Ten Essentials for Your First Triathlon

Warmer weather signals the start of triathlon season and you may find yourself facing your first race after months of training (or meaning to train!). After taking on Ironman New Zealand as his first-ever triathlon, Will from SportPursuit HQ shares his advice on kit you need to prepare and perform in your swim, bike and run!

Will finishing his first triathlon – it takes a lot of preparation and training to come over the finish line with a smile!

Preparation & Training

To start with, key pieces of kit can be easy to get hold of if you already participate in each of the triathlon sports individually – you may have old running kit or cycling shorts around. Investing in some key basics can really help you train comfortably:

  • Don’t underestimate the benefits of a quality pair of cycling bib-shorts can make a real difference during those long hours in the saddle.
  • Although you might be tempted to get the cheapest pair of running shoes you can find, taking the time to select a good quality, correctly-fitting decent pair of shoes can save you loads of time and money through injury prevention.
  • Lightweight running clothing – I generally prefer lightweight kit like the Odlo Zeroweight range as I know that I tend to overheat when running – be aware of your own preferences and choose what will feel good.

Training Planner

A valuable piece of kit for any level of athlete – find a way to track your progress. Whether you prefer to do it the old fashioned way with pen and paper, or using an online tool, planning out your training will really help maintain the discipline you need to train for 3 different sports, and make sure that you keep progressing well.

Hear Rate Monitor

If you’re aiming to push your performance, a HRM should be top of your list – when used correctly alongside your training plan, it is undoubtedly the best training tool out there. It will help to monitor your fatigue/recovery levels, as well as ensure that you are training in the right way.

Leading smart watches for sport like Suunto and Garmin often have inbuilt heart rate tracking or can be paired with a chest strap to measure the data.

There are loads of different options, but whether you go for the full GPS watch and HRM package or a simple chest strap to pair to your phone, if you use it well you will quickly see the benefits. Plus, tracking your data can make it easier to share on social media like Strava – if you didn’t record it, did you even do it?!

Nutrition

This might sound like an odd one, but particularly if you are going to compete in the longer distance events, you will need to take nutrition on board during the race for energy and essential hydration. It is important to try out your nutrition during training, making sure that you like the test, and that you are able to digest it properly. There is not much worse than getting a terrible stomach-ache halfway through your bike leg because you didn’t try out your nutrition in training.

Gels and tabs can come in all sorts of flavours – new brand YouSquared even has a Jaffa Cake Energy Gel – try a few to find the flavours and formats that suit you.

Stretching Band

With lots of cross training, you’re going to want to recover well – a stretching band is a really versatlie piece of kit that can help recover and (you guessed it!) stretch after a tough session. You can also try try wrapping it round a table or chair leg for some foot or ankle strengthening exercises at your desk, or even get your swimming drills in without needing to go to the pool!

Race Kit

Wetsuit

Brands like Aqua Sphere, Huub, and Yonda are specialists in creating high-performance wetsuits for triathlon.

A properly fitting wetsuit can be worth seconds or even minutes on race day as well as providing you with crucial insulation in cold water swims. It is worth checking the rules for your chosen event, as there can be differences in the conditions under which wetsuits are permitted, and you don’t want to be caught out without the correct kit – our separate guide to Choosing a Triathlon Wetsuit is a great place to start if you’re unsure.

Trisuit

You can certainly get changed between each leg of your race, and you will see many people who do, but if you are looking to shave off valuable seconds anywhere you can, wearing a trisuit will save you loads of time in transition. This is a great option if you are doing sprint or Olympic distance triathlons, where every second in transition counts. If you are going for the longer distances, it can even be worth opting for an aero-optimised trisuit.

Race Belt

Depending on your event, you may well have to pin a paper number on your top for either the bike-leg, run-leg or both. A race belt is not a huge investment and can save a lot of time and faffing in transition.

Most importantly, once you’ve got your kit, go out there and enjoy your first triathlon!

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