What is the hardest part of a triathlon


Welcome to the wonderful world of triathlon. You, my brave friend, have decided to take on not one, not even two, but three sports in one race.

First of all, congratulations. Second, before you can think of the preparations for this type of event, I want to reassure you that help is out there and that you are in the right place as a new triathlete.

This guide covers all of your pre-dating basics, from choosing a distance to getting top tips and getting started with your workout.

Here at Sundried we are a team of REPS-qualified level 3 personal trainers, fitness fanatics and experienced triathletes. We have used our own experiences and those of our professional athlete ambassadors to share with you all the things that we would have liked to know in hindsight.

From me and the entire Sundried team, GOOD LUCK in your first triathlon.

Triathlons come in all shapes and sizes. While as a newbie you're most likely to choose a sprint (like the Southend Tri) or a super sprint, knowing what's out there is important. Once you complete a tri we are sure you will be back for more. Who knows, you could be our next Ironman champion!

Believe you can and you are halfway there or so they say anyway!

If you can answer these questions, then you can do a triathlon.

Before you commit, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself:

Am i healthy

A triathlon is a real test of your health and fitness. So you need to be in a good place to start with. Get a check-up with your primary care practitioner and eliminate any issues that may be holding you back before you begin. If you have old problems or repetitive injuries, wait until you have fully recovered before starting a new challenge. This can be frustrating, but it will be worth it in the end.

What is my fitness level? Can i run, swim and cycle?

If you can't walk 3 miles, you will have trouble. However, if you can swim, run 3 miles, and ride a bike, you should be able to train for a sprint triathlon. However, an Ironman, the 140.6-mile event that includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run, is more than nearly any first-time triathlete to contest their first race and one of the toughest challenges out there the planet. Start with a shorter sprint distance event (swim 400 to 500 meters, cycle 11 to 15 miles, and run approximately 3.1 miles) or an Olympic distance event (swim 0.9 mile, cycle 24.8 mile, and run 6.2 mile) .

Can i afford the kit?

Triathlons need a little more gear than just a swimsuit and trainers. You will need a bike, bike shorts, flat kit bag (which is a godsend if you get a flat tire), helmet, goggles, racing belt (important to put on your bib number so you can be easily tracked), one Wetsuit, sunglasses, running shoes, a triathlon suit, water bottle, running hat, a transition cloth (to lay out your belongings so that you can see them) and wetsuit lubrication to avoid hickey-like stains on your neck and to keep the suit and making it easier to take off the suit (which is a skill in itself). You may already have some of these items, but chances are you don't have a replacement tri-suit in your closet. Don't panic, you don't have to buy everything and you can always rent or borrow a kit.

Do you have the time

Training for a triathlon takes time, even a sprint distance requires a solid 12 weeks of good training and commitment to successfully master the challenge. When this is an especially busy time in your life it can be difficult to allow the time to work out effectively. Exercising becomes a second job and practicing running, swimming, and biking can take up your time. Exercise also affects the rest of your lifestyle, and this, too, takes time. Staying hydrated, eating right, stretching, and getting plenty of sleep are tough on your time.

Which distances will you choose?

For most, a sprint triathlon distance is the perfect starting race as it includes a 750m swim, 20km bike ride, and 5km run. However, if you've already done a marathon and are looking for the next challenge, it might be better to consider a full-distance triathlon. The standard distance is 1,500 m swimming, 40 km driving and 10 km running. A medium-distance triathlon consists of 2.5 km swimming, 80 km driving and 20 km running. The long distance triathlon is 4 km swim, 120 km drive and 30 km run. The toughest challenge of all, just for the brave, is the Ironman, which includes a 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and 42km run, so swimming, cycling and then a marathon!

When will you train

You need to incorporate your training program into your regime and that may not be easy with work and other commitments. 5am ​​starts get oh too familiar. The early morning exercise is also great as a parenting because your kids are asleep so you won't miss a thing and your partner can take care of them before work when they wake up. Don't just say when you are going to exercise, write it down and create a schedule. That way, if life gets in the way, you're more likely to stay on target. Don't let curve balls get in the way of your training.

