How Do I Train For My First Triathlon?

  • By Matt Fitzgerald
  • Published May 8, 2013
  • Updated Mar 25, 2014 at 3:44 PM UTC
Photo: John Segesta

What kind of equipment do I need?

Don’t go out and buy a $2,000 triathlon bike for your first sprint triathlon. They’re terrific, but you should probably get a taste of the sport and determine whether you like it before you make that kind of investment.

Essential gear for swimming includes a swimsuit, goggles, and a swim cap (if you have longer hair). If you’re new to swimming, swallow your self-consciousness and wear an actual “Speedo” racing suit (male or female). The truth is, you’ll feel more self-conscious wearing anything else, as the vast majority of lap swimmers sport the Speedo look. Choose goggles that fit the shape of your face, or else they will leak. To avoid lens fogging, spread a tiny drop of baby shampoo on the lenses before each use.

For cycling, you need a bike, of course, plus cycling clothes, a helmet, cycling glasses, a tire pump, a spare tube, and a hex wrench set for tightening and loosening bolts. If you happen to have a road bike, use this. Otherwise, an off-road bike such as a freestyle or mountain bike will serve, although it won’t go as fast. You can improve the speed of a mountain bike by replacing the fat, knobby tires that come with it with smooth, thinner tires meant for street riding. A mechanic at your local bike shop can make the switch for you. Whatever kind of bike you choose to ride, get it tuned up before you begin training on it. Your mechanic will clean and lubricate the drivetrain, replace worn parts, and adjust the fit, and can also suggest simple upgrades. Get some basic maintenance tips (how to fix a flat, oil the chain, etc.) while you’re there.

For running, you need running clothes and running shoes. Choose running clothes that are made of moisture-managing fabrics such as CoolMax. Buy your shoes from a running specialty store whose sales personnel are highly knowledgeable. Getting shoes that don’t fit perfectly or are inappropriate for your stride is a recipe for an overuse injury. Try on a variety of models, run around the parking lot in each, and ask your salesperson questions about your foot, stride, and shoe needs.

There’s also lots of optional equipment you can get. I highly recommend the use of a good sports watch. Heart rate monitors are extremely useful but are less essential. Triathlon suits are swimsuit-cycling short hybrids that are meant for triathlon racing, and nothing beats them for this purpose. Let’s leave it at that.

RELATED – 15 Must-Haves: Essential Beginner Tri Gear

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