Tips for your first Triathlon

My sister and I both did our first triathlons this summer.   Like I mentioned before, I didn't see this as something I ever wanted to do, but I was dedicated to training for it.  I like to run, but I am not really a "triathlete" type pf person. For that reason, I thought I would be the perfect person to write some triathlon tips for the "average" person, you know the one who never thought they would do a triathlon but ended up signing up anyway.  Maybe YOU!

So let's start at the beginning. What you will need (without spending a lot of $)

My suggestions on equipment.

I already had running shoes and a bike but I needed to get some swimming equipment.

I have my own swimming pool but never had a swimming cap. First instinct is to order one off  Amazon. These are fairly inexpensive. You can pick one up for less than $10. However, I went to my local swim shop (which I assumed would be more expensive) to buy one.  They print swim caps for local swim teams and they sell the extras for real cheap so I was able to pick one up there for less than $2.  Swim caps can be sort of uncomfortable and not always required.

Goggles can be tricky, especially when they are packaged and you can not see through them before you buy them. I would suggest buying clear ones.  Being a first time triathlete I wasn't quite comfortable in the water and I wanted to be able to see as clearly as possible. I had tried other goggles that had lenses that were tinted blue and ones that were tinted gold and I just did not like them. They fogged up too quickly and made me discombobulated. If you wear glasses, you can also get prescription goggles at the swim shop.

If it is your first triathlon your goal is to probably just get through it and not to set any records.  My suggestion is to ride a bike you are comfortable with.  I did not have a tri bike or even a racing bike. I used my Diamondback bike that I bought a Dick's Sporting goods a few years back and ya know what? It was perfect for me because I was comfortable. Yes, I could have borrowed a racing bike, but I was comfortable with the one I had. Don't worry, not everyone that is racing will have a racing bike. You won't be the only one.

You will be required to have a bike helmet. I already had a helmet but it was time for me to buy a new one anyway. My local bike shop sells them from $75 on up, but other than this race most of my bike riding is on the rail trail so a bike helmet from Target was fine for me. I got one that has the adjustable wheel in the back to make it more tight or loose.

Clothing- You do NOT need to have a tri suit.  Most women swim in fitted tanks and bike shorts. Whatever you swim in you should be prepared to bike and run in too.  My suggestion is to wear your race day outfit for all of your training.  I wore the same outfit each time I swam, biked, and ran because I wanted to see how the clothes felt during each activity, especially since they would be wet. I didn't want to wear something that would be too heavy when it got wet or would start to chafe as I rode the bike. You'll be doing laundry more often but it will be worth it.

One of the things most first time triathletes worry about the most is the swimming portion. I know I did.  But I would encourage you to find out more about the swimming situation. I later found out that the deepest portion of the pool I would be swimming in on race day was only a little over 5 feet. This put me a little more at ease. The pool I practiced in was 9 feet at the deep end and I did not like that.

Also, find out which strokes are allowed. My plan was to swim freestyle up a lap and the backstroke down a lap, and then alternate each lap between freestyle and backstroke.  Right before the race started it was announced that the backstroke was NOT allowed! I quickly had to switch up my plan.  I did find out that aqua jogging or walking was allowed, so I knew I could use that as a back up when I got tired.

If you are already a runner, you might not worry about "practicing" the running parts. You may think I got this. That's fine, but you NEED to practice running immediately after biking.  You need to get use to this feeling.

When you run after biking, you will feel it in your hips. Make sure you are consistent with your foam rolling.  Your hips are probably not use to the immediate change in activity.

And lastly, you should practice ALL THREE activities.  Although I practiced each of these activities separately, and at different parts of the day, I did have at least 3 "trial" runs  where I swam, bike, and ran the entire distance of the tri.  Yes, I was exhausted afterwards but simulating what race day would be like really gave me confidence. Plus, I got  a sense of what my time should be for each portion of the race. That gave me something to work towards on race day.

Because I'm not a talented athlete, I really stuck to my training. But then again, If you are good at all these activities you can just "wing it" like my sister did and you won't be any worse for wear!

Hope these tips help anyone who is thinking of doing their first Tri. If you'e done a Tri, what would you add? -M


  1. Great tips for doing your first tri. I have done exactly ONE tri. I was fine with the running, of course, and I had been swimming at our local rec center for years, so that was no issue either. The bike portion was the part that killed me. I just had a mountain bike, so I did the race with that. Very slowly. My bike training consisted of me riding up to the stop sign at the end of my street to make sure there was air in my tires. I loved the tri, but I don't know if I would do another one.

  2. These are great tips! If I can ever get over my fear of open water swimming, I would consider doing a triathlon.

    1. Not all this are open water swimming. You can find some that use pools too. Even better if they are heated!

  3. I love this! If I ever do a tri, I'm going in with the same attitude as you--just here for the experience!

  4. These are great tips IF I ever do a tri! Especially to figure out what you will wear and train in it. I think starting with one with a pool swim helps with the fear.

  5. The swimming would be my major obstacle to overcome if the tri bug ever bites. I did a du a few years ago, and it was kind of a whimsical decision, so I really hadn't trained specifically for it. Oh my glutes...that "easy" 1.5-mile run to the finish line (after 20 miles of hilly biking) was such torture LOL

  6. I agree it's really important to practice swimming, biking and running in the actual clothes you plan to wear to see if they work for you.

  7. Great tips! I do not plan on doing a triathlon but this sounds super helpful and all make complete sense.

  8. Thanks for the awesome tips! I’m not sure a tri will ever be in the cards for me, but I’m going to save this post just in case!

  9. All great tips. I haven't been bitten by the tri bug, and probably due to my aversion to swimming, and I don't have a bike.

  10. Such great tips! Swimming, biking and running in the same gear is definitely tricky. Good for you on the great attitude when you found out that you couldn't back stroke!

  11. If a tri is ever in the cards for me then I'll be sure to come back and reference this list. Thanks for sharing!

  12. I think you were very brave to try a tri - and your list is great to show that you don't have to get ALL THE THINGS in order to do one.

  13. I bet the serious tri athletes spend so much money! All the gadgets can add up. My brother is doing his first Ironman tomorrow!

  14. I'm not sure I will ever do a tri but I give you and every other triathlete major kudos!


Fairytales and Fitness is a personal blog authored and edited by us, Meranda and Lacey. The thoughts expressed here represent only our own and are not meant to be taken as professional advice. Please note that our thoughts and opinions change from time to time. We consider this a necessary consequence of having an open mind in an ever changing society. Any thoughts and opinions expressed within our out-of-date posts may not be the same, nor even similar, to those we may express today. Some links may contain affiliate links. Some links are just to pages we'd like to share.