Are you going to join a club or train alone?

When you're doing a triathlon, don't wear headphones. So don't be too dependent on running or cycling with music, as these are prohibited in most competitions for safety reasons. When you join a club, you can meet people who share the same passion, make friends, and become part of a team that is mutually motivating. Meeting for training and paying for a membership can also increase your commitment and make sure you get the training you need. Triathlon club memberships also often receive discounts at local triathlon stores, which can help with the first purchase of the kit and provide you with a trustworthy location. However, if you are a self-motivated trainer, save money on membership fees and get used to training on your own. Race day ahead, whether you are training as part of a club or as an individual, it is everyone for you and it is unrealistic to try to run with friends or a partner.

How will you train

It is recommended that you implement a training plan from day one that will allow you to plan the goal for each session in advance. For most people, this means a compromise of training 5-6 times a week, with most athletes training an average of 10 hours a week, with the majority being spent on the bike. Swimming is often the hardest part of training, and so many people focus on their swim, starting in a pool and working their way up to an open swim. For beginners, it may be worth investing in some swimming lessons to brush up on technique and make sure you are as strong (and confident) as possible when you hit the water on race day.

When are you going to race?

Always have an end date. Instead of "I want to do a triathlon this year," find the event you want to do and register. Once you've done this, you'll have a deadline that gives you the added incentive to stick to your plan. You can then also start researching the event itself and even check out part of the route to get a better idea of ​​what you are working towards. For example, if you know your route is particularly hilly, you will have plenty of time to add a few hills to your bikes to develop strength in that area that is ready for race day.

Why do I do this?

You have to ask yourself why. Being honest with yourself about why you want to do something is a big part of the way towards achieving your goal. Is it going to prove that you can? To challenge yourself? Or your brother did a triathlon last year and you just won't let him beat you. Whether it's raising money for charity, improving health, or being very competitive, knowing what will get you to the finish line is part of what will get you there when your body tells you it's ready is to stop.

If you're happy with your answers to all of these questions, just give it a try.

Hopefully, the fact that you have this package means that you have already committed to competing in a triathlon. However, here are our top tips to ensure you made the right choice.

Book early - events sold out

Events like the triathlon require a lot of training, so participants usually decide early on whether they are ready to take part. With such detailed security requirements, the organizers often enforce a limit on the number of participants. Once you've set your goal, book an event ASAP to avoid disappointment.

Find the time and balance to train for three sports

To pass your first triathlon, you need to train each of your three sports disciplines, and it can be difficult to adjust to the training time. Even if you are familiar with your run, for example, it is still worth practicing a run after cycling or swimming, as this will greatly change your racing dynamics. Training courses that involve more than one discipline are called "brick sessions". Brick workouts stack two sports and are such a great way to test how your body reacts when your muscles are from exhaustion. Brick workouts help your body cope with the aerobic, anaerobic, and muscular demands of a triathlon event.

Get a trainer

For beginners, training for a triathlon can feel complicated, and a good coach will make your training easy, increase your confidence, and make sure you are prepared for every aspect of the race. They will help you with your plan, your diet, and any questions that may arise on your trip.

The workout

Now comes the hard part, the training. Because everyone is different and every body works differently, following a genetic training program can be difficult at times. However, they make a great setting for your workout, and with simple minor adjustments to suit your body type and fitness, you can take off from 0 to triathlon in just four weeks. Our training routine below is aimed at people who already have an adequate level of fitness and want to improve their regular routine with triathlon. If you are looking for more details in your program, it is recommended that you hire a bus. Of course, we would be happy to advise you here at Sundried.

This plan is aimed at competitors who are already in good fitness. If you can comfortably run 3 miles, swim, and cycle regularly, this is for you.

The following plan consists of 4 days of training with 3 days of well-deserved recovery. You can reverse the order as you see fit, and as with any exercise routine, listening to your body is important.

For each exercise listed, we have given an RPE rating. RPE stands for Perceived Exercise Rate and helps understand how much effort you should put into each workout for those of you who are not tied to a heart rate monitor.

