From Gear to Tips and Tricks, Take a Look at Our Beginner’s Guide to Completing Your First Triathlon

triathlon guide
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So you want to try a triathlon? Triathlons are some of the hardest endurance events you can sign up for, and they are a great way to set and accomplish fitness goals and overcome personal hurdles. Completing one takes a lot of dedicated training, but just imagine the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel at the finish line when all your hard work has paid off. Swimming, biking, and running all in one day is tough so you should definitely seek out a training plan or a coach who can sort out a strategy for you.

Spreading out all three activities over a week is a good way to look at it so you don’t become overwhelmed. Generally, you should only do one sport per day when training. Once you have a good fitness base, maybe try doing two sports a day for a couple of days a week. For example, on Monday you can do a hard bike ride in the morning and a swim in the evening. On Wednesday or Thursday, try going for an early run and a late swim. Once in a while, or when getting close to race day, try doing a “brick run” off the bike. Check out Trainingpeaks.com, a coach, and other training plan books for more guidance on this. The most important thing is — don’t over-train!

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Here, we’ll talk about the three components of the triathlon, training essentials, and which gear you should buy. We’ll also provide tips and fitness tricks along the way, so stay tuned. If you want to complete a triathlon, you’ve come to the right place.

  

Triathlon Training Essentials

  

1. Garmin Training Watch

There are multiple ways to keep track of your progress during the race, the first being the chip the organizers give you, but having a GPS watch to keep an eye on your time is a great tool to have as well. The Garmin watch comes in a variety of styles and most have so many functions they’re like little smartphones. But they’re great for understanding and tracking your pace, heart rate and maybe most importantly, how much distance you have left.

garmin watch Courtesy of Amazon

Garmin Forerunner Watch

$399.00 $499.99 20% OFF

  

2. Triathlon Magazine’s Week by Week Essential Training Guide by Matt Fitzgerald

This book will teach you all you ever wanted to know about the triathlon. It gives great training tips, workouts and resources. This is an essential book for any beginner looking to make their way into competitive triathlon, written by an established voice in the triathlon community. Worried about starting? Don’t know how to train? Wondering how much to change your diet? This tell-all book is a guide and an essential piece of wisdom. Don’t miss it.

Triathlon Magazine's Week by Week Essential Training Guide Courtesy of Amazon

Triathlon Magazine's Week by Week Essential Training Guide

$22.00

  

3. Triathlon Anatomy by Mark Klion and Jonathon Cane

Interested in increasing your muscular strength and being efficient in every movement? This guide by Mark Klion and Jonathon Cane will tell you how to increase your strength by showing you how to execute 74 different exercises with step-by-step descriptions and color illustrations. If you’ve been seeking a book that shows how to improve your muscular strength and gives detailed exercises, then this is the book for you.

Triathlon Anatomy Courtesy of Amazon

Triathlon Anatomy

$20.49 $24.95 18% OFF

  

Best Triathlon Suits

  

But before we diver into the sport-specific gear, we need to talk about your triathlon suit. It’s your be-all-end-all-suit for the entire race. You’ll wear it for the swim, bike and run so you want to make sure it’s the right one for you. The first thing you want to think about is the weather and water temperature on the day of the race. You might need to pull a wetsuit over your tri suit depending on the race conditions. Some key things to look for in a suit are quick-drying, drag reduction, pockets for nutrition and buoyancy. Having a mesh portion of the suit will increase breathability and ventilation while a moisture-wicking section will move your sweat over so your skin can breathe during the race. You want mobility and a quick-drying suit so you aren’t soaked and weighed down with water for the bike portion of the race. Check out some options for tri suits below.

1. Roka Men’s Gen II Aero Short Sleeve Tri Suit

BEST PERFORMANCE

Roka is one of the leading triathlon brands and they don’t come up short on any aspect. The Gen II Aero Short Sleeve Suit is a form-fitting, quick-drying suit that is sure to fit all your needs. Designed off feedback from competitive users and tried and tested in the Wind Tunnel for aerodynamic performance, the Roka suit is the best of the best. Comfortable, functional, and available in eight sizes including tall, your performance will get a boost once you try on a Roka suit.

