What Is A Triathlon? Complete Triathlon Guide

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What is a triathlon?

Triathlons are becoming more popular every summer. People are using them as a goal to focus their fitness routine on. It is no wonder, really, as a triathlon improves many aspects of your fitness, but what is a triathlon?

If you are new to the triathlon world, you are in the right place. By the end of this article, you will be well up to speed on this fantastic multisport event.

In this post, we will cover:

  • The question ‘what is a triathlon?’
  • What does a triathlon consist of? And the triathlon order of events
  • What you need to do to train for a triathlon
  • What you need for your first triathlon

Let’s Tri something new!

What Is A Triathlon Complete Triathlon Guide

What Is A Triathlon? And What Events Are In A Triathlon?

A triathlon is a multisport event that consists of three sports. Races start with a swim, then once the competitors are out of the water, they cycle before finishing with a run.

How Does A Triathlon Work?

What is the triathlon order of events? Triathlons have a mass start in the water and are non-stop until the triathletes run across the finish line.

Between each discipline, the competitors enter a transition area. The first transition is known as T1 and is where the competitors leave the water and get ready to start their bike ride.

There are several techniques to make the transition as smooth, and as fast as possible, so the racers lose the minimum amount of time.

At T2, the competitor’s transition from the bike to the run, which is normally more manageable, as they have usually dried out by this point.

An amateur triathlon has different age groups, gender categories, and distances. But everyone will race together. However, if it is a large event with many people, there will be staggered starts.

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What Is A Sprint Triathlon?

A standard Sprint triathlon consists of a 750m swim, a 20 km bike ride, and a 5km run. These events are considered entry-level and are ideal for those who want to give triathlons a go or want something to focus on to start their fitness journey.

You will find that organizers will modify the distances of some sprint triathlons. This is to take the local terrain and road conditions into account, making the race accessible and safer for novice triathletes.

Some events include Super Sprint Triathlons, which are shorter. They have a 500m swim, a 10km ride, and a 2.5km run.

What Is An Olympic Triathlon?

An Olympic Triathlon is twice the length of a sprint. If you enter one of these events, you need to be prepared to swim 1,5km, ride 40km, and run 10km.

The Olympic triathlon distance is significantly more challenging than a sprint event. However, if you already have a good fitness base, an Olympic triathlon is an excellent goal to have.

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What Is A 70.3 Triathlon?

A 70.3 is also known as a Half-Ironman and is an incredible challenge due to its distance. The figure of 70.3 indicates the total length of the event.

The distance is broken down into a 1.9 km swim, a 90km ride, and a 21.09 km run or a half marathon. Therefore, it is apparent that you need to put in the training time to ensure you have the strength and stamina to finish.

A Half-Ironman is considered to be reasonably approachable for people who already have triathlon experience and fitness. Especially when you compare it to a full Ironman, which requires an exceptional level of commitment to training.

Most Ironman events only have the 70.3 event listed. Even the ones that include full Ironman competitions see more people entering the 70.3 event.

What Is An Ironman Triathlon?

Many consider a full Ironman the pinnacle of multisport events, especially if you manage to get to the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

An Ironman is broken down into a 3.8km swim, a 180km bike ride, and a full marathon run of 42.195km.

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However, there is a more extended version called the Ultraman. This event takes place in Kona and is limited to 40 competitors. The extended distances see racers doing a 10km open ocean swim, a 421km bike ride, and an ultra-marathon of 515km. The whole race takes 3 days and is as gruelling as it sounds.

How Do I Train For A Triathlon? 4 Tips

No matter how long or short your triathlon is, you need to train for it. So here are some training tips that will help you prepare for your first event.

1. Start Early

If you plan to compete in your first sprint triathlon, you need to start training at least 12 weeks before the event. If you are already pretty fit, you may get away with giving yourself about 8 weeks.

However, if you are just starting your fitness journey, it would be wise to start 16 weeks before your race.

2. Work Out A Schedule

There is a lot to fit in, as you need to train for three different sports. You need to do at least two sessions for each activity every week.

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You should also plan for a double session, where you do a bike and run back-to-back, once a week. If your event is in open water, you need to do an open water swim each week to get used to the experience.

To ensure you can reach race distance, you need to start off small and gradually increase the distances. Don’t go crazy though, keep your distance increases below 10%.

Your aim is to be able to go at least 10% further than the race distance in each activity.

3. Build Strength

It is essential that you add strength training to your workout schedule. Your gym sessions should include exercises that build your primary muscles used for swimming, riding and running.

You should never neglect your core, as it acts as a platform to push your pedals from and keeps you stable while running and swimming. It is also good to work on your flexibility, so yoga and Pilates are great cross-training activities.

4. Don’t Forget To Rest

All this exercise sounds like a lot to fit in, but it is possible with good time management. However, you also need to factor in recovery time, as your body needs rest to become stronger.

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What You Need For Your First Triathlon

There are a few things that are essential for a triathlon, and there are other things that make it easier. Here is the bare minimum of what you need for your first triathlon.

For The Swim

You would really struggle to do a triathlon without goggles. It is best to get some good goggles, rather than cheap ones. They will stay on in turbulent water, won’t leak, and stand less chance of misting up.

You can get away with a swimsuit, but a tri-suit will save you time in the transitions. You wear it under your wetsuit and for the cycle and run.

A wetsuit is essential if the swim is in cold water, but it also helps you float. Another bonus of a triathlon wetsuit is that it helps you move forwards through the water.

For The Ride

You obviously need a bike for a triathlon. If you enter an off-road triathlon, you will need a mountain bike. But regular triathlons require a road bike or Tri-bike.

If you don’t have a road bike, you may be able to ride whatever bike you have. However, you won’t be very competitive against people with bikes made for the job.

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You will not be able to compete without a bike Helmet. It is worth noting that race officials won’t let you leave the transition area if you are not wearing one.

To ensure you are hydrated during your ride, you should fit your bike with a bottle holder. Put your full water bottle in the holder, ready for your ride.

For The Run

A pair of good running shoes will make your run much more enjoyable. There is nothing worse than finishing your triathlon with sore feet after everything you have just done.

Get a pair of well-fitting running shoes. It is best to visit a running shoe specialist who will pick out some great options suitable for your feet and your event.

You may want to fit your new running shoes with speed laces. These will help to speed up your transitions.

Another essential accessory you need for a triathlon is a race belt. This is what holds your race number. It may seem simple, but you could be disqualified if you don’t wear one. Your race number needs to be visible at all times.

Throughout your triathlon, you need to fuel yourself properly. Many people use energy gels to perk themselves up a bit when they feel tired.

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Energy gels are great; however, you shouldn’t try anything new during a race. You need to get your body used to energy gels before an event. If you don’t, they can upset your stomach, which will make your first triathlon experience pretty miserable.

What Is A Triathlon?…Answered!

The best thing to do is to enter a triathlon and get training. Just make sure you have enough time to train and get everything you need.

If you want to improve your cycling fitness, check out the blogs below:

Spin Class Guide: What Is Spinning, Format, Benefits Of Spinning

FTP Test: What Is Functional Threshold Power

How To Cycle Faster: 9 Tips To Speed Up

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Tom's passion for cycling and triathlon led him and his partner to up sticks and move from their hometown in England to the beautiful French Alps, where he now balances his time writing about topics he's passionate about and enjoying the great outdoors!

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