We recommend that you not only follow a training plan, but also consider the intricacies, such as: This includes, for example, putting on and taking off your wetsuit, getting in and out of the swimming area and the transition area to your bike. If you haven't used cleats on your first tri, race day is probably not the best day to try as they will take some getting used to. When you know what's coming of the transition and keep your kit to a minimum, the day can go a lot smoother and far less to worry about.

You probably just noticed that you are actually doing this, so you are going to need a kit!

Don't worry, Sundried has provided you with our kit guide, including all the parts you can't live without on race day!

The kit a triathlete cannot live without:

The wetsuit

If you are attending an official event, you will be subject to rules for wearing a wetsuit. In the UK, the water temperature is rarely higher than where wetsuits are banned. So you should have them ready for your race.

Wetsuits keep you warm and support your buoyancy - so they're great for new triathletes. The wetsuit will help you stay afloat while swimming in open water. It won't do the job for you, but it definitely helps and can calm your nerves for a newbie a bit.

For your first tri it can be expensive to buy the entire new kit. So why not rent or even borrow a wetsuit?

When you become a regular triathlete, your wetsuit becomes a necessity in your open water training program. Having your own suit also gives you plenty of time to practice getting in and out ... difficult!

Now if you step into a pool-based tri, you can get away with your swimsuit but end up in the open water. This is the best option for us.

Tri suit

Technically, you can live without it now, but then you'll want to pack a separate kit for your swimming, riding, and running. Wearing a tri-suit makes life a lot easier. Instead of having to switch from wetsuit to cycling shorts to your chassis, a tri-suit is designed to stay with you from start to finish. Why the tri suit? Tri-suits usually come in a half or full suit. Whether you choose the all-in-one or the two-piece is entirely up to you. They both do the same job, and that job is to ensure the simplicity of a race that is complicated by the nature of the event.

How does a tri suit help you? Tri-suits are designed to be worn throughout the race and to guide you through each discipline with minimal changes. The top is made of thin, breathable material that slips under your wetsuit. It is usually sleeveless. The bottoms have a little bit of padding in the crotch for your ride that's usually a little less padded than in bike shorts - so you don't rub yourself when you start walking with them.


Most swimmers have decent goggles to protect their eyes from the dreaded chlorine bite. However, when it comes to swimming in the ocean, your goggles are often needed to not only keep water out of your eyes. The glare from the sun on a bright day can affect your ability to see the buoys while swimming - this is what keeps you safe and goes in the right direction! Tinted goggles aid your vision and help you stay on track.

Swim cap

Often times, the race organizers will provide these as your swim cap may have your number on it. If not, it is recommended that you wear one. Not only does it keep your hair out of your face, preventing it from interfering with your vision, but it also keeps your head dry, which means you won't cycle and run with cold, wet hair and make you feel colder.


For a sprint distance tri, you don't really have to worry about investing in an expensive tri bike as you only travel 20km. However, if you want to pick up some speed on a flat (ish) course, opt for a road bike or a hybrid over your mountain bike. It is best to choose the same bike that you are training on rather than familiarizing yourself with a new bike on race day. Trust me, you have enough to worry about.


Safety first. A helmet could save your life. You are not allowed to drive in any race without a helmet. Before you race, make sure your helmet is properly seated. And ladies - try your helmet the way it will be when it comes out of a swimming cap, e.g. B. FLAT.

Sports shoes

Triathlon-specific trainers have little extras like bike clips and shoelaces for quick attachment, but aren't strictly necessary for beginners.

Transition cloth

You barely have time to tie yourself up, but your towel is also a good marker of your disoriented self to watch out for after swimming. Most triathletes just stand on their towel while they quickly switch to their bikes.

Run up

A running top to top over your tri suit is a tri favorite. Opt for a technical t-shirt as it wicks away sweat - that is, it dries quickly if you're already wet! The Sundried Technical T-shirt offers comfort and support and is perfect for this stage of the race. Avoid cotton that puts a strain on you when wet.


Water should be given out by marshals throughout the circuit, but it's always best to have your own in case you need extra water - or miss a marshal! This is a tough sport and you will be dehydrated. Don't do a Jonathan Brownlee!

You have the workout, you have the kit, now for our top tips.