Roka Gen II Tri Suit Courtesy of Roka

Roka Men's Gen II Aero Short Sleeve Tri Suit

$295.00

  

2. Synergy Men’s Triathlon Suit

BEST FOR BEGINNERS

The Synergy tri suit is a great suit for first-time triathletes. It’s a comfortable, flexible suit that will dry quickly and provide anti-chafing during the race. With a chamois pad included, you’re all set for a cushioned ride on the bike to be saddle-sore-free. Having a chamois pad on a tri suit can be a game-changer for some athletes and it doesn’t add any excess weight. Synergy’s tri suit is one of the best bangs for your buck if you’re looking to just try it out and don’t want to commit to an expensive, professional suit. A great option for beginners.

Synergy triathlon suit Courtesy of Amazon

Synergy Men's Triathlon Suit

$119.95

  

3. Zoot Men’s LTD Tri Suit

MOST COMFORTABLE

The Zoot Tri Suit has been tested and tried for ultimate performance and comfort. This suit won’t let you down after your swim as you transition to the bike with its quick-drying fabric and flexible fit. With three storage pockets, you can quickly grab a gel or a blok for your snack on the bike; plus with 50 SPF, this suit is great for long days in the sun. Try the Zoot Tri Suit for your first race for comfort and your best performance.

Zoot Triathlon Suit Courtesy of Amazon

Zoot Men's LTD Tri Suit

$227.99

  

Triathlon Swimming Gear

  

The swim is sometimes the hardest part of the race. You’re gasping for breath, feeling like a fish out of water, trying to sight while also breathing to the side and feeling exhausted: but don’t worry, that’s where your training kicks in. Once you’ve been pool swimming for a few months before a race, you’ll get accustomed to the tiring process of a swim and be so much stronger for it. Make sure to try a few open water swims before race day to practice swimming straight without the guidance of the pool lane. What kind of gear do you need for the swim? Let’s review some products below.

1. Aqua Sphere Kamin Swim Goggles

Having a comfortable pair of swimming goggles is the most important part of the swim. It’s best to use them in an open water swim to see how they fit and feel because a leaky goggle is every swimmer’s nightmare. The Aqua Sphere goggles have an anti-fog coating that will keep your vision clear and they come in a few different colors, including lens color, so be sure to pick the best one for you. Perhaps a clear lens is ideal or maybe a tinted blue. Whichever color you prefer, make sure they’re broken in by race day.

Aqua Sphere Karmin swim goggle Courtesy of Amazon

Aqua Sphere Kamin Swim Goggles

$33.34

  

2. Speedo Fastskin Pure Focus Swim Goggles

Goggles are the most important aspect of the swim and training in your goggles is a good way to get used to them. There’s nothing worse than buying new goggles for a race and having to adjust them halfway through. The Speedo Fastskin Pure Focus goggles are a streamlined, aerodynamic fit to your head to provide the least amount of resistance but it’s also worth noting that everyone’s head is different so what may work great for your friend may not work for you at all. It’s a good idea to test out a few different types of goggles to find the correct fit. The Speedo Fastskin goggles have a tinted lens for sunny race days.

Speedo Fastskin Pure Focus goggles Courtesy of Amazon

Speedo Fastskin Pure Focus Swim Goggles

$85.00

  

3. Synergy Triathlon Wetsuit 3/2 mm

This full-sleeved wetsuit is thin in the arms and thicker around the waist and legs to promote buoyancy, which is what we’re all striving for in the middle of a race. The thinner fabric on the arms will help you move your arms out of the water more easily while the thicker leg portion will keep you afloat. The Synergy wetsuit is an all-star pick for its affordable price and comfort level for beginning triathletes.

Synergy Triathlon wetsuit Courtesy of Amazon

Synergy Triathlon Wetsuit 3/2 mm

$199.95

  

4. Roka Men’s Maverick Comp II Wetsuit

Roka is the leading triathlon brand and their wetsuits will give you a streamlined fit and look. With thinner material on the arms for flexibility and thicker material at the waist and legs for buoyancy as well as warmth, the Roka Maverick’s wetsuit will make you feel aerodynamic and speedy. This is an excellent wetsuit for anyone looking to get into open water swimming.

