Tips for beginner triathletes from a beginner


I just did my second triathlon last Saturday at Sungailiat Triathlon 2015. Sungailiat is in Bangka island, part of the Bangka-Belitung Province, to the east of Sumatra island, Indonesia. I remember the first time I joined triathlon last year I was quite nervous and I read up many beginner triathlon tips from the web. So here’s something from my experience that may help ease new triathletes to this fun and awesome sport.

1. Try the shortest distance first

If this is your first time dabbling in triathlon, join the shortest distance, the sprint distance category, which is half of the Olympic distance. It’s 750 m swim, 20 km bike, and 5 km run. 750 m swim is 15 times length of Olympic size pool, not so bad isn’t it? Definitely achievable. The 20 km bike, as long as you know how to ride a bicycle, should be OK. And the 5 km run? Walk it if you have to.

2. Try open water swimming before the actual triathlon event

For many people the biggest challenge is the swimming part, because (a) they’re unsure how far 750m is, and (b) it’s at the sea. To get a feel of how far 750 m is, swim 15 times length of Olympic size pool, I promise you it’s not that bad. No access to Olympic size swimming pool? Find out the length of the pool you can train in and divide 750 with the length of the pool. But it’s much nicer to train in longer pool, I suggest you find an Olympic size pool nearby. If you are afraid of swimming at the sea, join open water swim training before the actual triathlon. Swimming at the sea is different than swimming at the pool. There are no black lines as guide, we can’t see the bottom, the water isn’t so clear, there are waves, and of course the water is salty. Joining an open water swim training give you the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the new conditions. (Confession: I didn’t do any open water swim training before my first triathlon, but I do dive and I’m quite comfortable at sea)

3. Build endurance

In a sprint distance triathlon you’ll be continuously moving for more or less 2 hours (give or take half hour, depending on your speed). So you’ll need to build your endurance accordingly. As a benchmark, if you’re able to run a half marathon (21 km) comfortably, you’ll be OK in sprint distance triathlon.

4. Plan your transition

Prepare your things neatly at the transition area. Hang the bike on the correct post. Prepare your shoes, socks, your race bib, helmet, sunglasses, drinks, food. Lay them out neatly near the bike; you don’t want to fumble through your bag during transition. Go through the sequence mentally when you’re arranging the transition area – transition 1 (from swim to bike): goggles & swim cap off, wear socks, wear shoes, wear helmet and clip it on, clip on race belt or put on bib number, wear sunglasses, take bike off the rack, don’t mount it yet, walk/run with the bike to the mounting area, and then mount the bike and start pedaling. Transition 2 (from bike to run): dismount from the bike, walk/run the bike to the rack, hang bike back on rack, change shoes to running shoes if you’re using different shoes, take helmet off, put cap/visor on, and run out.

5. Chillax!

During a triathlon coaching a few weeks ago, Coach Dillon from Metasports kept reminding us “Chillax, baby!” Hang out towards the back at the start line so you don’t get trampled on by the fast ones during the swim. And just keep moving forward in all the swimming, biking, and running in a chilled, relaxed way, no need to rush and raise the heart rate too high. Our aim is to have fun and enjoy the race, not stressing ourselves out!

6. Finish with a big smile

The last leg is running. Even if you’re very tired, try to run the last 100 meters towards the finish line, and put on your happiest face so you can get an awesome finish pictures!

My finish picture of last year's Sungailiat Triathlon, my first triathlon experience

My finish picture of last year’s Sungailiat Triathlon, my first triathlon experience. Photo courtesy of Cahyo Agung Nugroho

Note that I’m also a beginner triathlete and the above are just general tips. Go to for more complete resources on triathlon, including training plans and other stuff.

Image source: Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games


3 thoughts on “Tips for beginner triathletes from a beginner

    • I wasn’t very prepared for my first triathlon, I was travelling a lot that time. I did already have a decent fitness base, mostly from running, my running was around 30-40 km per week. Started to train the bike and swimming only 3 weeks before the triahlon itself. I already know how to swim breast stroke so the swim training was mostly just to build confidence in the water.

  1. Pingback: Adieu 2015, Hello 2016 | perpetual work in progress

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