Triathlon Starter Pack

So, you’re thinking about doing your first triathlon?

It’s a wonderful sport, but it’s also a sport that can feel daunting and complex at first.

How much kit do I need? How much training should I do? What should I eat? The list goes on.

I met with some friends for coffee yesterday who are all taking on their first triathlons in 2022 (legends) and they fired a barrage of questions at me. Below is a summary of everything we chatted about, plus a bit more. Enjoy.

⏱️  Basic Training Tips
👕  Kit List (broken down into Essential, Nice-to-Have, and Luxuries)
📚  Recommended Books
🎧  Podcasts
📺  YouTube channels to follow
📸  Instagram Pages
🛒  Facebook groups for buying 2nd-hand gear

⏱️  Basic Training Tips

Practice “Brick Runs” as often as you can.

This is where you go for a bike ride, then immediately run afterwards without stopping for a break. This simulates what it feels like to enter the final stage of a race (it feels weird at first). Try to do this as many of these as you can before your race!

Try to incorporate some strength training into your sessions, even just once a week

Having great cardio and fast feet is fantastic, but your body needs to be strong to get through the longer distances. You only need a pair of dumbbells to begin with, and the rest you can do with bodyweight. You can find great sessions on YouTube. Pilates is also fantastic for your core.

Join a local tri club!

You’ll learn so much, and you’ll meet fantastic people. Find your local one here:

Don’t increase your training volume by more than 10% a week

The “10% Rule” originally comes from the running world and refers to weekly mileage, but the same can be said for overall training time. If you do 5hrs this week, don’t jump up to 10hrs next week. Your body won’t thank you.

Give yourself a Recovery Week every 4 weeks

You cannot train at full gas for months in a row without giving your body time to adapt to the training impulse. Recovery Week involves mostly easy sessions focused on technique, and less volume.

Warm up and cool down!

Warm up: dynamic stretches and some easy swimming, easy riding, or jogging to start

It’s tempting to get straight into a workout without any sort of warmup, and you might be able to get away with this for a few weeks, but eventually you’ll come unstuck.

Cool down: easy swimming, cycling or jogging, then static stretches

🤸‍♂️ Static stretches are those in which you stand, sit or lie still and hold a single position for period of time, up to about 45 seconds. Dynamic stretches are controlled movements that prepare your muscles, ligaments and other soft tissues for performance and safety

Spend time figuring out which types of nutrition work for you

Once you get into the longer distances, you’ll want to be consuming carbs during the bike and run sections, usually in the form of gels and/or electrolyte powders.

Personally, I’ve found that certain gels don’t agree with me at all, and others are like magic. Figuring this out was simply trial & error, and everyone is different.

Make sure you’re eating and sleeping enough

*I’m not a nutritionist, this is just my personal view. Your mileage may vary

  • Try to eat after every session (within 30mins ideally)
  • Consume carbs (gel or electrolyde fluid) during any session lasting longer than 60mins
  • Keep your protein intake high (protein powder helps with this, especially if you’re vegetarian or vegan)
  • Get as much sleep as you can

👕  Kit List

🥇 Tier 1: Essential

  1. A wetsuit & goggles
  2. A bike & helmet
  3. Running shoes
  4. A triathlon suit (tri suit)
    1. This goes under your wetsuit, then you ride and run in it
    2. Alternatively, just find some shorts and a top you’re comfortable swimming, cycling and running in.
  5. A triathlon belt
    1. You attach your race number to this, and you can store nutrition in it.
    2. They cost about a tenner.