Roka Men's Maverick Comp II Wetsuit Courtesy of Roka

Roka Men's Maverick Comp II Wetsuit

$395.00

  

Triathlon Biking Gear

  

Grab your cycling shoes, a snack, and your helmet and get ready to spin. Some triathlons are a sprint distance or an Olympic distance, but don’t sweat it, if you’ve been training you’ll be okay. Some tips for the bike: arrange your set up pre-race so it’s ready to go. Line up your shoes and helmet so they’re within easy reach and make sure your water bottles are already filled and in their bottle cages. You can always set your bike to your preferred gear as well by shifting around before settling your bike into its proper place. Check out some cool gear for the bike below and if you don’t have a triathlon-specific bike, don’t worry, you’ll get there.

1. Pearl iZumi Tri Fly Select V6 Cycling Shoe

Most people will already own a road bike shoe that clips into their pedals, but there’s something better out there: the triathlon-specific shoe. These Pearl iZumi cycling shoes are perfect for the T1 with Direct Vent technology so the shoe dries quickly and you won’t slip around. The base is carbon, creating a stiff shoe that is ideal for cycling, plus it’s aerodynamic. At a great price point, the Pearl iZumi is the ideal beginner’s shoe.

Pearl iZumi Tri Fly Select V6 Cycling Shoe Courtesy of Backcountry.com

Pearl iZumi Tri Fly Select V6 Cycling Shoe

$100.00

  

2. Giro Syntax MIPS Helmet

A helmet is a required item to compete in a triathlon so don’t forget yours! The Grio helmet is a high-performance, aerodynamic piece of equipment that you won’t regret buying for a second. Most helmets are too big, clunky, and weigh a lot, so be sure to check out road bike-specific helmets for a lightweight option that will assist you in being lighter on the bike. The less weight you’re carrying via gear, the faster you’ll be. Remember those “brain bucket” helmets that everyone loved so much? Not going to fly for a tri so check out the Giro helmet.

Giro helmet Courtesy of Amazon

Giro Syntax MIPS Helmet

$129.95

  

3. Salsa Warroad Carbon Road Bike

Okay, you probably already have a road bike, but for those of you just starting out, you may want to consider transitioning to a road bike. They are faster, smoother, and provide all-around more comfort on longer treks and the Salsa Warroad is an excellent entry-level bike. With the way of the pandemic bike economy though, it’s pretty hard to find and order a specific bike these days. Be sure to check with your local bike shop about ordering and get a bike fit so you’re properly situated in the saddle before your big race.

Salsa Warroad road bike Courtesy of REI

Salsa Warroad Carbon Road Bike

$3,299.00

  

4. GU Energy Gels

Stash a couple of these in your tri suit for optimal nutrition while you’re on the bike. Each GU boasts a total of 100 calories and some even have caffeine, so take your pick at one of the many flavors on offer. Depending on the distance of the race, you’ll want to bring along some nutrition. The longer the race, the more calories and carbohydrates you’ll need to keep you going and a gel or a GU is the lightest choice.

GU energy gels Courtesy of Amazon

GU Energy Gels

$32.97 $34.80 5% OFF

  

5. GIRO Aerohead MIPS Helmet 

The Aerohead MIPS helmet differs from the one listed above because it is lighter and more aerodynamic. There are pricier, lighter triathlon helmets out there, but for now, these two options will do just fine. This Aero helmet is made from polycarbonate, which is a tested and true material to keep you protected during a crash. The best part about this helmet and what makes it different from regular road bike helmets is the face shield. It gives you ultimate protection and makes you more aerodynamic, which will increase your speed. If you’re looking for a true triathlon helmet, this is your choice.

GIRO Aerohead MIPS Helmet Courtesy of Amazon

GIRO Aerohead MIPS Helmet

$299.95

  

Triathlon Running Gear 

  

When you get off the bike and prepare for the running portion of the race, your legs are going to feel heavy. Imagine a tired heavy where you can’t pick up your legs but you have to run for your life: that kind of heavy. But with the right pair of running shoes, you should transition seamlessly onto the road and settle into a good pace. So trade your helmet for a running hat if you want to shade your head and hit the road. Here are some of the best gear for running below.

