There are a lot of questions that someone new to triathlon has. Common questions are, “What do I need to do to prepare for it?” “What do I wear?” and “Does everybody ride those really expensive bikes?” I’ll first answer the last question – NO, not everybody uses a triathlon bike. You will see a wide array of bikes being used, including triathlon, road, and mountain bikes. I have also seen cruiser bikes used at some races, so have no fear, you do not need to make a grand purchase for your first triathlon! You’ll fit in just fine, using whatever is available to you. Of course, if you’d like to be a bit faster, I’d recommend forgoing the cruiser or mountain bike and instead borrow a road bike at least. This is not a plan for everyone. Your goals will shape what you do to prepare, whether you are just wanting to finish, or you want to be really competitive.
|Totally wore this for an entire season - just added run shorts!|
A beginner would want to work up to being able to cover more than the distance of each leg individually. Because many “sprint” races can differ in length (the distance I recommend starting at), you’ll want to make sure you know what your race distance will be. We’ll use the typical 1/4mi swim, 15 mile bike, and 5K run as an example though. A good goal then, would be to be able to swim 1,500 yards, bike 20-25 miles, and run 5-6 miles. Those would be the long distance days that you would work up to. Otherwise, you can keep a lot of training days shorter, and include high intensity intervals. Of course, your goal may be to simply finish, and in that case, you may be employing a run/walk strategy, but should still be able to individually complete more than each leg distance. A couple months out from your race, include bricks (bike then run right after) to get the legs used to that feeling. It will feel terrible the first time, but each time really does get better – stick with it! Do a minimum of 2-3 days per sport per week.
For a focus block, you will want to have 4 or more days of that sport. For example, if you are nervous about the swim (the most common leg people are intimidated by), then you can spend a month or so focusing on the swim, learning technique and gaining confidence, to better prepare yourself physically and mentally. If you are a true newbie to triathlons, and are nervous about attempting the swim of that first race, remember that it doesn’t have to be freestyle. You can do whatever stroke you are most comfortable with. I did a full season of side-stroke without goggles and had no problem with it! You will want to make sure that you get in actual open water swims before your first race though, as it is much different than swimming in a pool! You can stay to the back and outside of your wave, stay calm, and try to have fun!
My prep for my first triathlon? I did 1-2 lake swims/week, bike 12-14 mi on my one-speed twice a week, and I ran 3-4 times/week for 2 months. I was a college athlete though, so even though I wasn’t a swimmer, cyclist, or runner, I had a very athletic background, which helped a lot. My friend only prepped for 2 weeks…and then beat me! She was also a super athlete.
Good goal distances that I like to work up to in order to prepare for the different race distances, are as follows:
- Sprint: 1,500- 2,000 yards, 25 miles on the bike, 5-6 miles on the run
- Olympic: 3,600 yards, 40 miles, and 9 miles
- HIM: 4,000 yards, 65+ miles on the bike, and 11 miles
Basic equipment needs for first triathlon season:
- Cap (provided by race), but nice for training
- Bike (any kind will suffice)
- Cages & bottles
- Pump for tires
- Basic computer - nice, but optional for first race
- Race belt
- Tri shorts (recommended)
- Top to S, B, R in (tri tops are best, but you can be flexible when you’re first starting out!)
- (can wear any kind of top for swimming, and then add a shirt w/ bib pinned on it after then you could wait on the race belt)
Extras that you can acquire later on over time:
- Wetsuit & body glide
- Quick Spit anti-fog spray for goggles
- Spare tire kit
- Indoor trainer
- Bike upgrade (to road or triathlon bike)
- Clipless pedals & shoes
- Race wheels & tire
- Aero helmet
- Power meter
- Lock laces
- Race belt (if not already)
- Tri suit (if not already)
- Extras: Coach, watch
Happy Racing! Feel free to message me with questions!
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