Essential kit for your first triathlon

You’ve signed up for your first triathlon and after you feel that sense of excitement at what lies ahead you then think “what kit will I need?” With three events in a triathlon requiring different skills and training, you’ll need a range of equipment for your training and the race itself.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money, and although it’s easy to get seduced by the latest piece of kit or shiny toy that you think will make your training more effective, in reality you just need a few essentials:

Swim Leg

Beginner triathlon events often begin with the swim in a swimming pool, although confident and experienced swimmers can choose to start with open water swimming events. Participating in an event that uses a pool or open water will determine the type of swimming kit you need.

These are essential to both the pool and open water triathlons. If you’re doing open water, goggles with sunglasses protect your eyes, improve visibility and help you keep your swimming line – which should enhance your time.

Typical swimming goggles can be low cost, but choose a pair with a good seal – try a few pairs to see fits the shape of your face better.  Ones with a good fit stay in place by suction only, so that water can not seep in while you try to see where you are swimming.  Do your training swims wearing your goggles – you want to be sure they are right before the triathlon begins!

Swimming cap
A cap protects your hair while you swim, keeps belts from the goggles in place and reduces the resistance of the water. You can buy these easily and, pretty cheaply, is any sports shop.

A wetsuit keeps you warm and increases buoyancy, making it easier to swim.  If you’re doing an open water event it’s a good idea to have a full body wetsuit, especially if the water will be below 14 degrees Celsius.  You can get specialist triathlon wetsuits but if this is your first triathlon, stick with a normal wetsuit.  If you find you’re doing lots of triathlons then it might be worth looking at specialist suits. This leads us on nicely to…

Tri-Suits are all-in-one outfits designed for a triathlon. The key benefit of a tri-suit is that you waste less time between stages as you won’t have to change clothes. Its primary disadvantage is that it is problematic for toilet breaks! Tri-suits are not essential, especially for beginners. If you are challenging in an open water event, it’s a good idea to choose clothes that can be worn under your wetsuit.

Bike Leg

A bike, it goes without saying, is essential for the triathlon! More advanced competitors often ride custom made specific triathlon bikes, but if you’re a beginner any bike will do just fine. As long as it is well maintained with good tyres and inner tubes, well-oiled chain, and good operating brakes and gears!

Repair kit
A bicycle repair kit is also essential. Make sure everything you need is there and is in good condition. And make sure that you are well practiced in using it! If you’re new to riding a bike and want to learn more about bike maintenance Cycle Confident run courses in Greenwich. Check out their website for details.

A helmet is mandatory, even for the elites. There’s no reason not to wear one nowadays. They’re comfortable, reasonably priced, easy to use, and can save your life.

You can get cycling shoes that attach to the pedals. These can help improve stability and power but they’re not necessary for beginner triathletes.  The most important thing is to wear shoes that are comfortable and are easy to get on and off during transitions.

The run

The final step in your first triathlon will be the run – this can be a difficult adjustment after the leg-draining speed of the bike leg.

You won’t need specialist clothing for the run. The shorts and t-shirt you wore during the bike ride will be fine.  Clothing that is comfortable, lightweight, non-friction, and preferably breathable, is all it takes.

Running shoes that are well adjusted, comfortable and support the shape of your foot is your single most important objective for this leg of the race. Your foot type will dictate what type of running shoe you need and it’s a good idea to consult a specialist before you buy. Be aware too that some triathletes develop swollen feet during the triathlon. If this is the case for you, you may want to consider trying out running shoes too large by a half size.

The bike and wetsuit are the most expensive items and can usually be hired if you do not have them. However, many first time triathletes find the equipment they buy useful, especially if they get the triathlon bug!  Other than the above, if you have enthusiasm and fitness, then you have everything you need!

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