1. Hoka One One

Hoka has been a longtime favorite brand of running shoes, often competing for Nike’s attention but their fluffy sole and cushioned instep will make you feel like you’re flying. Never dread the heavy dead leg again with a light pair of running shoes to set the right tempo. Hoka One One’s are a great steal for the price and are some of the most comfortable shoes on the market.

Hoka One One shoe Courtesy of REI

Hoka One One

$130.00

  

2. Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 

Nike’s road running shoes are as light as a cloud, so much so that you’ll find yourself wearing them around the house or at the office. These seriously high-performing shoes will quicken your step, provide hours of comfort while training, and last longer than you think. If you haven’t tried a pair of Nike’s in a long time, the Air Zoom Pegasus are worth a second look.

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus Courtesy of REI

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37

$120.00

  

3. Tracksmith Session Speed Shorts

Everyone needs a decent pair of running shorts for training and while you won’t be wearing them during your race, you want a pair of shorts that you can wear comfortably for the amount of time you’ll be training. That’s where Tracksmith comes in. Light, breezy, with different inseam lengths, Tracksmith shorts are our go-to for running shorts and their Session Speed Shorts are the perfect length for training. With no chafing and a sneaky back pocket for a snack or a key, these shorts will save you on your long runs. They have a comfortable elastic waistband for support and will keep you cool on hot days. Plus, if you’re in the mood, be sure to check out all their other awesome running gear.

Tracksmith Session shorts Courtesy of Tracksmith

Tracksmith Session Speed Shorts

$72.00

  

4. Smith Optics Reverb Sunglasses

For great sunglasses during a triathlon, check out Smith Optics. The new Reverb style is back in action with more color combos on the way. Sleek and aerodynamic, these are the sunglasses you need to perform your best, protect your eyes from the glare, and keep sweat out of your eyes. Lightweight and durable, these sunglasses are functional and stylish.

Smith Optics Reverb sunglasses Courtesy of Smith Optics

Smith Optics Reverb Sunglasses

$159

  

5. Tracksmith Speed Crew Sock

A common question about triathlons is often “Do I wear socks?” The answer is: no, you generally don’t. The transition times matter too much in a shorter race, so forego the precious sock. Wear them while you’re training of course, but for practice, try a few runs and bikes in your shoes without socks to get a feel for it. You don’t want to be crawling around the transition area looking for your long-lost sock. But anyway, Tracksmith’s Speed Crew Socks are great for training or you know, wearing just about anywhere.

Tracksmith Speed crew socks Courtesy of Tracksmith

Tracksmith Speed Crew Sock

$25.00

  

6. RJ Sport Race Number Belt

The Race Belt is probably the most important item for the race aside from your watch. It keeps your bib attached to your tri suit and has small hooks for bars or gels. The RJ sport race number belt is comfortable, easy to adjust, and won’t chafe.

RJ Sport Race Number Belt Courtesy of Amazon

RJ Sport Race Number Belt

$8.95

  

7. Lock Laces- Elastic No Tie Shoelaces

Forget lacing up your sneakers the old-fashioned and use Lock Laces, instead. Put these on your running shoes the night before the race so you can transition into them from your cycling shoe without losing time by tying the laces.

Lock Laces- Elastic No Tie Shoelaces Courtesy of Amazon

Lock Laces- Elastic No Tie Shoelaces

$8.99

  

  

Now that you have a list of gear for racing and training, it’s time to pick a race. Finding a professional coach in your local area is also a great idea, as is joining a triathlon club or team. Check if your local pool has a Master’s USA certified swim program; those workouts will whip you into shape in no time. And remember, it’s always better to train with a friend for accountability!

Here are some triathlon guides and resources to further you along your journey. Good luck!

Team USA Competitive Rules

Swim Outlet.com’s Regulations and Guidelines to Triathlons

Triathlete Magazine

Triathlete Magazine’s Twitter

Upcoming Triathlon Races 

How to Find a Triathlon Coach

Fitness Programs for Training for a Triathlon