer because it just resulted in an ongoing vacillation between eating too much and skipping meals.  Just get back on plan, and praise yourself for having the strength to restart!

Yes.  Research has shown that people who don’t get enough sleep are also prone to eat more.  Evidently, the lack of sleep impacts a hormone that makes us feel satiated when we eat.  Sleep is important. Check out this study from the National Institutes of Health.

I highly recommend food logs, and have logged my daily food since 2011 using a free app called MyFitnessPal.  I like to log what I am going to eat the next day before I go to bed.  Then, when I wake up, I simply follow the plan.

It was important for me to understand that I was following a lifelong nutrition plan, rather than a diet.  Diets are things that start and end. Nutrition plans are habits that continue for a lifetime. It was also important for me to commit to one year of following the plan, no matter what.  And finally, I committed to being patient. Some weeks, I’d lose no weight even though I had stayed on plan every day that week. I learned to trust that if I followed the plan, everything would work out with time, and to stay on plan even when it appeared the plan wasn’t working.

Absolutely.  Almost every day, I do something that I couldn’t have done prior to losing weight, like put on my socks or fit in a restaurant booth, or go for a walk on a sunny day.  Life is great!

US News & World Report – Diet Rankings

My Fitness Pal – Food and Weight Log

National Center for Health Statistics – Overweight & Obesity Data (including the impact of obesity on one’s health)

Federal Trade Commission – The Truth Behind Weight Loss Ads

Change Formula Tips

When helping community leadership teams bring about a change they’d like to see in their culture, I always talk about my version of the Change Formula which was originally published by Kathie Dannemiller and Robert Jacobs.  In my version of the formula, I explain that change occurs when dissatisfaction, vision, knowledge-of-the-first-few-steps, and especially belief-in-self are greater than resistance, (D x V x K) x B > R.  I discovered that this formula also applied to my personal change journey. How can this formula apply to the change that you would like to bring about? 

Change occurs when (D x V x K) x B > R


To begin any change, you must be dissatisfied with the status quo.  In my personal life, I was fed up with not being able to do things like tie my own shoes or fit into a restaurant booth.  That dissatisfaction made me want to make changes. In my career as an educator, it broke my heart that some students, most notably lower-income students, weren’t succeeding at school at a rate that was similar to their more advantaged peers.  I pledged to change that situation. What are you dissatisfied about? What do you want to change?

Change occurs when (D x V x K) x B > R


One of the most powerful elements of change is having a solid vision, or a picture of your desired future state.  You vision establishes your “why” for making the change. In my personal life, I visualized myself tying my own shoes, fitting into a restaurant booth, and being able to walk without gasping for air.  In my career as an educator, I visualized ALL students achieving at a high level, especially students with fewer economic advantages. What does your picture of the ideal state look like?

Change occurs when (D x V x K) x B > R


When beginning a change journey, you don’t have to know all the steps.  You just need to know the first step, or the first few steps. In my personal weight-loss / fitness journey, my first step was simply to register for a weight loss program.  As I took each step, the next step became clear to me as I focused on getting to the point where I could tie my own shoes, fit into a restaurant book, and walk a block. In my career when I started visualizing creating a non-profit, I had no idea where to begin, so my first step was to seek advice from as many people as possible about the first few steps in my journey.  What is your first step toward the change you want to see?

Change occurs when (D x V x K) x B > R


To successfully bring about change, you have to believe in yourself as a change-maker.  The truth is, we ALL have the capacity to create change. Change is just a matter of making one tiny step after another for a period of time.  I believed in my ability to lose 100+ pounds after I read online about a person who had lost 100+ pounds. I figured, if she could do it, I could do it.  In my career as an educator, I believed in my ability to create a non-profit aimed at raising achievement for ALL students after someone told me they believed in me.  Do you believe in your ability to bring about change? If not, remember that success is not based on wealth or intelligence. Success is based on attitude – dedication, tenacity, relentlessness – and ANYONE can decide to have that attitude and be a change maker.

Change occurs when (D x V x K) x B > R


Whenever one embarks upon change, resistance emerges.  Resistance is a given. Sometimes resistance comes from the people around you.  In my personal life, my husband was sometimes afraid that I would hurt myself in training or a race, and he would ask, “Do you really think you should be doing this?”  In my professional life, colleagues would say, “How much time is this going to take?” But often, the main resistance came from me! My self-talk sounded like this, “Yeah but, I don’t have the support I need.  Yeah but, I don’t have the courage required.” The thing to remember about resistance is that the resister is a good person who is afraid of losing something.  My husband was afraid of losing his wife.  My colleagues were afraid of losing time. I was afraid of losing my sense of self-worth if I failed.  Once you identify what people are afraid of losing, you can address those things and lessen the resistance.  In my case, I reminded myself that my self-worth comes from who I am in my heart and not from what I look like or my accomplishments.   Who are the resisters to the change that you want to make? What are they afraid of losing? When thinking about the change you’d like to make, have you ever said, “Yeah but . . .”?  What were you afraid of losing?