"I'm not fit enough."
You actually don't have to be an endurance freak to train for a triathlon—you don't even need to be a good runner, cyclist, or swimmer. "There's never a starting point that's too minimal," says six-time Hawaii Ironman champ and coach Mark Allen. The key to getting ready is to stay away from crash-course programs and give yourself enough time to prepare for race day—at least three months, but preferably more like five. "You should enjoy this," says Allen. "Build into it gradually so your body can adapt and you stay injury free."
"I swim like a rock."
Join the club. "The biggest weakness for most triathletes is the swim," says elite triathlon coach Matt Dixon. "Most racers don't have dedicated swim backgrounds." Your first step? Slip into some simple swim fins for your first few weeks in the pool. "You'll be able to focus on being relaxed and establishing a good body position," Dixon says. Second, take a short swim class so you can learn proper form, which will help you keep calm and breathe efficiently. Look for a local one at usms.org.
"I don't have time to train."
It takes less time than you think. The secret to realistic triathlon training is to train for it like one sport, not three. "If you're going to be successful, it has to fit into your life," Dixon says. That means just focusing on one run, bike, or swim workout a day, five or six days a week, saving your "brick" workouts (double workouts with swim/run or ride/run) for a few key days later in your training.
"I hate working out alone."
You might think it would be harder to find workout buddies when you're training in three sports instead of one—but in fact you have a larger pool of partners. There are also nearly 800 newbie-friendly tri clubs across the country; find one near you at usatriathlon.org. "Training with others is a great way to make friends," says elite triathlete Linsey Corbin, "and you'll pick up bits of advice along the way."
"I don't own a fancy bike."
You don't need one. While you'll see sleek, $6,000 carbon-fiber tri bikes at every race, it's the last thing you need as an entry-level triathlete. "Pull out whatever two-wheeler you have sitting in the garage and use it to get started," says Allen.