5 Tips for First-Time Triathletes

Triathlon has exploded in participation the last number of years and rightly so, it’s very social – join a club, train with your friends, rivalry. It’s also very easy to get started and sign up to a race, there’s nearly two or more races on every weekend throughout the summer. Triathlons are great, nobody really takes them seriously at all…it’s just a bit of craic.

However, there’s a certain fear when doing something for the first time, just like anything in life whether it’s a new job or completing your first triathlon, is the fear of the unknown.

To help you get over that fear and ensure your first triathlon is a stress free and enjoyable race, we’ve created this list of 10 things we wished we’d known when we first started triathlon!


  1. Go short before going long

There are a few different distances in triathlon – Try a Tri (being the shortest), Sprint, Olympic, Half Ironman, and Full Ironman. For beginners, sometimes building the training plan can be more of a stress than doing the triathlon. Instead, just get out there whenever time allows for a swim, bike or run. After all it’s meant to be enjoyable. The shorter the distance the less training you could probably get away with.

  1. Have you got all the right gear?

What equipment do you really need for completing a triathlon? First of all, a triathlon goes in the order of swim, bike and run. Break that down, what do you need for swimming? You’ll need a Tri Suit – this is what you’ll wear throughout the whole race, from swim to bike to run for maximum comfort.

For the open water swim, you’ll need a wetsuit, a good pair of goggles, and a swim cap! And possibly some anti-chafe cream because you won’t want a sore neck.

For the bike, you’ll obviously need a bike. One in good working condition because you’ll be out there in the middle of nowhere and if you’re bike is not serviced; all hell could break loose because you’ll be stuck with no phone or passing cars. When I first started triathlon, I used a pair of running shoes instead of cycling shoes. For my first one it worked out perfect, it was easy to get on and off and I felt comfortable. But as you progress and become a more seasoned triathlete, you’ll definitely want to invest in a pair of cycling shoes/pedals. You’ll also need a helmet which the marshals will check at every race to make sure it’s a correct fit, so make sure you invest wisely. A water bottle is also important because you are out there completing the bike course for longer than 45 minutes, staying hydrated will give you the best chance coming off the bike for the run!

The last leg, the run, you’ll just need a pair of runners and your jelly legs (talked about further down) to carry you on to the finish.

  1. Practicing transitions before race day could shave a lot off your overall finishing time

There are two transitions in a triathlon, also known as T1 and T2. Transition 1 includes coming out of the water, taking off your wetsuit, putting on your helmet, and grabbing your bike. Transition 2 includes dismounting your bike, running into transition where you’ve previously left your running shoes/bike if you already have running shoes on, taking off your helmet and sprinting off into the distance for the run leg.

Transitions can be an organised mess sometimes. Sometimes when you come into transition and there’s a few people ahead and chaos ensues as there’s wetsuits everywhere, bikes are racked left right, and centre and you can’t even find where you took your bike from on the rack. Going outside the back garden, or during training when you’ve done an open water swim, practice taking off your wetsuit as quickly as possible. Note the areas where your wetsuit gets stuck and make sure you apply some body glide, so the wetsuit doesn’t get stuck during your race!

An important part of T1 is getting onto the bike after the mount line, practice this in your driveway at home or in a local car park where there’s no cars obviously. Getting used to jumping onto your bike and making sure not to look down as you clip your shoes in can save you from an embarrassing fall in front of the spectators!

For T2, having already practiced getting on your runners in training, you can shave a lot of time here by using elastic laces or lock laces. These are elastic laces which allow you to put on your shoes without untying or tying the shoes up. Magic!

  1. Save something for the run

Getting off a bike and onto the run leg of a triathlon can leave your legs in a bit of bother. Most triathletes refer to this as jelly legs, where your legs don’t feel quite right coming off the bike. To prepare yourself for this, ensure that you’ve run off the bike a couple of times in training leading up to the race. Even if it’s only for 10 minutes. You won’t run into any surprises come race day. Saving something for the final bit of the run leg can give you a bit of a boost as you’ll start to pass out people who maybe went a little too hard on the bike and didn’t save any energy 😉

  1. Write up a packing list

When travelling to an event that you’ve signed up for, it would be awful to forget something on race day! Triathlon is a multisport event that requires a lot of equipment and sometimes it’s hard for us to remember everything. Write up a list of everything you need and make sure you’ve packed it into the car the night before, leaving you with no stress 😊