Beginner triathlon tips

Plan your route to triathlon success

Around the globe there are thousands of new athletes out there looking to try their first triathlon. So how does a triathlon beginner go about getting their first race right?

Will Clarke

Written by Will Clarke

Will is a British triathlete. He's a former U23 World and European Champion, competed at Beijing 2008 and has twice been British national champion.  He now competes on the World Ironman 70:3 circuit.

Preparation is the key to triathlon success

Triathlon is almost all in the preparation and race day is most definitely your show time! For every fine, glamorous performance you see there was a hell of a lot of ugly grafting that went into it. Figure out what you want to get out of your event and plan accordingly. 

If you want to just get round the course with your friends then of course you can put in minimal training and do as you like. However if you want to win or at least perform to your very best then you had better get cracking with some big training weeks! 

Ideally you'll have given yourself plenty of time to prepare before the event. It's always advisable to build up your training slowly each week but also plan in recovery weeks where you have the chance to adapt and recuperate. So start with very achievable goals before you really start challenging yourself. 

Plan your triathlon training blocks

Split up your preparation into at least three blocks. Each block should be fairly similar but think of it as each period you're slowly tuning the engine to go faster. The first is about getting your base fitness in check with long and easy miles. You're training to be able to handle the duration, but also building enough fitness to handle the more intense workouts that are to come.

In the second block you should start to put in more threshold work such as hill efforts and longer duration efforts where you hold an uncomfortable pace for longer to develop your strength. Build runs are also very useful in this phase where you run 20 minutes at an easy pace, 20 minutes at moderate pace and then 20 minutes of fast running.

Finally the last phase is all about developing your speed, the icing on the cake and it is here that you'll do the VO2 max sessions and speed work. 

Getting it right on race day

Race day is one big whirlwind. You barely have time to think and you don't have time for mistakes, so the night before make sure you have everything ready. Make a list and lay out all of your equipment on your bed and when you are sure you have everything, pack your bag and put it by the door. Check out the course maps and info so you know exactly what you're doing and have a nice big dinner and energy drink so you're bursting with energy in the morning.

Beginner triathlon

Here are a few key pointers: 

  • Make sure you know where your bike is in transition. Try a run through once you are all set up.
  • Pick a place you're comfortable with on the swim start line. If you like being in the mix then start in the middle but if you want clear water with nobody around you, opt for the outside line.
  • Pace yourself on the bike, especially in the last 5k. This is where you won't gain a lot but could fry your legs for the run.
  • Elastic band some energy gels to your bike handlebars to keep up energy levels.
  • When you get to a hill on the bike and the run don't increase your effort too much. Instead go hard over the top and push on the downhill.
  • The fastest way to get round a race is to even split it. Too fast in the beginning could mean way slower at the finish so when running, be cautious at the start and build your pace as you go. This will also install confidence in your racing. 

Wherever you're racing this year good luck and I hope these tips serve you well! 

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