What My First Triathlon Taught Me About Content Marketing

Yep, that’s me in the photo, celebrating victory after completing the IslandGirl Triathlon — my first ever — on September 20.

This moment was the culmination of a journey that began over four years ago, when I decided to get in shape and start working with a trainer (the ever-awesome Damerone Porter). As I began to incorporate swimming and cycling into my regular cardio routine, a triathlon seemed — for this chronic overachiever, at least — the next logical step.

Was it worth it? You bet.

Of course, I’m always on the lookout for gems of wisdom that these away-from-the-keyboard experiences can contribute to our work as content marketers, and this one was no exception.

With that, allow me to offer the five biggest content marketing lessons from my first triathlon.

1. The Past Does Not Determine The Future

To say I was an un-athletic kid would be an understatement. The whole time I was growing up, I was the last one picked for every sport. Every. Single. Time. My parents comforted me with assurance that we all have our gifts, and that mine happened to reside outside the sporting world. So I never gave physical endeavors another thought.

Fast forward to 2011, when I started working with my trainer, and my inner athlete began to emerge. I learned that athleticism is only part natural-born talent, and that the rest comes from hard work if you’re willing to make the commitment. This time around, I was willing to give it a go, for no other reason than seeing what my body could do when I challenged it. And now I’m a triathlete.

Content Marketing Takeaway: If you’ve tried “doing content” in the past and the results were less than expected, or if some “expert” told you your product or service was too boring to write about, or if you’ve been told you’re “just not a writer,” forget it. That was then, this is now. Learn what you have to learn, get the coaching and support you need, and get going.

2. Get Your Kit Together

Completing a triathlon involves a lot of…well, stuff. You need your swim cap and goggles for the swim; your bike, helmet, gloves and sunglasses for the cycling; your running shoes, race belt, and hat for the run. And it all has to be where you need it, when you need it — no dashing back to the car for the one thing you forgot.

Content Marketing Takeaway: Identify the tools you need — hardware and software — to achieve your goals and make sure they’re easily accessible. Of course, it’s not necessary to grab every piece of gadgetry that comes your way. Put together your kit of the essentials, make sure everyone on your team understands how to use each tool, and keep your kit within easy reach at all times.

3. Train For Each Sport

The inclusion of three sports in one event makes triathlons challenging to train for — or at least time consuming. You have to practice swimming, cycling and, running in equal parts, which can take its toll on your schedule … but pays off in the end.

Content Marketing Takeaway: Keep your skills sharp in all areas of your content marketing program: blog writing, social media, podcasting, e-books, white papers, infographics, recorded video, streaming video, etc. Attend webinars, download resources, and sign up for online courses to stay abreast of the latest developments and learn techniques to help you get better at your job. And practice, practice, practice.

4. Master The Transition

The unspoken “fourth sport” in triathlons is the art of the transition: transforming one’s self from a swimmer to a cyclist and a cyclist to a runner in as little time as possible. The pros practice their transitions religiously, because every second they save there is a second off their final results.

Content Marketing Takeaway: Stay flexible and master the segues between all the various “events” that comprise our job: blogging, social media, video, audio, visuals, etc. The world of content moves at lightning speed, and we need to be able to respond at a moment’s notice.

5. Finish Strong

When I was training for the run — the final event in a triathlon — I developed the habit of finishing strong. On the final laps of those practice runs, as soon as my driveway was in sight, I’d turn on the afterburners and bat-outta-hell it to my front door in a full sprint, no matter how long I’d run or how tired I was. It was a habit that served me well on Sunday as I rounded the bend and rocketed to the Island Girl Tri finish line.

Content Marketing Takeaway: From in-depth blog posts to e-books to entire courses, many of our tasks involve long hours of focused effort. As your energy starts to wear thin, it’s tempting to call our content done when it’s “good enough” … but this is the time to dig deep, find whatever get-up-and-go you’ve got left, and make one final effort to make this your best work ever. Finish strong!

YOUR TURN: Is there a sport — or any other outside endeavor — that inspires your work as a content marketer? Tell us about it in the Comments. We’d love to hear from you!


The response to our teleclass “Help! My Website Content Sucks!” has been so overwhelming that we’re bringing it back for an encore! Join me on Wednesday, September 23 for a special replay — this one’s not to be missed.