Triathlon, a beginners guide

Triathlon; the sport of kings!

Ever wanted to push your body and mind to the absolute limit? 

Have you ever felt the need to do more than just the odd run here and there? 

Do you want to find a way to get fit that is varied and diverse? 

If this sounds like you, triathlons may be the ultimate sport you are looking for.

What is a triathlon?

A triathlon is a race consisting of three different activities; running, swimming and cycling. 

The main goal of a triathlon is to complete each activity and reach the finish line in the best time you can! 

That is if you make it to the finish line. 

Nobody said triathlons were easy. 

Athletes will compete for the fastest overall time for completing the course, meaning the competition for the top is fierce!

How to start in triathlon? 

You turn on the TV after a long day at work and see a triathlon taking place. 

Thousands of athletes competing whilst the adrenaline surges around their bodies. 

You think to yourself as you sit down on your comfy sofa “I need to do that”. 

The great thing about triathlons is that they cater for everybody. 

Whether you aim is beating all competition or simply just want to take part to boost your fitness, triathlons welcome people of all abilities and ages. 

From mini triathlons to kids marathons, you don’t need to be an Olympic athlete to take part. 

To get the ball rolling, think about joining a triathlon group/club and surround yourself with people who share similar goals to you. 

The next step would be to sign up for an actual triathlon, however daunting that may seem to you! 

Usually, when you set yourself a deadline with a date and timeline you are more likely to put the hours in to train for it. 

Just make sure to give yourself enough time to train so you aren’t trying to train for a triathlon within two weeks!

Swim, Bike, Run

How should I train for a triathlon? 

You may be pleasantly surprised by how long it actually takes to train for a triathlon

In around 12 weeks, with sufficient training, you could be looking to swim, run and cycle your way to greatness!

In order to maximise your training performance, you will need the right equipment to train with. 

In terms of basic equipment, for the swimming part of the race, you will need a swimsuit, goggles and a swimming cap (if you have long hair). If the swim is open water we suggest you get a wetsuit! 

For the cycling part of the race, you will need a bicycle, cycling shoes, cycling jersey, cycling shorts and a water bottle. 

Finally, for running part of the race, you will need a good pair of running shoes and the correct clothing to run in.

We’re massive fans of Hoka Running trainers here at UT. 

After you have all the gear, here is the part that requires some discipline; the training. 

Although it may not sound enticing, training is an essential component of a triathlon and it should be taken seriously.

You should be looking at training around 4 to 5 days a week, however, workouts can be from 30 to 45 minutes long. 

This means you are looking at about three to four hours of training per week, giving you plenty of time for the big race. 

In terms of planning activities, if you are training five days a week, make two of the workouts swimming, then fill the rest of the workouts with cycling and running.

Be careful not to overtrain though. Overuse injuries are a real thing and can hurt! 

The last thing you want to do is run into an injury a few weeks before the big race. 

Train hard but be nice to your body and make the rest days count!

Looking for Custom Triathlon Kit?

We offer a wide range of high quality custom triathlon clothing. We use the best fabrics and the latest printing techniques to help create your clubs kit in the style you should be seen! 

Make sure you look the part when flying past the competition. 

What should I eat for a triathlon?

It goes without saying how important sufficient training is when taking part in triathlon. 

But what is also incredibly important is food. 

Without the right fuel for our bodies, we will never be able to reach our full potential, especially when it comes to fitness. 

This is why eating the right amount of calories every day and getting your nutrition right is key to success. 

Health is the foundation of fitness after all.

So, with that in mind, where do you start?

First off, here are a few things you should begin to avoid:

  • Junk food
  • Alcohol (minimise your intake)
  • Fatty Foods
  • Try to limit caffeine

Now, you know what you shouldn’t be eating, here are some recommendations for what you should be:

  • Complex carbohydrates
  • Lean Protein
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Drink lots of water

As well as correct nutrition, you need to be ensuring you are getting enough quality sleep. 

Sleep deprivation can be extremely detrimental to our health and our bodies, so make sure you get your good night's sleep!

The costs of Triathlon

As you begin your triathlon journey, you will slowly start to notice something. 

Costs can build up very quickly. 

From equipment and food to registration fees and travel costs, you are bound to run into costs along your way, so knowing when these are going to pop up is extremely important.

Then when you are really hooked you’ll realise you need to buy a VW Transporter just to fit in! 😉

Here are some of the main costs you should be on the lookout for:

  • Triathlon Club or Gym Membership

  • Running Costs e.g. clothing, running shoes

  • Cycling Costs e.g. bike, clothing

  • Swimming Costs e.g. access to pool, goggles etc.

  • Travel Costs to get to Triathlon

  • Entry Fee for Triathlon

  • Time

Check out our custom triathlon kit! 

What types of triathlons are there? And how do I decide the one for me? 

Just like triathletes, Triathlons come in all shapes and sizes

Before you eagerly sign up for the Ironman distance, you should consider what type of race is best suited to your needs. 

