a collage of many spectator's spectating

Spectator’s take many forms, but all need to be in shape…

Calling all Spectators!  Your athlete may be ramping up their training sessions as the off-season ends, so now is the perfect time for you to think about getting in race day shape yourself.  Don’t be fooled into thinking spectating is easy and not a sport.  You’ll need to be as equally prepared for whatever challenges race days throw at you as your triathlete, so it’s never too soon to start your own training regiment. 

Just as a triathlon consists of 3 disciplines, there are many aspects to the sport of spectating.  And, if you want to compete, you have to put the same dedication and discipline (well, not quite – we exaggerate) to training as your triathlete.  The following are some of the most critical areas to prepare for as a top level spectator:

1.  Cow Bell Ringing – For this activity, it’s all in the wrist using fine motor skills.  We recommend working out with light weights and regular squeezing of a stress ball.  This will help condition the proper muscles for hours of non-stop ringing, without the discomfort of hand cramping.

Cheering on triathletes at a race

Ring those cowbells proudly…

2.  Transition-Zone “Ins and Outs” Sprinting – This is necessary when catching or trying to catch your athlete coming into AND out of transition zones.  In these cases, you want to get the maximum number of times to show support and get a fleeting glimpse of your athlete during a race. Short runs and jogs work well (outside is best, but a treadmill works well, too).  Concentrate on short bursts of speed rather than developing endurance.  You will need to sprint distances less than a mile, but quickly.  Remember, they are racing to get out of T1 and T2, too!

3.  Hot Spot Steeplechasing – Yep, you heard right…it can be an obstacle course out there on race day!  Positioning yourself at favorite hot viewing spots can be extremely competitive and only the best prepared will win the primo spots!  You may need to run across a field, squeeze through barriers, climb over a wall, wade through rain filled gutters or swampy lowlands, leap over picnic blankets, or elbow another contender from edging you out.  It’s serious business out there….so, approach everyday obstacles with gusto, get outside and enjoy nature’s unpredictability, and embrace the unexpected journey!

The finish line at Ironman World Championships in Kona

Anywhere along the front of the finish line is prime viewing, especially here at Kona.

4.  Loud Vocalization –  OK, let’s just call this what it is in common terminology …Screaming and Yelling!  If you’ve got kids, then you’re already in good shape :-). If not, you may want to attend some local school sports and pretend to be a crazed parent…or, just go to the basement when you’re home alone ( wouldn’t want to scare anyone) and YELL!

5.  Eagle-Eye Spotting – This skill is needed to recognize your athlete as they are approaching you during a race.  You will need to spot them wearing a black wetsuit, swim cap, and goggles along with 100s of others wearing the same thing.  You will need to spot them zooming toward you on the bike going up to 20 mi/hr in pouring rain.  You will need to spot them running in a crowd of others rounding a corner into the sun.  Hone your observation skills by concentrating on the following……take note of goggle color and wetsuit brand; recognition of your triathlete’s swim stroke is an advanced skill level – sorry newbies!  Know bike and helmet colors and pack rain gear that shields your eyes.  Be familiar with their tri kit design, hat/visor color, sunglass style, shoe type, gate idiosyncracies, and very, very important, purchase a good set of polarized sunglasses!

Triathletes in action

(Bottom Right) While we do not advocate wearing a speedo in a race, he is easy to spot…..

6.  Picture taking – Your arms will be in the upright, ready to take a picture position for long periods of time, just waiting for them to come around the corner.  You certainly don’t want to miss that shot of their butt zooming by.  This activity will become less important as you participate in more races, but for the first few at least, you’ll need to be prepared.  We recommend any exercises that will strengthen your biceps and triceps, such as bicep curls and tricep dips.

7.  Standing – There will be lots and lots of standing, especially during full-distance races.  Squats and lunges work well to help build strong thigh muscles.  You can also practice hopping on one foot to the next for variety or jumping in place.

Triathlon spectators in action

It’s a long day of standing out there, so prepare those leg muscles…

8.  Waiting –   . . . . . . .  . . . . . .If anyone has the secret to patience, let the rest of the world in on it please!  There will be lots of waiting…the longer the race the more the waiting.  But, you can condition yourself by starting out with sprint races and working up to the Ironman distance if you endure and stick with it :-).  Just enjoy the moment, the experience, the energy from the athletes, the dedication of other spectators, and the love you have supporting your athlete, and time will fly by…or if not fly by…at least it will be wonderful.

So, there you have it.  Follow our training program and you should be in great shape for the upcoming race season, ready to sprint to that transition zone and hold that camera high in position for the perfect shot of your triathlete.  Happy spectating!


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