  1. Get a good night's sleep the night before, triathlons often start early - especially when the tides are early. If you are traveling for the event, try to get to a hotel nearby. Keep in mind that hotels tend to raise their prices when they know an event is happening. So book well in advance.
  2. To join a club. Most triathletes will join a club once they get a feel for the event, but why wait? It can be a great opportunity to find workout colleagues, new events, and get the best advice from local triathletes. You may even be able to pick up an elevator for the event. Of course, when you join an affiliate club you will receive your membership of the British Tri Foundation, which can save you money on entry to the event!
  3. Hire professional help. If you are nervous, you can hire a professional triathlon trainer. When choosing a coach there are three levels that have been qualified by the British Triathlon. Foundation Level 1 are your basic trainers, while Level 3 has the most experience in this area. For a new triathlete, a level 1 trainer is perfect. Most local coaches can be easily found through Google or BTF.
  4. Arrive with plenty of time. The last thing you want to be on race day is the panic that you will be late. There are many other things to panic about, trust me! Road closures often take place before the start of the event. So try to use public transport when you can and be sure to leave with plenty of time for delays.
  5. Practice swimming in the ocean. No matter how good you are as a pool swimmer, swimming in open water is fundamentally different from swimming in a pool. Finding your pace under a wave of other swimmers will affect your stroke and rhythm, and you need to be prepared to take a kick or stroke when you find your spot. Then there is high tide, debris and the direction to the buoys. It's not easy, but who ever said triathlon was? Swimming in the ocean is often the most daunting part of the challenge. So practice fighting the elements. Physically, mentally and emotionally it is a far more intense challenge than swimming in a pool. Practice, practice, practice!
  6. Bring moral support and let them check that you haven't forgotten anything! It's great to have a familiar face to cheer you on and relax before your first triathlon when your nerves are high. Your family and friends can also be the extra eyes to make sure you've packed everything and of course they need to snap lots of pictures of you doing your thing at your first event!

Our final tips come from our sun-dried professional triathletes

7. Alice Hector Ironman 70.3 Champion says, “I would say what people notice at the beginning of the triathlon is the terrible feeling of trying to run when you've just been riding hard! Your body doesn't know exactly what's going on. Rest assured, after all, exercising feels like second nature and seasoned athletes get off their bikes almost as fast as they do in a running race. To find balance on your first event, I would definitely recommend doing a couple of "brick sessions" in your workout. This simply means going for a run right after a cycling session. It doesn't have to take long; Only 5 or 10 minutes, but that prepares the body for what is to come on race day. If you do this once a week, you will get the benefits. "

8. Age Group Triathlete Amy Kilpin Says, "Make sure you are well prepared for the environment in which you will be racing." This means that when you race in hot conditions, prepare your body as best you can for the extra demands placed on it during the race. For example, you may want to work out on an indoor trainer without a fan / window. You also need to think about adapting your nutritional strategy to your racing environment. When it's hot, you need to regularly consume electrolytes and / or add salt to your energy drinks so that your body can absorb as much fluids as possible. The same principle applies if you are riding in a cold place - make sure you have enough layers for the bike and a jacket if it gets wet. Think about which tires you might need to put your bike on when it is wet. If you prepare appropriately for certain conditions, you can be assured that you will enter the race with as much control as possible over the environmental challenges. It's an important, but often overlooked, consideration if you are trying to get the best out of yourself in all circumstances. "

9. Claire Steels Duathlon World Champion: “Don't put your bike in hard gear. It's easy to do, especially if you don't have time to take your bike for a little spin before you park it on the transition. Remember to leave it in one easy gear. The last thing you want to do is run out of transition, hop on your bike and find that you can't turn the pedals! Believe me i was there !!!

10. Relax and have fun while on your first race trying not to worry about others overtaking you or making sure you finish before a certain time. Just quit. Enjoy your first new sport, allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them next time. Listen to your body and enjoy your day.

We wish you the best of luck for your first event.

Swim like the boat has sunk.

Bike like you stole it.

Run for your life!

Take me with you

If you'd like to download a printable PDF of our triathlon guide, we've prepared one for you. Download the triathlon guide.