There are four popular distances that we will cover below. 

There is a natural progression to the distances, so if you are just starting out, make sure you start from the bottom and work your way up to the bigger races! 

The Sprint

To start with, there are the Sprint distance triathlon. 

These types of races are perfect for beginners or people who are looking to take part in their first triathlon. 

The sprint is commonly known as one of the most popular distances. Here’s a breakdown of the distances for each activity:

  • Swim: 0.5km to 0.75km

  • Bike: 20km to 22km

  • Run: 5km 

Olympic distance

The second type of triathlon is the Olympic distance

As the name may suggest, this type of race is the official distance of the Olympics itself. 

So, if you are just getting started, you might want to sit this one out! 

Due to the distance of the event, you are going to need to be pretty fit in order to take part. 

Here’s a breakdown of the distances below:

  • Swim: 1.5km

  • Bike: 40km

  • Run: 10km 

Half Iron

Now things are starting to intensify. 

The half iron will definitely push you to your limits, so if you haven’t been able to complete the previous two events, maybe give this one a miss. 

If, however, you have prevailed with great success, the half iron may be the perfect race you are looking for. 

That is providing you are up for the challenge. 

Here’s a breakdown of the distances below:

  • Swim: 1.9km

  • Bike: 90km

  • Run: 21km 

Iron distance triathlon 

Here it is. 

The ultimate endurance test.

If you thought the half Iron was tough, prepare to be pushed to limits you’ve never experienced before. 

The Iron distance triathlon, know commonly as an Ironman triathlon, is the final mission for triathletes and something many people strive to complete.

Even experienced triathletes will still find the Ironman a challenge, so you aren’t alone if the thought of it is making you feel uneasy! 

You should only consider doing an Iron distance race when you have a few triathlons under your belt and you have completed one, at the minimum, half iron.

Here’s a breakdown of the Iron distances below:

  • Swim: 3.8km

  • Bike: 180km

  • Run: 42.2km

Are triathlons safe to take part in?

Triathlons are certainly not for the faint-hearted. 

When you sign up for a triathlon, you have to know what you are getting yourself into. 

The intensity of triathlons comes with many risk factors that you should be aware of. 

For example, if you want to sign up for a triathlon but have a pre-existing medical condition, you need to check with your doctor whether or not you will be fit enough to take part.

As with any of the individual activities (running, swimming and cycling), there are risks that you can prepare for and measures you can take to prevent them from happening.

Another example of potential risk is dehydration and cramping when running. 

Staying hydrated throughout the race is key, so make sure you are drinking enough water. Experiment with electrolytes to make sure you are getting the right level of nutrients back in your system as well.  

On the day of the event, there will likely be a medical team ready to assist anyone who has run into any problems (let’s hope not literally).

For the most part, your safety will come down to the actions you take and the lengths you go to prevent any risks. 

Triathlons may sound risky but as long your fitness levels are where they should be and you have trained sufficiently, you should be able to minimise any potential risks yourself.

What are the benefits of triathlons? 

You may have read all the details above and thought to yourself; why would anybody put themselves through that? 

While triathlons are certainly not easy, there are a host of benefits, both physical and mental, that come with multi-sport racing. 

Meeting New People

One of the great things about doing triathlons is the new people you meet. 

Being a part of a community of people all with one collective goal can feel really rewarding. 

The diversity of people you will meet will amaze you and you will most likely make some friends for life. 

Run, Cycle And Swim out of your comfort zone

Stepping outside your comfort zone is another benefit of triathlons. 

Taking part in a triathlon is out of most people’s comfort zones and it takes a great amount of discipline to do so. 

Pushing yourself to new limits will give you the forwards momentum to smash any goals you set for yourself in the future.

As well as the social and mental benefits, triathlons are amazing for your body. 

Expect lower blood pressure, weight loss, increased energy and an increased sense of well-being. You can read more about the physical benefits of triathlons here.

We spoke to “Inspiresport” who are a leading provider of sports tours for schools, here’s what they had to say about triathlons for younger audiences:

“For P.E teachers, getting the children and young adults they teach interested in triathlon activities can be a great way to add more variety to their lessons. However, pupils may be reluctant to get involved in this sport for a variety of reasons. This can range from having a lack of confidence in their ability to do it well, or the simple fact that they don’t have role models that encourage them to participate.

“As a teacher, you should be creating lessons plans that are inclusive so students of all ability levels can get involved and develop their skills in each triathlon activity. This will help them to build their confidence, and hopefully ignite a passion for these sporting activities in them. 

In addition to this, you should encourage healthy competition and bring attention to top triathletes (such as Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, Lucy Charles, and Simon Whitfield) for your pupils to look up to. Highlight their struggles and achievements and give them something to aspire to!”

Final Thoughts on our guide to beginner triathlon

We hope this guide has answered some important questions for you and provide you with a better insight into the world of triathlons. 

So now, the only question left to ask is.. what’s stopping you from taking part?

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