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New to Triathlon?

Taking on three sports in one race can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.

A triathlon is a race that is broken down into three sports –  a swim, a bike and a run – in that order. In between each sport there is a transition zone or t-zone. In the t-zone, you change your equipment and get ready for the next section. Your total time includes each transition, so you’re still on the clock as you swap your bike shoes for your running shoes!

The distance of a triathlon ranges from introductory ‘Try-a-Tri’ to the gruelling and world-famous Ironman competition. There are events that can be raced as a relay where you need only race one or two of the disciplines as part of a team. The best place to start is finding a race that’s in your comfort zone, sign up and start training.

As the sport of triathlon has developed, it has been expanded to include variations on the original theme. Sometimes only two of the three sports are included, and in some instances, some races substitute different long distance sports. For example, winter triathlons typically include skiing and snowshoeing in their events.

The idea that you need thousands of dollars worth of equipment to try the sport is completely false. Triathlon is for everyone. The basic equipment required is:

  • Swimsuit
  • Swim goggles
  • Swim hat (usually provided by the race organizer)
  • Bike (road, mountain or hybrid bike – as long as there are two working brakes and it is in good condition)
  • Bike helmet (well-fitted with a chinstrap and in good condition)
  • Running shoes
  • Running/cycling apparel, including a top (all athletes are required to wear a top while on the bike and run sections)

Other equipment that is useful to have in the transition zone includes a towel, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a quick energy snack such as energy gels or gummy bears.

There is no need to buy an expensive wetsuit and fancy bike until you are sure you want to continue with the sport. Use what you have already or borrow from a friend and then upgrade your gear as required.

Training

You don’t need to spend all of your free time training in order to compete in your first triathlon. Just make sure you choose a shorter distance such as a ‘Try-a-Tri’ or a ‘Sprint to Start’. Most people are able to compete by training 3-4 times a week. Be sure to train for all the disciplines and focus some extra time on your weakest sport. There are a number of online guides for starting a training program. For extra motivation and help, contact a local triathlon club to see if they have any training groups.

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