🥈 Tier 2: Nice-to-haves

  1. A GPS watch for tracking workouts and races
    1. Ideally one with a heart rate monitor!
  2. Clipless Cycling shoes
    1. Will make you a lot faster as you can “pull up” as well as “push down” with your feet
  3. Pool buoy and kickboard for structured swim training
  4. Clip-on triathlon bars
    1. These attach to your handlebars and help you tuck into a more aerodynamic position

🥉 Tier 3: Luxuries, not worth investing unless you plan on doing this for years

  1. A triathlon bike
    1. Position is specifically designed to help you run more easily after cycling
    2. Usually carbon fibre and fast
  2. A power meter for your bike
    1. Helps you train with watts when you’re outdoors
    2. Useful for staying within a certain “power zone” during a race
    3. These come in different forms, with most popular being pedals or cranks (the piece connecting your pedal to your chainring)
  3. A bike computer
    1. Makes it easier to look at power data while riding (compared to on your watch)
    2. Also helps you follow a GPS route
  4. A turbo trainer and either Zwift or TrainerRoad
    1. Indoor workouts are incredibly structured and incredibly efficient.
    2. Will make you faster if you do even one good indoor session a week.
    3. There are two types of trainer:
      1. A “dumb trainer” – you simply attach your bike to the turbo and spin in place without taking your back wheel off. Power data is transmitted from your power meter. (Dumb trainer is pictured below)
      2. A “smart trainer” – you take off your back wheel and attach the drivetrain directly to this trainer. The trainer itself connects to your training software, and can adjust the power for you based on the workout you’re doing. Naturally, these are more expensive.
  5. Swimming fins
  6. A swimming tempo trainer
    1. Little device that goes under your swim cap and beeps at a certain cadence to help you maintain a target pace
  7. Aero Helmet
    1. Designed to minimise drag. Will make you go a wee bit faster.

🌐  Useful websites

Race comparison and booking website.

Basically the Amazon of running, cycling and swimming. Fast delivery and a good loyalty program.

📚  Recommended Books

Book Review: Fast-Track Triathlete - Epoch Nutrition

Fast-Track Triathlete: Balancing a Big Life with Big Performance in Long-Course Triathlon

Extremely comprehensive guide on how to train for Half and Full Ironman races in an efficient manner. Written for people with minimal spare time on their hands. Advocates “train smart, not train hard” e.g. do a few good structured sessions with strength work every week, and you’ll be as fast as people doing “junk miles” just to rack up the hours.

Swim Smooth: The Complete Coaching System for Swimmers and Triathletes: Newsome, Paul, Young, Adam: 8601400000045: Books

Swim Smooth: The Complete Coaching System for Swimmers and Triathletes

All the theory behind efficient swimming.

🎧  Podcasts

Purple Patch Podcast

Matt Dixon’s podcast. Each show is pretty varied, he’s quite entertaining, and he takes a sensible, grounded approach to training.

Oxygen Addict Triathlon Podcast

A British triathlon club that coach people all over the country and run a brilliant podcast diving deep into specific topics on each episode.

📺  YouTube channels to follow

Global Triathlon Network

Incredibly comprehensive. Like a video bible for Triathlon.

New videos every day, and guides on pretty much anything you could want to know about triathlon.

Effortless Swimming

Fantastic Swimming technique videos.

Lionel Sanders

The underdog of triathlon. Working his arse off to become #1 and overthrow Jan Frodeno. Unclear whether he’ll make it, but content is very well-made.

Lucy Charles-Barclay

Extremely well made content from the Queen of Triathlon. Sponsored by Red Bull. Production quality is incredible and she’s got a fun style (and a cute dog).

📸  Instagram Pages

Does what it says on the tin.

Jan Frodeno
The GOAT. 🐐 Very inspiring.

Kristian Blummenfelt
World Olympic champion. Technically completed fastest ever Ironman in 2021. Going for sub-7 record in 2022. Machine.

Lucy Charles-Barclay
Queen of Triathlon.

Alex Yee
One of the best Brits at the moment. Will take the crown from the Brownlee Brothers in next few years.

Beth Potter
Amongst the best female Brits at the moment. One to watch.

Extension of the YouTube channel.

🛒  Facebook groups for buying 2nd-hand gear

Triathlon Buy, Swap & Sell UK

Preloved Tri Gear – Buy & Sell Triathlon Gear 🇬🇧