11 triathlon tips for beginners

New to triathlon? Here are our top 11 essential triathlon tips for beginners

Triathletes exiting the water

So you’ve signed up (or are thinking about signing up) to your first triathlon? That’s amazing news! You’re about to start an exciting and sometimes nerve-racking journey, but it’s one you are going to love. 

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However, taking part in your first event can be daunting and with three sports (plus transitions!) to contend with, it’s normal to struggle to get your head around everything.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with ZONE3 to help you out. In the words that follow, the 220 Triathlon team and ZONE3 ambassador Joep Straps share the core bits of advice they think will help you have a successful start to your triathlon journey.

Triathlon tips for beginners

1. Enjoy the ride

The most important thing is that you need to enjoy the sport. It might be all new to you and a lot is coming your way, but don’t worry. It’s about the experience so don’t stress out about the details too much. Enjoy the swim, bike and run. Have fun! Joep Straps, ZONE3 ambassador

2. Set a realistic goal

Are you purely aiming to get over the line or do you want to post a competitive time (both targets are equally valid!)? Keeping that goal in mind will help inform the volume and type of training you need to carry out in order to achieve it.

If you have a setback, know it’s part of the game. Think about your goals when training prior to the event and during the race. It’ll give you the strength to perform well so you cross that finish with a smile.

Consider setting process goals, too, rather than just focusing on goals based on outcomes. This means things like getting through transition without panicking or maintaining a certain speed on the bike leg. Joep Straps, ZONE3 ambassador

3. Pick kit that’s right for you

Seek advice from those in the know and pick kit that’s right for you. Gear can be expensive, but you don’t need to blow your bank balance on it. There are plenty of affordable options out there and you can cut corners by doing a triathlon with a pool-based swim, cycling in your running shoes or eschewing a tri-suit for kit you already have.

If you are investing in new kit, ask yourself what you need. Are you a good swimmer or can you use some extra buoyancy from the wetsuit? Do you want to wear a tri-suit or do you want to wear running gear?

Fit is personal, so always try it out to feel what suits you the best by trying kit on. A triathlon shop can give you the best advice based on your race and personal circumstances or if you’re ordering from somewhere online, be sure to check their returns policy. Joep Straps, ZONE3 ambassador

Gear in focus

ZONE3 has a wide range of triathlon kit at a variety of different price points. For beginner triathletes, the team at ZONE3 suggests the Advance wetsuit, the Activate tri-suit and the Vapour swim goggles.

If you’re more of a novice or intermediate triathlete, rather than a total newcomer, ZONE3 recommends the Vision wetsuit and the Activate+ tri-suit.

Confused about wetsuit sizing and fit? Delve into ZONE3’s in-depth wetsuit sizing and fitting guide.

4. Consider a training plan

If you’re just starting out and are targeting a shorter race such as a supersprint or sprint triathlon, you can normally get away with winging it to a certain extent. If you’re capable of completing the distances individually in each discipline, you’re in a good place.

But if you want a bit of advice and a helping hand, following a free triathlon training plan can be a huge help. As well as giving you structure and a focus, it’ll help inform you about the different types of sessions that would be beneficial to you. Team 220

5. Do S&C work

Yes, it can be hard to fit in even more training on top of the swim, bike and run, but trust us, it’s worth it! Strength and conditioning (S&C) includes core work, weight lifting and resistance bands.

A good S&C session performed 1-2 times a week improves efficiency across all three disciplines. For example, it can lead to greater propulsion in the swim and ensures your core doesn’t ‘collapse’ during the run. Team 220

6. Make a kit list

You need a lot of gear to take part in a triathlon. Write a list so you don’t forget any essentials. What’s on it will depend on the event, but typically it would include: a tri-suit (or an alternative) swim goggles, a wetsuit (if swim is outdoors), bike shoes (if you’re using them), socks, a helmet, a bike, running shoes and your race admin.

Next to that, consider using a belt for your bib number, nail down what nutrition products you might want with you and think about any extra layers you may need for the bike if it’s chilly. Sunglasses, a hat and elastic laces can also be useful.  Joep Straps, ZONE3 ambassador

7. Know your equipment

Under no circumstances should you use new equipment on race day. You want to be confident that you’ve tested the bike, ran in the trainers, swam in the wetsuit and trained in the tri-suit you’ll be using for race day. This prep will give you the confidence you need and, hopefully, prevent any kit mishaps. Team 220

8. Use carrier bags!

Carrier bags on your feet/hands help you get into your wetsuit with a lot less struggling or falling over. Use lube on your legs and arms and then slide your limbs into the wetsuit. You’ll save loads of energy and time. Game changer! Team 220

9. Prepare for transitions

Many people say transition is the fourth discipline. There are two transitions in a triathlon: one when you go from the swim to the bike and one when you switch from bike to run. Get familiar with the rules and what you need to do in each transition.

Remember to leave your swim cap and goggles at the first transition, put on your helmet before your get on your bike and don’t jump on until you’re past the mount/dismount line.

Before the event, find out where the swim exit is, where you exit the transition with your bike and where you can bike in again before switch to running. Joep Straps, ZONE3 ambassador

10. Key in your race nutrition

No-one needs any tricky incidents, so get this right and your race is going to be easier. Ensure you practise it in training to avoid any digestive issues during your race and that it works for you in terms of energy boosts. Make sure you like the taste so you’re less inclined to put fuelling off.

Also consider whether you like what the race organiser is providing. Again, try it in training to make sure and if it doesn’t work for you, take along your preferred nutrition. Team 220

11. Be a happy finisher!

You crossed the finish line, which is a big achievement. You can be proud of yourself. So think back at what you did to cross the finish line with all the ups and downs. Everybody has a story to tell about how they managed to finish. You did it, way to go! Now go home and sign up to another… Joep Straps, ZONE3 ambassador

ZONE3 was founded in 2009 and has developed quality triathlon kit ever since. Take at look at ZONE3’s full triathlon range here.

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Top image: Zone3/Feel Good Films