Training > Beginners

The ultimate guide to your first triathlon in 38 steps...

Your first triathlon may almost be here, but how do you make sure everything goes smoothly and conquer the nerves? Here’s 38 tips to see you through your first of many triathlons...

T1 to bike leg to T2

23 Whether you dry yourself and slip on socks and full bike kit or simply hammer through T1 as fast as possible is personal choice, but whatever you decide make sure your process is methodical and legal (you must have your helmet on and fastened securely before you lay hands on your bike). 

24 Run the bike out of transition – holding the saddle or  – to the mount line, which should be clearly marked. Once clear you can start riding. 

25 If you have clip-in bike shoes, you may have them already attached to the pedals and fixed horizontally with an elastic band (see the pros in action). This means that you can run with bare feet and slip into shoes when aboard, but it requires practice.

26 “Now you need to stay calm and alert to what’s happening with both local traffic and fellow competitors,” says Jarvis. “Initially, you can be disorientated by switching from swimming to biking, and chilly for the first couple of miles, causing you to ride faster than you’d intended.” 

27 Once you’ve settled into your ride, work at your race pace and listen to the marshals – particularly when it comes to the dismount, to make sure you alight before the line.

28 Don’t take off your helmet before you’ve racked your bike, and then pull on your run shoes. “Have a drink or gel handy so you can have a quick swig,” adds Jarvis. Forget TT helmets and disc wheels – this is the moment when one of tri’s most efficient time-saving shines: elastic laces. 

The run leg

29 Now all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other. The initial stages of the run will feel disagreeable, your legs like jelly, but don’t be overly concerned. 

30 Including brick sessions (biking then running in quick succession) in your training will help prepare the body, but every triathlete has to deal with jelly legs. “Spend a few minutes getting settled in,” Russ Hall suggests. “If you’ve ridden hard, the first few hundred metres are going to feel uncomfortable. It’s always better to finish strong than start strong and fade. Oh, and try to smile!”

31 Pacing is critical. As you near the finish, now’s the time to enjoy your achievement. Triathletes have a reputation for milking ‘finish chutes’ – indulging in high fives with spectators and plenty of waving – so now’s your chance to strike that well-rehearsed finish-line pose for the cameras! 


32 There are still a few practicalities to consider when you cross that finish line, from a safety perspective and respect for other finishers, to ensuring you achieve an optimum recovery. And also remembering to thank all of your supporters and celebrating your amazing achievement. 

33 “Remember to clear the finish line quickly,” Hall says. “Others will be coming through, so try not to get in the way. And don’t scramble to get your results. It’s more important to pull on warm clothing and warm down, because that will help minimise the pain in your legs the following day.”

34 “In the few hours after completion, enjoy it,” Hall concludes. “You’re part of the triathlon family, and that’s something to be proud of. Have a good meal, put your feet up and don’t analyse the race immediately. When you do work out what you did well and where you went wrong, remember: no matter how badly you think you’ve done, there are always positives.”

35 “Don’t forget to thank all family, friends and supporters after the race,” Jarvis adds. “And if possible get someone to drive you home so that you can relax and have a power nap.”

36 Don’t switch off completely, though. “Give your mind and body a rest on the day after your event, but some light, easy, active recovery like gentle swimming will help alleviate soreness,” Benger suggests. 

37 “Resume normal eating patterns and eat real food to give the body the nutrients it needs,” concludes Benger. “And maybe treat yourself to a massage a few days later.”

38 Send 220 Triathlon some words and pictures – we’ll print the best – or tweet @220Triathlon with #FirstTri so we can all bask in your glory. Congratulations – you’re a triathlete! 

Related Chrissie Wellington’s six top tips for triathlon beginners


Daily deals from top retailers

We'd love you to add a comment! Please login or take half a minute to register as a free member

Back to the top