Skip to Content

How to Prepare for Your First Triathlon

first triathlon swim leg

You know that completing a triathlon is not going to be easy, but that’s not stopping you from dreaming about doing it and the amazing sense of accomplishment that it will provide. Whether or not you win, taking part in a triathlon can be an amazing experience both physically and mentally. But, taking part in a triathlon isn’t easy, and there’s a lot of preparation required to ensure that you are ready for the event. 

Choosing a Triathlon Type

Before you start preparing, it’s important to note that there are different types of triathlons that you can train for. These are:

  • Sprint: The shortest type of triathlon, a sprint triathlon is a good option for your first choice. The sprint triathlon includes a 750m swim, 20km bike ride, and a 5k run. 
  • Olympic: The most common type of triathlon, an Olympic triathlon will feature a 1.5km swim, a 40km bike ride, and a 10k run. 
  • Half Iron Man: One of the more ambitious triathlon distances, the half-Ironman 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run. 
  • Ironman: The most ambitious, challenging, and famous type of triathlon, an Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile marathon

Once you know what sort of triathlon event you are signing up for, you will find it easier to plan and prepare for. Depending on the event itself, you will be able to find relevant resources online to help you.

For example, for the Ironman triathlon, you will be able to find videos online that show you what the challenge is like, and what it would be like to take part. This can help motivate you and prepare you for your first triathlon event.

Getting the Right Equipment

Along with preparing yourself physically and mentally for the triathlon, it’s important to ensure that you have the right gear for the event. Not every triathlon will require you to have your own equipment, as they may provide it in some cases. However, it is possible that you will have to bring your own equipment, or at the very least, you will want to buy your own to enhance your chances.

The most expensive item you will need to get for your triathlon is a bike. Choose your bike carefully depending on the terrain involved; a regular road bike or even a mountain bike will suffice for your first tri. It will be worth contacting the event organizers ahead of time, as they will be best placed to provide you with the information that you need.

Triathletes need good running shoes, cycling shorts, a swimsuit or wetsuit, a swim cap, and swim goggles; wearing a tri suit solves the issue of changing between the swim and bike/run sections. A cycling helmet to protect your head when cycling is mandatory. If you are participating in the triathlon as part of a team, you may also want to get customized team sports clothing to wear. 

A triathlon is a fitness event that really encourages you to push yourself to your limits. If completing a triathlon is a major goal for you, these are the main things you’ll need to do to prepare. Remember, everyone is unique, so while this article is a general guide, you will still need to personalize your preparation.

Consider working with a triathlon coach or qualified personal trainer who can get to know your endurance training needs, as they may be able to offer more relevant advice that will serve you well. All in all, remember to have fun, and chase that sense of accomplishment!

Designing a Triathlon Training Program

Once you have decided on the type of triathlon that you wish to sign up for, it’s time to start putting your triathlon training program together. You can work with a personal trainer, a triathlon coach, or both to get your body strong and fit enough to take on the challenge. It’s important to plan your triathlon training program based on your current fitness levels, focusing on your ultimate goals. 

Depending on the triathlon you are taking part in, there will be a few different training programs that will suit your needs. It is unlikely that you will be able to look online and find a training program that you can just copy over to your life, as you will need to personalize and cater to your needs. You can certainly take elements from a training program to help you make your own, but you will need to make it work for your needs.

Tyler Tafelsky Gravel Cyclist
Head of Content at Better Triathlete | Website

Endurance athlete, professional off-road cyclist, and avid blogger, Tyler Tafelsky participates in long-course multisport and cycling events. Today, Tyler competes in ultra-distance cycling races at the professional level. Since starting Better Triathlete in 2014, he has been the head of content for the site's editorial team. Learn more about Tyler