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7 Things Every First-Time Triathlete Needs To Know

by Laurence Landry 29 Sep 2022
7 Things Every First-Time Triathlete Needs To Know

If you’ve been considering training for your first triathlon but get overwhelmed with where to start and what to do, we feel you. Triathlons are not a normal thing for our bodies to do. And if you didn’t grow up in a family of athletes who do an annual beach triathlon– or thanksgiving 5k run– signing up for your first race can feel a bit intimidating.

We’ve been there and are here to help. We asked our team of Brava Ambassadors (AKA triathlon veterans) for some of their top tips every triathlete needs to know– and they did not disappoint.

So whether you’re training for your first Try-A-Tri, or going right into Olympic distancethese tips are sure to help.

1. Make A Training Plan 

I’m sure we’ve all signed up for some race or event in the past, feeling like we had ample time to train, and before we knew it, the event was two weeks away–  causing pure panic. This lack of planning usually leads us to quickly squeeze months of training into two weeks, causing burnout, high stress, and a less-than-desirable race experience. 

If you are a procrastination expert like us, then the FIRST thing you should do when you sign up for a race is to make a training plan. There are loads of free examples online, plenty of coaches who can help you build a tailored program, or friends who are there to help. So print off a calendar, set some goals for yourself, and get ready to feel properly prepared for your race by the time it happens. 

2. Get The Right Gear 

We’re not here to tell you that now that you've signed up for a race, you need to spend thousands of dollars on top-of-the-line triathlon gear. The barrier to entering triathlon is already hard enough, and we want it to be a more inclusive space. That said, running in shoes you’ve used for the past ten years, your mom’s bike that’s been in the shed since high school and riding in your friend’s hand-me-down shorts may not be the best idea either.  

So, equip yourself with the following basics: 

  •  A pair of swim goggles that fit your face, swim cap and suit; 
  •  A functional bike that is the right size for you and invest in a proper bike tune up and fitting with a local expert (plus a helmet and bike shoes if you don’t already have these);
  • Running shoes that match your run gait 

You don’t need to buy all new stuff, but getting equipment and gear that actually fits, supports your body in its movements and keeps you safe, comfortable, and injury-free is important.  The less time you spend adjusting your suit and worrying about equipment malfunction or injury, the more you will actually enjoy training and crush your goals! 

Considering our long hours in athletic apparel– comfort and style are essential.  

3. Find A Training Group/ Supportive Community 

Getting out of bed for those early morning training sessions or post-work exercises can be challenging– especially when you’re doing it alone. That’s why we suggest finding a training team or motivation crew.  

If you already have a crew of friends who love triathlon and have patiently awaited you to join the tri obsession, then you’re set. Unfortunately, many of us aren’t in that boat.  

You may not be able to convince your friends to train for a tri, but you may be able to convince them to train for a 5 or 10 km run. Same with swimming and biking. You may be alone in practicing doing the three in a row, but at least to start–  which in our opinion, is the hardest part– you have a crew and someone to hold you accountable. So, say goodbye to the 20 alarm snoozes, and hello to post-run coffee with a friend.   

4. Don’t Get Adventurous Before Your Race 

Sometimes as humans, we have this great idea that we will try a new recipe the day before a race because it’s extra “healthy” or full of all the carbs our body needs. We are here to beg you not to do that. We know the new restaurant down the street looks delicious, and we are sure it is, but save it for a celebration meal the week after your tri– not for your pre-race meal.   

Don't eat anything new for race day/the day before! It's not the time to try out a new gel or eat a banana for the first time before working out. Plan your race day fuel and pre-race meals early in the process. That way, you can train with them, see how your body reacts to them beforehand, and ensure it’s the right fuel for your body.  

A gel, or pre-race meal that works great for a friend, may not work well for your body, so if you’re not sure what fuel to get, test out some options early. That way, by the time you are packing your race kit, you know EXACTLY what to include.  If you need some help planning race-day fuel, check out our blog with tips on endurance nutrition planning or connect with a local sports dietitian.  

5. Practice Your Race 

This tip may feel a bit more obvious, but it’s still something we are surprised to hear that not everyone does. It’s so crucial you practice every step of your race prior to race day.  

This practice can include: 

  1. Practicing transitions & bricks– removing a wetsuit, putting bike helmet/shoes, race belt on, and swim/bike and bike/run. Often athletes feel disoriented or dizzy getting out of the water and immediately running to get their bike. Also, it’s not uncommon for your legs to feel like they weigh a million pounds coming off the bike. So practice these transitions before the big day. Read more about optimizing your workouts with brick training.
  2. Practice drinking/eating on the bike–and run depending on the race length– in training!
  3. Practice swimming in your race day outfit. We promise, it’s not as fun or easy as swimming in a bathing suit. Plus, some people find it can make them anxious, especially the first time in it.
  4. Practice swimming in open water (if your race is in open water). Once again, swimming in open water is different from swimming in a pool. It can feel so much more stressful and scary. Take it from us - you don’t want your first open-water swim to be on race day.  

6. Plan Your Recovery 

When planning our race, we tend to plan everything up until we pass the finish line. We are so focused on our goal that we forget what happens afterwards. Not planning your recovery is bad because what we do after crossing that line is super important for your race, body, and ability to race again.  

You may be thinking, well, what is there to plan? I’ll be tired. I’ll sleep. Take it easy for a day or two. That’s a great start, but remember, you just did a couple of hours of activity. Even though you (hopefully) adequately fueled your body during your race, you must ensure you continue replenishing it afterwards. 

If you want to plan a celebratory meal with friends and family, that’s great. But, think about the kind of food your body will need. And think about continuing to replenish your electrolytes.  

Also, think about where you’ll be after your race. We suggest maybe skipping hanging out in the sun all afternoon, especially if your race day was a hot one– heat stroke is very real and not something you want to experience.  

Finally, don’t forget to stretch and attend to any pain your body experiences during the race.  

7. Have Fun 

Above all, remember your race should be FUN. Don't overthink everything, and remember to enjoy yourself. It's easy to get caught up in the logistics. Either way, you will have learnings you can carry forward and the confidence to crush even bigger goals– if you want to. 

You’ve Got This! 

Registering for your first triathlon can be scary, but remember, every triathlete has been there. We all get it and are here to cheer you on as you cross the finish line.  

We’ve made countless mistakes during our races, and that’s okay. It means that we have wisdom we can pass on to others and ways to improve each race.  

If you’re looking for other tips and tricks when prepping for your big day, be sure to check out our other blog posts. Here we explore more training topics such as how to hydrate during training, how to improve your swim, your race day checklist, and much more!  

Now, Go Crush It! 


Britney Dehler @britneyelizabeth60
Brava Ambassador

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