Your first Triathlon: Training Tips and Kit List


If this is your first event, we salute you! Taking on a triathlon or Ironman is no small task. To help prepare you for the road, bike and water, we asked our experienced triathletes how to train, what essential tri kit to choose, and how to save those valuable seconds during your transitions on race day.




Please note that you can also hire wetsuits and triathlon bikes from CycleSurgery King’s Cross


Triathlon Suit or Tri Shorts/Tri Singlet. Tri suits are designed for every facet of your race, with a low profile pad for comfort while riding (which is still not too bulky for running), no sleeves for a better range of movement in the water, and pockets for nutrition (which is ideal for longer races).

Tri suits are also built with quick drying technical fabric so that you’re not cold in transitions or carrying any extra weight after the swim.


Number Belt. Wear this over your tri suit but underneath your wetsuit during the swim, so that you don’t have to readjust during the transition.


Body Glide for those areas that chafe, like under the arms for the wetsuit, in-between the thighs on the ride and on the feet for the run.


Tip: Use talc in your bike shoes, run shoes and socks, and on anything you need to put on after you get wet.






Transition Bag. This is to store all of your swimming, cycling and running gear in-between transitions. Don’t use a plastic box – you need to be able to carry your bag and roll your bike to the transition area before the race starts.


Remember, your transition bag needs to be big enough to squeeze in everything on this kit list!


Towel. Stand on this in transition (if the rules allow). It’s also good for drying off afterwards.


Tip: Use a brightly coloured towel and leave it by your bike and transition bag so that you can easily spot your ride and save valuable seconds during transition.


Nutrition/HydrationFor a successful triathlon, you’ll need to keep your body fuelled and watered. You usually need 1g of carbs per kg of bodyweight each hour. It’s easiest to fuel on the bike, so avoid stocking up on the swim.

For shorter races, electrolyte and energy drinks will be enough. You can help your tired muscles by having a protein-rich, post-race recovery drink within 30 minutes of crossing the finish line.


Wetsuit for protection during the open water swim.


Swim Cap. This is usually provided by the race. Check your race day package before buying.


Goggles. I’d recommend the Predator Flex range from Zoggs.




Triathlon Bike. Tri bikes are super-light and designed to sit the rider over the handlebars in a more aerodynamic position. We recommend the Cannondale Slice 105, which has an ultralight BallisTec carbon frame and an AERO SAVE design, which helps boost speed by adding comfort, control and shock absorption.


Road Shoes. Clip-ins (also known as ‘clipless’ shoes/pedals or ‘SPDs’) are recommended for maximising your pedalling efficiency. If you’re new to clip-ins, check out our blog and practise before race day. You can even invest in triathlon clip-ins, which are designed for speedier transitions.


Tip: Leave your clip-ins locked into your bike pedals for a speedier transition. Practise these time-saving techniques at home to see what works best for you!


Aero Bars. If you don’t already have these to get into an aerodynamic riding position, you can save valuable minutes on the cycling stage.


Helmet. This is essential and some triathlons may disqualify you if you touch your bike before putting on your helmet. If this is your first event, don’t worry about investing in a tri-specific helmets just yet.


Glasses and a Cap/Hat for eye and sun protection during the ride and run.




Running Shoes. When you’re tired in the last leg of the race, you’ll want shoes that will sufficiently support and cushion your feet. Our good friends at Runners Need have an excellent range of lightweight and racing shoes to choose from. You won’t want to run in clip-ins or in your battered jogging trainers!


If your shoes don’t already have a bungee lacing system, add some elasticated laces with eyelets to make pulling on your running footwear even faster!






Follow a training programme to ensure that you are physically and mentally prepared for the demands of your event.


Finding a balance between the three disciplines can be hard. One session per week for each discipline will naturally see less progress than training three times per week for each discipline.


If you can train three times a week for each discipline, spread out the sessions to allow recovery. For each discipline, I would advise one session each for endurance, technique and speed (like interval training). Each week, a couple of days will require two sessions (swim in the morning and run at lunch).


With races varying in distance from sprints to Ironman, preparation times for events can vary.


For your first sprint, you ideally need 12-16 weeks to develop a basic level of fitness.


Olympic distances or further require the development of base level endurance over a longer period of 16-24 weeks.




Mark Yeoman


Leaving the safety of local pools for open water can be the biggest hurdle. All lakes have support crews; make sure that you inform the lake organisers that you are a first-timer or nervous about open water swimming.

You can spend about five minutes sitting in the water to allow your body to acclimatise; your wetsuit will soon warm the thin layer of water between your body and the wetsuit. The blood initially hides in the body before coming back to your hands, feet and forehead; for extra warmth, add neoprene boots, gloves and cap.


Next, simply float on your back to gain confidence in your wetsuit. I would then recommend looking underwater and blowing out bubbles before starting the breaststroke in-between small bouts of front crawl.

As your confidence grows, you will soon be swimming like you do in the pool!




It is commonly accepted that there are four disciplines to a triathlon. The fourth is called the transition. You can easily waste time in-between swimming and getting on your bike (known as T1) and then the process of getting off your bike and onto the road (known as T2) by being disorganised and inefficient.


Invest in a race belt. BTF rules require you to wear a race number which must be on your back for the ride and your front for the run. Wearing a race belt with the number attached means that you can just swivel it around. It’s tricky putting your race belt on after the swim, so have it ready under the wetsuit!


Keep it simple. You are only allowed a small area beside your bike; the less you have, the quicker your transition. Open up your bike shoes so that you can step into them like slippers (put talc inside to help quickly dry your feet). You can also tape energy gels onto your water bottle so that you can pick them up in one simple move. If you’re practising cycling/running without socks, add Vaseline to your ankles or inside your shoes.


Practise running with your bike. Hold the saddle and not the stem or handlebars so that you can get used to the way it responds and avoid knocking into your own peddles. Practice with your shoes on as you will not be able to run fast in your cleats!


Familiarise yourself with the transition area. Some are vast, so getting lost is easily done. Walk from the swim exit to your bike; look for any noticeable features like trees and event signs to help you find your bike faster. You are not allowed to mark your area; if organisers have numbered or lettered each row, write this on the back of your hand in permanent marker to jog your memory. Also walk from your bike to the bike exit and then the run exit; look for the quickest route and for potential obstacles like bins and rabbit holes. Finally, invest in a bright towel so that it stands out from all of the others!




To avoid forgetting key items, make a list of everything that you need. When you are prepping the day before, lay your kit out on the bike and tick off each item on the list. Pack spares like goggles and laces. Remember to enjoy yourself. You are doing this sport for fun so look to race with a smile on your face!