Triathlons are expensive. In fact one of the first reasons people give me for not having run a triathlon is cost. Unlike marathons where all you need are a good pair of running shoes, triathlons require a lot of gear. And it is easy to keep spending on the top of the line tri products to make the race a bit easier.
Actual Cost of Triathlon Gear
The below costs are taken directly from Amazon.com and include middle of the road gear (not top of the line and not the cheap-o stuff) needed to begin training for a triathlon.
- 2014 Kestrel Talon Tri-Shimano 105 Carbon Fiber Bike
- Zoot Men’s Ultra Kiawe 2.0 Running Shoe
- Bike Shoes, Pedals, Cleats
- Tri Suit
- Accessories (goggles, tri belt, socks, swim cap, spare parts, etc) $250
This brings the cost of simply buying the needed gear to begin training for a triathlon to $2060. This is a huge amount of money. Especially for someone who isn’t even sure that triahtlons are for them. Add to this the cost of gym memberships, pool memberships, and replacement parts and you are talking about several thousand dollars just for training.
Keep in mind this isn’t even the top of the line gear. This is really just for the entry level gear to get you started out in racing. . . oh and don’t forget the $200 race entry fee (for a small unknown race).
Then you realize that every training plan you can find wants you to train for 3 or more hours up to 5 times per week and it quickly becomes clear that this is no joke. If you are gonna train for a triathlon you are going to have to get a second job to pay for everything but you are also going to have to quit you day job in order to find the time and energy to actually workout and train.
Don’t Fool Yourself – Gear Won’t Make THAT Big a Difference
It doesn’t have to be so expensive OR complicated. Only a very small percentage of racers will ever achieve elite status and of those who do only a small few will ever make money racing.
This guide is meant to introduce you to an alternative manner of triathlon training that won’t break your bank or make you neglect your family. Simply showing up to the starting line of a triathlon and then crossing the finish line is such an enormous accomplishment.
“If you set a goal for yourself and are able to achieve it, you have won your race. Your goal can be to come in first, to improve your performance, or just finish the race; its up to you.”
-Dave Scott 6 Time Ironman World Champion
How To Train Without Spending a Dime
I will cover the money saving tips that I have found in my triathlon training in order of the events in the race. That seems to make the most sense and will allow for some organization in topics.
Swimming doesn’t have to be expensive right? All you need is water and a suit. Well where most people drop the most money is on a triathlon suit that is made of breathable moisture wicking material that dries quickly. These suits also have a small pad in the butt to aid with the biking portion of the race.
The cost of these suits starts at about $60 for a Pearl Izumi, while not too expensive you can get a nice Speedo swimsuit, goggles, and swim cap for about $45 from a place like Academy Sports or Dicks. To save even more money just use the suit you have in your dresser.
During the early stages of training you aren’t as concerned about speed as you are about just putting your time in the pool.
To get your time in the water use the summer to do your swim training. We do all of our swim training in our neighborhood pool which is free to use (except for required HOA fees). Most triathlons are in the Fall and Spring anyway so using the summer to swim works out perfectly as you can spend the hot months in the water.
If you don’t have a community pool use the city pool, a lake, or friends pool. If you do end up having to pay to use a pool block out as much time as possible to get extended pool workouts in this way you can go less. Rather than simply doing a 500m swim try doing an additional workout. The goal is to simply learn how to swim while conserving your energy and to make sure that you can at least swim the minimum distance required for your race.
Remember the swim is the shortest (time and distance) portion of the race so don’t spend TOO much time stressing over it.
Swim Money Saving Tips:
- Use the swim suit you have
- Use a community pool
- Swim during the summer
Once the race day draws near and you are feeling much more confident on the swim portion then you can purchase a Tri Suit. But waiting until you have had time to practice will help you feel more confident and give you time to save up for this purchase.
So the bike portion of the race is where is become VERY easy to drop TONS of money. A top of the line bike can cost well over $10,000 and it is almost impossible to buy an entry level tri bike for under about $1500.
I’m afraid it is the bike that keeps more people out of triathlons and that makes me sad. I have admitedly been passed in races by individuals riding a $70 Wal-Mart mountain bike. But it is human nature to think that if we had the tools the pros use than we will automatically be as good as the pros.
I admit: having a light weight bike and clip pedals does make biking long distances EASIER but it is not required.
To start training for a triathlon simply dust of the old Huffy bike that is sitting in your garage and hit the road. You should buy a cheap helmet.
At this point in the game the trick is to simply put in the miles and get your body used to biking and sitting down for that long. The bike portion of the race will be where you spend the most amount of time during your triathlon so it is important to not ignore your bike training.
Don’t rush out and get a new tri bike. When Sandi and I upgraded to triathlon bikes we went first over to Craigslist and were able to pick up $1500 tri bikes for about $600 including shipping.
Prior to doing this run down to your local bike shop and have them fit you out for the right size bike. With this number in hand hit up SEARCH TEMPEST which allows you to search Craigslist nationwide and start shopping.
If want to spend under $200 then check out your local WalMart or sporting goods store (yes, I am being serious). You can pick up a nice road bike like the Schwinn Prelude for just over $100. Or this Victory Vision for about $200. Obviously you will be sacrificing on quality and speed, but it will work fantastically for short races and training and will work as a great cheap tri bike.
Bike Money Saving Tips:
- Use the old Huffy
- You don’t need bike shorts
- Buy a helmet
- Check Craigslist, WalMart, and sporting goods stores
I remember when I was a kid and my mom would take us to Payless to buy new shoes before each school year. I would put the new ones on and head outside to run and break them in. Without a doubt each time I got new shoes I honestly thought the new ones made me faster. It blows my mind how MUCH money people are able to spend on running. All you need are shoes. I think that:
If people spent as much time actually running as they did buying name brand running clothes they would all qualify for Boston.
Under Armor, Nike, Adidas, etc. . . are all made in the same sewing factory in Asia. They will NOT make you faster . . . you don’t need them.
As far as shoes go it is important to get a running shoe that fits comfortably . . . BEYOND that – – – just don’t buy stuff you can’t afford.
When it comes to running just slap your shoes on and begin slow just getting your body used to running and being on the road.
Run Money Saving Tips:
- Use your old shoes
- Hit the road
- Don’t buy stuff you can’t afford
Now is the Time – Run a Tri
There are always a million reasons not to run a triathlon. When it comes down to it, for a lot of us finances is really just another excuse for something else . . . most likely fear.
You don’t need to be rich, retired, single, or even in perfect shape to sign up for an run a triathlon. Just set a goal and be realistic with yourself. Don’t expect perfection and just get out there and train and run with the gear that you have.