Some Advice for Triathlon Novices

If you are reading this blog I will assume you have some understanding of what triathlon is so I will bypass the basic concept of swim, bike, run, and the general history of its origin (maybe that’s a blog for another day). Today I will concentrate on the basics of what you need to consider when attempting triathlon.

I remember the excitement of signing up for my first race, I had previously watched friends compete and thought I’d love to experience a race. That feeling ultimately persuaded me to sign up and pay my entry fee.  Then the realisation hit me that I knew nothing of competing. How was I to train? What equipment do I need? And I certainly knew very little about fuelling other than having a Lucozade sports drink after a game of football.

Whether you have signed up for a sprint, olympic or full iron distance, hopefully I can give you some key pointers about starting out. However, the best piece of advice I can give you is to find what works for you.


The bad news is that triathlon can cost you £1000s to compete; the good news is it doesn’t need to cost you £1000s to compete. Confused? Let me explain………  An equipment list for triathlon could be never ending, but for a basic shorter distance race all you need is:

  • A wetsuit (if swimming outdoors)
  • Goggles
  • A road bike (although some newbies will compete on hybrids)
  • Suitable clothing for cycling and running
  • A bike helmet
  • Running trainers

Now, I am simplifying things here but the world of triathlon can be confusing at the best of times. It’s best to build up slowly and just enjoy the experience.  I can guarantee you someone will always have a better bike than you or have the latest wetsuit, so there is no point worrying about being on trend.

Please do not go out and buy a £4000 Pinnarello Dogma when you have never been on a road bike. My best piece of advice regarding equipment is to borrow or buy second hand for your first race.  I know a lot of people who have expensive clothes horses in their garage (aka £1000s worth of bike), because one day they got excited about triathlon, only never to compete again after race one.  I bought my first bike from eBay for £300 which was quickly followed by a second hand 2XU wetsuit for £50 (also from eBay).  You will also be able to find companies who will lease wetsuits and bikes so you can save a packet especially if triathlon isn’t for you.


Training can be a minefield and there are so many commentators on this subject, so find a free plan from a reputable website (try Triathlon World or 220 to begin with). The one piece of advice I give newbies is to research what a BRICK SESSION is and incorporate it into your training plan.  It is basically going from one discipline into another (mainly cycling in to running), but this simulates race conditions to a certain degree and your legs need to know what it’s like to run after cycling.

Plan your weekly training, try and have set times/days each week when you know (and your family knows) that this is your time to train. Unfortunately you probably aren’t a professional athlete so training has to fit around work and home life.  Plan your run and bike routes beforehand, otherwise the temptation to cut short a route is higher if you don’t know where you are going.

Club support

I have mentioned support from your family, but there is another family you can have around to help with your tri journey, and that is a running club or cycling club. I was fortunate to be involved with a very social running club when I started triathlon with a couple of members who had competed in Ironman.  Their support and advice when things weren’t going well was invaluable, plus it gave me a network of people to train with, not just running but cycling and swimming too.

Race Day

Race day is a strange feeling on your first event; you don’t know what the format is, you have to get your head around buying a day license to race, and you have to try and put together all your training ensuring you pace yourself throughout the race. Again, keep it simple, familiarise yourself with transition!  Try and remember where your bike is racked, especially from the swim exit, chances are it will be completely different to the main entrance.  As silly as this sounds, practice transition in your garden:

  • T1 – out of wetsuit, into bike gear, do up helmet etc etc……..
  • T2 – rack bike, change shoes, don’t forget to remove helmet etc etc…….

My first race saw me frozen in time, because I didn’t know what to do. I had to watch the person next to me because I tried putting on my cycling shoes while still wearing my wetsuit.  It is about being as prepared as you possibly can be.

Try not to rush transition, it is not worth the hassle of having to run back because you are still wearing your helmet on the run. Familiarise yourself with the rules of transition and the race.  You will get overwhelmed by them so revisit them over a few days, and don’t worry, race officials are normally really accommodating for newbies.

That is a very brief beginners guide, even if it helps one person I will be happy. If you want to ask me any questions regarding the topic please tweet or email me.

One thought on “Some Advice for Triathlon Novices

  1. I’m glad you mentioned the rules. At novice events TO’s (Technical Officials) use a common sense approach with athletes.


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