How to prepare for your first triathlon

Been running for a while and ready for your next challenge?

Maybe you’ve run all your local races, or hit your marathon goals and need something extra to keep you motivated..

A triathlon could be the obvious next step. But how do you make the leap from one sport to three?

From choosing what distances to attempt to knowing what kit you need, there’s a whole lot to think about, but it needn’t be overwhelming.

Here’s Virtual Runner’s guide to getting started:


Take one step at a time

Literally. In the same way that running a 5k or 10k may have seemed daunting at first, it’s all about getting started.
Look at the individual component parts in isolation and, if fear starts to talk you out of it, think back to all the things you’ve achieved since you started running.
You’ve done hard things before, you can definitely do them again. And imagine the huge sense of achievement when you complete your first event.


Choose your race wisely

Triathlons come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s important to choose one that suits your goals and abilities.
Start with a sprint distance race, typically consisting of a 750-metre swim, a 20-kilometre bike ride and a 5-kilometre run.

These shorter distances offer a manageable challenge while allowing you to experience the thrill of a triathlon without feeling overwhelmed.

Research local races, read reviews, and find one nearby that works for you.


Get your equipment right

You’re going to need a bit more than your trusty pair of trainers, but sorting out your triathlon gear needn’t break the bank.
A few key items will get you started:

  • A comfortable swimsuit, or wetsuit for open water swims
  • A reliable road or triathlon bike
  • A helmet
  • A good pair of trainers

Triathlon-specific gear like a tri-suit, triathlon shoes, and a race belt can be beneficial if you get the bug and plan to do lots of events but are not necessary for beginners.

Online groups for runners/triathletes and sites like Facebook Marketplace and Vinted can also be great places for sourcing second-hand kit at a lower price.


Training: Start small, build up steadily

As with running, the biggest issues come when you try to do too much too soon.
Begin with a realistic and structured training plan that fits into your schedule. Consistency is key, so it needs to be achievable within the time you have available.

Start by focusing on each discipline individually. Dedicate time to swimming, cycling, and running, gradually increasing your endurance and proficiency.

Cross-training activities like yoga, strength training, and stretching can improve your overall fitness and prevent injuries.

And don’t forget to build in time for rest and recovery, an essential part of any training plan, but extra important when you’re trying something new and placing new demands on your body.


Seek Support: join a triathlon community

As with running, the triathlon community is full of like-minded individuals who will be only to happy to share their advice and guidance when you’re starting out.

Reach out to local triathlon clubs or online forums to connect with seasoned triathletes who can answer the many questions you’re likely to have.

We have several triathletes in the Virtual Runner community too, so feel free to pop your beginners’ questions on our Facebook group.

Getting along to a group in real life so that you can train alongside others is also an excellent way to ease yourself into your first triathlon and boost your motivation.

Remember, triathlons are a journey of self-discovery, pushing your limits, and celebrating personal victories. Start with a race and pace that feels right for you and build up slowly and steadily.

Before long you’ll have your first triathlon medal in your hands and be itching to book in for your next one!