10 Tips for Beginner Triathletes.

torbay tri kid cycle

Written by Ben Tisdall

25 April 2018

We’re getting lots of questions from first time triathletes. So we’d thought we’d put together some of the most common questions into a Beginners FAQ aimed at people taking on their first triathlon.

  1. What order do you complete the swim, bike and run? (nb this is a genuine question from a beginner)
    You got it! That is almost always the order in a triathlon: a swim then a bike then a run. Think about an ironman triathlon (2 ½ mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26 mile run). It wouldn’t be safe to do the swim when you’re completely exhausted.
  2. I assume you have to bring your own bike?
    Yes, although there’s no reason why you couldn’t hire one for your first event. Any roadworthy bike will do including mountain bikes, hybrid and road bikes. Only recumbents are not permitted. If you get the bug you can upgrade.
  3. What do I wear?
    For a pool triathlon all you need is a swimming costume, a pair of goggles, a t-shirt and a pair of running shoes. If you prefer you can buy a trisuit (see picture) which cost from about £30 up and can be worn for the whole event. It has a pad in the shorts made of a fast drying fleecy material. Many women also wear a sports bra under their trisuit. For a sea or lake triathlon you’ll probably need a wetsuit too. And if you’re not a great swimmer, a wetsuit actually makes swimming easier thanks to the extra buoyancy.
    exmouth triathlon
  4.  Do I have to be a really good swimmer to take part?
    Definitely not. In a pool triathlon you can swim breast stroke or front crawl and stop for a breather at the end of every length if you wish. Of course if you get the bug you can think about getting some coaching and improving your swim.
  5. Do I need to be a really fit runner and cyclist?
    Again absolutely not. We try to make our events as inclusive as possible. If you want to get off and push up the hill in one of our hillier events (such as the Dartmouth Triathlon) that’s fine.
  6. How do I transition from the swim to the bike?
    Normally you run barefoot from the pool (or sea) to the transition area. This has the advantage that your feet are practically dry but the time you get there. In transition you put on shoes ready for the bike. Many people choose to use cycling shoes but running shoes are also fine for a first event. You can also leave your trainers outside the pool if you prefer not to run barefoot.
  7. Do I need running shoes or will ordinary trainers do?
    For adults new to, or returning to running we highly recommend getting some proper running shoes to avoid injury. Ideally visit a proper running shop where you can try on a few pairs and get expert advice. Kids are generally such natural runners that regular trainers will be fine.
  8.  Is the time in transition putting on shoes, helmets and other clothing counted towards your overall time?
    Yes it is!  That’s why most people do not get changed in transition except in some very long distance events such as ironman events. The quickest thing if you’re a beginner is just to put a t-shirt on over your swimsuit. It’s well known to experienced triathletes that it’s often easier to shave off 30 seconds in transition than from your swim, bike or run times. You can speed up transition by using elastic laces in your running shoes (along with talcum powder to help your feet slide in), dispensing with socks for short triathlons & practising what you need to do in advance. It’s also worth getting a race belt. You clip your race number to the belt which you can clip round your waist quickly in transition with no need to put on a t-shirt. We also sell race belts & you can add one when you register for a race. Similarly while you can eat & drink in transition it’s generally better to do that while you’re on the move on your bike.
  9. How fast should I go?
    As fast as you like. But bear in mind that most beginners start too fast. Estimate how long it will take to do the whole event and plan to do the first half a little slower than that. You can always speed up in the second half (which experts call a negative split). And work out your pacing for the total time. eg if you normally run 5K in 25 minutes expect to run 5K in a sprint triathlon somewhat slower than that.
  10. What should I do on the day?
    Enjoy yourself. But also make sure you actually read the race manuals (and look at the route maps) that we publish online and email out so that you know how many laps of each discipline you are doing! Arrive in good time (we recommend at least 60 minutes & preferably 90 minutes before your start time). Take the time to check your routes in and out of transition and into the Finish Line.  If you’re local recce the bike course at your leisure a week or two before the event. If you have children taking part in Tristars walk round the run course with them and check out the run from the pool to the transition area so they are clear where the course goes and where the lap turn is.

At Sportiva Events we’ve also pulled together all the triathlons we organise that are suitable for beginners onto one page see Sportiva Beginners

The official GO TRI website also offers tips for first time triathletes. See www.gotri.org/training/first-time-triathlete-tips_103   

British Triathlon lists a whole variety of Beginners/Go Tri triathlons.  For a few slightly more advanced tips covering Brick sessions and transition see our Tips for Duathlons

And one more question we didn’t have space for was Can I compete for charity? And the answer is yes, you are very welcome to.


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