You already know how important exercise is to your overall health and wellness. Perhaps you've even started to increase your fitness level and seek new challenges in your workouts. If you think you're ready to tackle a new fitness goal, it may be time to go the distance by taking on a triathlon.

Triathlon is an exciting, multidisciplinary sport that combines racing segments of swimming, biking, and running. While you may worry that long, intense races like triathlons and marathons are only for veteran athletes, think again. According to Indian Triathlon Federation (ITF), in the past decade, there has been an unprecedented expansion of interest in the sport.

Triathlon has been an Olympic event with global participation since 2000 and has now reached India. The India International Triathlon event took place in Goa in February, 2010.

Despite the increasing popularity of triathlons, it is understandable to feel intimidated at the thought of actually completing one. But don't shy away. Instead, start your training on the right foot by breaking it down into manageable steps that lead to your ultimate goal: completing your first triathlon.

Join a Club
One of the best ways to get involved in triathlons is to join a group or club that comprises of like-minded people and may also specialize in training people for the event. Being part of a group will help ensure that your training stays on track, and provide you with camaraderie and motivation. Joining a club or group may also entitle you to participate in their local triathlon activities, which can give you a focus for your training efforts.

Get Some Gear
Though you may be eager to dive in - literally - and start your triathlon training right away, you'll want to be sure that you have some basic gear first. When it comes to the swim portion of your training, goggles, a swimsuit and a swim cap are about all you'll need. For the running portion, you'll need a good pair of running shoes.

A bike is also essential, but beginners should not be concerned about having a specific type of bike. Any bike that's had a good servicing will do. Moreover, any kind of athletic clothing that is close-fitting and comfortable is fine.

Triple Train
In order to successfully complete a triathlon, you need to have reached a comfortable level of fitness in swimming, biking, and running. If you already include these activities in your fitness routine, the next step is to incorporate all three sports in a weekly training schedule.

Most training programs are three to six months long. During this time, the length and intensity of your workout will vary from week to week, but the structure remains fairly constant. A typical beginner's training structure usually combines two swims, two bike rides, two runs, and one to two rest days each week.

In the first half of the program, you will complete your workouts at a moderate pace. In the second half, you can begin to increase the volume and intensity. At the same time, remember, you should always workout at a pace that is comfortable for you. In addition, be sure to make time for stretching and recovery.

Here's an example of how a typical week of triathlon training might look:

  • Monday and Thursday: Rest days
  • Tuesday and Saturday: 30-45 minute cycle, either on regular or stationary bike
  • Wednesday: 30-45 minute run
  • Friday: 30-minute swim, taking breaks as needed and/or using a kickboard for recovery laps
  • Sunday: Swim/run combination workout (also called a "brick" workout): Immediately after a 20- to 30-minute swim, go for a 20- to 30-minute run

Put It in Action: Make Your Training Count
The point of taking up a sport like triathlon is not just to get fitter, but also to have fun while tackling a challenge. Even if it is seems daunting, it is possible to enjoy training for a triathlon. Recruit friends and family to join you on some workouts if you're not training with a club. Participate in shorter local races as part of your training or biking/swimming events for a cause. Most importantly, stick with it! You'll find yourself shaping up faster than you think.