Take it step by step
After giving up hope on my competitive dreams of becoming an Olympic ice dancer in 2007 and then starting a new role in elite sport as lead physiotherapist to the GB handball teams in 2008, I fell into triathlon after a friend said I should give one a go.
I used to do a little bit of running and cycling as part of my off-ice training regime so the only thing left to practice was the swim. After not really doing any swimming since being at school I could see it was a rather big task ahead and I decided to go to my local pool by myself and try to improve.
To start with I could only swim two lengths before dying! Week by week I got better to the point where I could complete the 400m (16 lengths) required to do a sprint triathlon. I then joined a new local triathlon club in Nottingham and began swimming regularly with them two to three times per week.
We had structured coached sessions which made a difference to my confidence and ability. I entered my first novice sprint triathlon and won my age group, ecstatic that I had found a new sport!
Take your time
Since that very first sprint triathlon in 2009, I have built up my strength and endurance to compete at Ironman distance, the first of which was IRONMAN Mallorca in 2015. It shows that I took my time in transitioning through the distances to let my body adapt and prepare, obviously with my physiotherapy hat on!
I would certainly recommend starting slowly and not rushing in to finishing an Ironman within your first year of competing, basically to avoid injury.
Definitely start at the shorter distances ie. super sprint (200-400m swim/10k bike/2.5km run) or sprint (750m swim/20km bike/5km run). These will allow you to get a feel for the sport and the competitive nature of it without being out there for hours and struggling.
As you get more experience, confidence and consistent training under your belt, then you can try to increase your distance year by year.
Even if you are a marathon runner I would still say start short – triathlon is a whole different ball game and getting used to changing and racing one discipline after another is not something that a marathon pro would even be used to.
You might be able to move more quickly into longer distance events if you have a background of long distance endurance running - and Iron distance racing may eventually be for you. But you would be naive to think that just because you can complete a marathon, you can still complete one after a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike ride!