Tri clubs – what can you expect?
Coach Russ Hall puts BRAT triathletes through their paces
Training > Beginners

UK triathlon clubs – what to expect when you join

We look at how some of the UK’s biggest triathlon clubs welcome their new members, and what sort of sessions they provide

Triathlon might be an individual sport, but it doesn’t have to be a lonely existence. The motivation to swim, bike and run regularly comes a lot more easily if you enjoy sessions. And for most of us a bit of company makes training fly by.

The Brownlee brothers, Alistair and Jonny, cite living day-to-day with the best training partner in the world as a chief reason for their Olympic success, and the self-discipline to head out for a 6am swim session isn’t so hard if you have a bleary-eyed companion waiting for you at the pool.  

Formalising this arrangement by joining a club might seem intimidating, but the benefits could far outweigh just increasing your circle of training buddies. So if the idea conjures scary thoughts of über-serious, calorie-counters with snazzy kit, clip-in bike shoes and mastery of three separate sports, think again. That image couldn’t be further from the truth.

“People often assume that everyone in a triathlon club has been involved with the sport for a long time and can train the house down,” says head coach of London Fields Triathlon Club, Tim Smith. “That’s not the case. We have a wide variety of abilities, from those who have never done a triathlon and don’t intend to, to those competing in iron-distance events and world championships.”

“The best reason for someone new to the sport to join a club is the vast amount of knowledge that’s immediately available to them,” says Russ Hall from BRAT in Birmingham. “The breadth and depth of triathlon experience can be truly exceptional.” 

BRAT club in training

New year, new you 

As well as the boost to your social life and sporting prowess (one not at the expense of the other, hopefully!), there are spin-offs to membership, such as a ready-made selection of friendly rivals to compete against at your club’s ‘A’ race 

It doesn’t have to be expensive, either. In fact, given hook-ups with local sports stores and second-hand, free kit liberally dished out, it could actually make your triathlon adventure a little bit cheaper. And if you’re just starting out, you might see your life insurance premiums take a tumble too.

“One of our members, Anne, 37, came to us to keep fit,” says Marsha El-Hage of RGActive Race Team. “She found a like-minded community who boosted her self-confidence. Training partners became close friends and, after losing 8.5 stone, she is simply an inspiration.”

“There have been several cases of ‘triathlon weight loss’ at BRAT too,” says Hall. “One new member lost six stone in his first season with the club.” For a world facing an obesity epidemic and obsessed with fad diets, perhaps they should be giving triathlon memberships out on free prescription. The actual costs vary from club to club. Some are all-in, but the majority choose a nominal annual fee with additional fees on top per coached session and depending on the facilities used.

BRAT club in training

According to the last Triathlon Industry Association research, club membership in the UK has risen 15%. Cardiff Triathletes has become so popular it’s capped numbers in order to provide a quality coaching service. 

Our other four clubs featured below are also seeing burgeoning membership, even in the crowded London region. “With the success of Great Britain and the boom in the sport, there’s no shortage of new members,” says Tim from London Fields. “We’re lucky to have a beautiful pool, open-water swimming nearby, a lot of green space for running and the Olympic Park venues such as the Velopark available to us.” 

At your own pace

Claire Manson, Cardiff Triathletes, offers one note of caution for those newbies tempted to get swept away by more established triathletes. “Consider what your own goals are and stick to them,” she advises. “Don’t get caught up in others’ targets. Instead, create your own triathlon journey and remember to enjoy it.”

And before long you’ll even be joining your new chums on vacation. “Don’t underestimate the fun you can have on a summer cycling training holiday,” she adds. “Swap the beach for the mountains and you’ll be surprised at the difference endorphins can make.”

Darlington Tri Club

What kit should you turn up with? “We meet most of our new members at the pool, so it’s just a matter of arriving with basic swimming togs,” says Darlington Triathlon’s Graham Bell. “We always advise members to hold off making expensive decisions about bikes until they’re sure they’re going to enjoy the sport. 

“Two wheels of any variety are good enough to get started. You don’t have to have a top-of-the-range bike – we can source good second-hand models and we’re able to hire out wetsuits for a small charge.”

“A decent pair of trainers, an entry level road bike, swim kit and goggles is a great start,” agrees Manson. “There are always people in the club willing to sell their cast-offs for great prices. We have a particular club member who’s great at this – we wait for his bonanza sales!”

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