I’ve encountered a few potential athletes (not in the professional sense, but in the weekend-warrior sense) give up a “would-love-to-do” sport (or even race) because of the costs involved. And that always puzzled me until I digged a little deeper to understand exactly what (they thought) the costs were…
To get out and running on the trails these days, as an example, a fair number of newbies believe you need the following:
* trail-specific shoes
* compression socks
* hydration pack and/or fuel belt
* base layer
* compression pants
… and on. Add up that shopping basket and it’s very clear, getting started is just plain unaffordable.
And that’s without the GPS monitoring devices, the gels, the sports drinks and protein shakes. The hidden cost of training is silly. And when you’re happy to part R30 for a scientifically advanced premium energy gel, but struggle to donate R5 to a hungry kid… well, nothing like a little perspective, eh?
In reality, to get started, all you need is:
* a pair of shorts
* a tee shirt (jersey if it’s cold)
* something on your feet, if that’s your thing
* and water, if you get thirsty
And let’s face it, if you’re still a novice or weekend warrior, chances are, you’re not tackling anything too extreme, route or weather wise, so you don’t need all the extra trappings. Trust.
For newbies starting triathlons, you have the same thing. That’s 3 disciplines and I won’t even get started on bicycles. The cost factors are exponential when you start mixing in what-you-think-you-need with what-you-see-the-in-the-ads with what-are-all-the-cool-people-using with what-are-the-pros-using. MTB throws up the same barriers, that for a lot of people, just get in the way. Some can afford to scale that barrier, and line up for their first race with R50k worth of equipment (including all the extras), others don’t and just end up not starting. It’s a pity, because sport and recreation shouldn’t be the domain of the financial elite.
Now there’s no point in getting all hippety tree-huggy about the great big world of consumerism and wax lyrical about the evils ad tedium… Why waste the energy? Just get on with it and get out there. You actually need a lot less than you might think you need to just get going. The rest of the stuff will come in time.
Do your first triathlon on your grand daddy’s drop handlebar fixed-gear 27kg lead frame if you must. You don’t get extra points for looking cool. Run that trail in a pair of baggies and a tee-shirt- you’re all covered in mud and smiles and look the same at the end anyway. Drink water if you’re thirsty. You’re not doing a 100 miler race across the Alps. You seriously don’t need a gel and 500ml of sports drink every 45 minutes for an hour long (or even 2 hour) race. You had dinner the night before right? And no, you don’t absolutely need a GPS tracking device on a route that’s pre-marked with sweepers, to remind you that you’re running 5min23/km at an altitude of 320m, with a heartbeat sitting in zone 3. You will know by how hard you’re breathing…
Yes, one day, some day, those things will be fun to use and experiment with… some day. And yes, some of them make training and racing a little more comfortable and they can help you in certain situations. It’s just that you don’t need them from day one. So if you’ve considered taking up a new sport recently, but the cost of starting up is putting you off: stop. Rethink. Reduce. Reuse. Repurpose. Oh, and check gumtree if you must.