by Adam Zuckerman & Lily Matusiak

Life in DC can be exhausting on so many levels. A relentless drive to work harder, faster and smarter during the day often transitions seamlessly into events that run late into the night. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise, people in DC love to work, a lot. 

All too often the frequent casualties of the DC grind are three “f”s: Friends, family, and fitness... but that doesn’t need to be the case.  Three years ago I was working long hours in the financial industry in Washington, DC. In early and out late was often the norm, but endurance events, including triathlons, helped me find balance and focus.

Below are some tips I relied upon to train and complete my first triathlon over the course of just a few months, complimented by the wisdom of Lily Matusiak, friend and Director of the TRI FOR AUTISM team (which is based in Washington, DC and raises funds for autism research and programs).

Find Your Event(s)

First, a few don’t’s: You don’t need to be an Ironman. You don’t need to be a Tough Man. You don’t need to qualify for the Olympic Trials. What you do need to do is focus on what drives you, what makes you happy and what keeps you healthy. Crossing the finish line is winning enough, and anyone that tells you otherwise should be ignored.  Face it, you have a busy schedule and odds are you’re aren’t competing to win. Instead, shift your mentality to completion and fun... you’ll enjoy the experience a heck of a lot more.

Until just a few years ago I perceived triathlons as events which were reserved for the super-athletic-elite and out of my reach. That’s no longer the case. In recent years the triathlon field has grown to accommodate participants at many various levels; from “newbies” to elites, kids to seniors. In fact, there are now over a dozen sprint and olympic triathlon races in the greater DC area every year. (Hint: Focus on the sprint distance for your first event.)

If you’re interested in the varied distances, head over to for a handy chart listing triathlons of ten varying lengths, however, there are really only three you need to be aware of:

Sprint triathlon 750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run
Olympic triathlon 1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run
Ironman 3.8km swim , 180.2km bike, 42.195km run

Most triathlons in the area take place in the summer and fall (due to the weather), which means that you’ll be training in the spring. As such, you likely be finding yourself training early morning and evenings to avoid work and DC’s heat & humidity.

To find your event, here here are a few helpful resources:

Train With A Friend Or A Triathlon Club

Given that you’ll likely find yourself training at least a few times before work for scheduling and weather-related reasons, and as waking up early isn’t for everyone, find a friend or group to train with. You’ll be more inclined to roll yourself out of bed, and you’ll have people to rely on in the event your motivation temporarily slips.

For a bit more structure you also shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to the several local triathlon communities, as they are excellent sources of information and training opportunities. DC Tri club, Team Z, and the Mid-Maryland Triathlon club, are a few of the more prominent organizations, and you can almost always find people training on Haines Point (biking) or at Wilson Acquatic Center (swimming).

Of course, there are countless resources online:

Start Your Training

As for where to start with your training, start building upon your existing fitness skill-set. Already an avid runner? Spend more time in the pool and on the bike. Already biking a 5-10 miles to and from work every day? Grab your swim cap or lace up your running kicks when you get home from the office.  You also will want to start incorporating a "brick" workout into your schedule once a week starting close to 2-3 months before your race. A "brick" includes doing 2 of the triathlon "events" in a row, most commonly a bike and run.

Embracing the fact that you’re strapped for time, expect that you’re going to miss a few workouts... and accept that it’s not a problem if you do. Provided that you’re not training to win the race, it’s completely ok if you’re a bit slower than you might hope. Just understand that the next workout might be a little harder... and find the energy to get back on track.

For those of you familiar with or have trained for “running” races, there are a few differences between training for a marathon and a triathlon. Foremost, while training for a first time marathon many programs now suggest that you should peak on race day. A triathlon is different. Instead, make sure that you complete the full distance of each event (swim, bike, run), at least once before the race, if not more. You don’t need to brick them all together, but you'll want to swim, bike, and run each distance (plus a little extra) several times before race day.

Feel free to reach out w/ any questions!

Happy training,
~Adam and Lily


Adam (@apzuckerman): Attorney, MBA and casual endurance event participant. Founded the No Greater Sacrifice Endurance Team

Lily: Casual triathlete and runner. Director of the TRI FOR AUTISM and RUN FOR AUTISM, which raise funds for autism research and programs through the Organization for Autism Research.

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