First Triathlon Tips…

So you signed up for a triathlon…now what? Below is a list of items that I have learned over the years from experience and from friends’ experiences. I have been running triathlons for three years now. This list is designed for outdoor triathlons, but some of these items can certainly be applied to indoor triathlons as well!


  • Pick a fun race. Pick a race in a location that you love, or that offers great amenities. Most races will give you a T-shirt and/or medal for finishing. Get yourself excited about the race. It’s harder to train for a race you aren’t looking forward to. Some have free beer or goodies at the end J Those are my favorite!
  • Find a training plan. There are multiple free training plans online that will take you day by day through your training process. Of course, these are not tailored to your athletic abilities. If you are really devoted, you can ask a personal trainer to write up a training plan for you based on your experiences and strengths.
  • Know the course. Go out during your training and examine the lake, see what the water condition is, look at what obstacles you might encounter on the beach run. Look at the bike course. Drive or bike it before the race to get used to hills and turns that you will encounter.
  • Taper before the race. Tapering is when you cut back on your training a few weeks before the big day. Give your muscles a chance to rebuild in time for the race. Still get out and get a few minutes on each leg. I like to go for light jogs and nice leisurely bike rides instead of intense training sessions.
  • Pre-race checklist. A few days before your event, make a list of EVERYTHING you will need. I say a few days, because you may think of more things you missed throughout the days leading to the event.


Race Day

  • Have a light breakfast. Don’t eat anything out of the ordinary. Your body may feel nervous and you may not want to eat, but make sure you get something. Energy gels are great for quick energy.
  • Set up your transition area in a way that makes sense for you. When it comes time to use your transition area, you don’t want to waste time finding your socks. Place things by discipline so you have one mini pile for each leg of the race.
  • Warm up in the water. Get your body used to the water. I have heard countless professionals also say that this helps your body not hit panic mode as much during your race. Take a few laps, but you don’t need to waste all of your energy.


The Swim

  • Pick your favorite stroke. There is no rule that says that you need to do a freestyle stroke the entire race. You can mix it up as much as you want. I have been known to whip my backstroke out every once and a while.
  • Goggles under your cap. You will be bonked around. I have been hit in the head a few times by people’s flailing arms. I have even had my goggles knocked off in one race leaving me without for the entire race. Put your goggles on first and then your cap!
  • Know your buoys. Most races will have multiple distances racing at once. Know which color buoys you are following and take your turns accordingly.
  • Take your time. Don’t overwhelm yourself thinking of the whole race at once. Think “buoy to buoy”. Take it one at a time. Don’t be afraid to take breaks on the lifeguards. Just keep thinking forward progress. Any forward movement is better than none.

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The Bike

  • Yayy! You survived the hardest part. Now you’re on to the bike. Use this leg to make up some time. Know your gears and when to use them.
  • Carry water and gel on your bike. Don’t fill up on either right before or after a transition. Let your body get used to your current leg before you put your body through eating or drinking.
  • Make sure you communicate with other riders. Communicate when you are passing and then pass them as fast as you can. Don’t draft on them. Not communicating and drafting on other people is actually illegal in most races.
  • Pace yourself. This is the longest section of the race. Don’t start sprinting right away. Know your race pace and stick to it!


The Run

  • Last Leg! Use all of your excess energy in this leg. You never want to end the race thinking “I could have pushed myself harder”.
  • Walk the water stations. I use the water stations to catch my breath and take a few seconds to regather myself.
  • Find a running buddy. I think my favorite race was one where I found two people running the same pace as me and we ran together. We pushed each other to the finish and had a few laughs.



  • Protein! Get some protein in to rebuild those muscles as soon as you can after the race.
  • Rest! Congrats on your finish! You deserve a few days off.
  • Thank your support staff. Send a message or shout out to those that helped you train, came to your race, or provided any extra support. They will love to hear how much they helped you.
  • Sign up for another! You know you want to! You will be on a triathlon high after your race. Use this enthusiasm to sign up for another!

9 thoughts on “First Triathlon Tips…

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