Your First Triathlon

Anybody who wants to have a go only really needs a swimming costume, goggles, a bike (your daily commuter, mountain bike or shopper will do) with safety approved helmet and running gear. Read this Q&A to dispel your doubts.There are lots more triathlon hints and tips here.

Can anyone do it?

Triathlon is an endurance event so a reasonable level of fitness is required but with distances from sprint to Ironman 'reasonable' applies to all of us. In common with other small sports involving shared suffering, tri has a great sense of camaraderie and an even greater sense of accomplishment.

Is it expensive?

Entry fees tend to be more expensive than running events reflecting the greater resources and organisation involved in multi-sport. BTF members usually get a discount and a range of other benefits which make joining well worthwhile. Because many races start early, travel and accommodation may be viewed as either pushing up the price or offering a chance for a weekend away!

But I'll need a fancy bike?

If you get your kicks from works of carbon fibre art then this is definitely the sport for you, but bikes in most events vary from a daily commuter with shopping basket to lightweight, wind tunnel tested, state-of-the-art bikes that have aero frames and bars and much, much more. Any amount of money can be spent in this department but neither would you be the only person on your mate's mountain bike. Two additions that will make a real difference to your current bike are clipless pedals and aerobars.

See our Bike Buying Guide.

My swimming isn't too great?

A good free style stroke is more efficient and faster but you wouldn't be alone in breast-stroking. Don't give up on learning crawl though. Claire Browse has written a beginner's swimming plan, and Charles Doxat and Stephanie Ellis have advice for those new to swimming. Serpentine has plenty of swim training sessions you can take advantage of.

I'm worried about mass swim starts

You're not alone, but there's plenty of advice from Serpentine members here. Many sprint events have pool swims without mass starts; you are set off according to your estimated time. 

And what about wetsuits?

For open water swims in Britain most races require that a wetsuit is worn when the water temperature is below a certain temperature (i.e. most of the time!). A basic suit can be bought new for £150 or rented for £35 per race from London tri shops. Of course there are many pool based sprint events which you don't need anything other than your usual costume and goggles.

See our Wetsuit Buying Guide.

Other swimming extras can include training equipment like floats, pull buoys, fins and hand paddles. We have details of places to practice open water swimming.

How can I start to train?

Serpentine has regular running, cycling and swimming training sessions. See our weekly diary for details. There's information about how to prepare and train for transition here.

Which races are good for beginners?

Only elite only races are closed to you, but you may prefer to start with a sprint distance race with a pool-based swim. The club triathlon championship races and multi-sport races will generally have a good turnout of Serpies who will give support and advice to newcomers which will add up to a better experience.

There are other easy entry points such as the National Club Triathlon Relays. Although this sounds scary, there are teams of all standards. The great thing for newcomers to triathlon is that there's no rushed transition, so it gives you the opportunity to swim, bike and run, but with a rest in between each leg.

Other more gentle ways into triathlon are to have a go at duathlon (bike & run) or aquathlon (swim & run) first – once you've done a race that includes two sports, adding a third doesn't feel as much of a challenge.

The Serpie Planner has lots of events listed and the British Triathlon Federation website has a full calendar of UK events.

It all sounds very scary!

Read the stories of three Serpies who took up triathlon and be inspired!