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  • Writer's pictureCoach Lee

New to Triathlon- What Everyone Must Know

New Triathletes- What Equipment Do You Need?

The websites are screaming at you to buy this and that. The magazines are filled with the coolest and most high tech gear imaginable. The glossy carbon fiber calls you and the shiny titanium pulls you in. There is so much gear in this great sport but what do you really need as a new triathlete?

You have your first few races planned and you’ve dedicated yourself to the training, hired a coach or found a training plan to follow so now it is time to get your gear in order. In its essence, triathlon is a simple sport of just a swim, bike then run. So we’ll start at the beginning. Let’s start with the swim. This is the Achilles Heel for most new triathletes. It goes without saying a swimsuit is a must. The ladies should look for a one piece or two piece suits. Women should look for a suit with no strings and one made for swim training versus beach going or sunning.  Men should use tri shorts, drag suits and even brief type suits. These will have just enough material to swim in but not be too much to add significant drag. With all of these suits it is important to rinse them in fresh water after you swim in them. Goggles are imperative and it is important to find a goggle that fits your eye socket shape. You might have to go through a few pairs to find what works for you. Having a pair of clear and also tinted goggles is a good idea so you have the right pair for various sunlight conditions. Most new triathletes need to develop a fluid kick and using fins as a development tool is a good idea. Look for swim specific fins versus diving fins and these are going to offer just enough flexibility to aid the swimmer. Paddles and pull buoy are a good purchase but only after a few months of consistent training. Paddles will help build swim specific strength and create a stronger pull in the water. Most pools have kickboards but having your own will help you complete kicking only sets. The last piece of equipment that is a must is a front mounted snorkel. These snorkels will allow the swimmer to work on the mechanics of the swim stroke without having to worry about incorporating the breathing segment which can be a difficult part when learning to swim. With the snorkel and fins you will want to use these for some of the training but not all so you are not dependent on them in each swim.  Swim caps will also keep hair out of your face and also out of the pools filter system.

The bike has the most gear associated with it but it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Yes, I do recommend a specific tri bike over any others but once again the great thing about triathlons is that you can do it with any bike. A helmet is a must and look for a helmet that offers the most amount of ventilation and the lightest weight. Get anti microbial/wicking bike shorts and tri shorts. Bike shorts are going to make your ride so much more comfortable and in case you didn’t know, you don’t where under garments with bike shorts. Tri shorts are similar to bike shorts but have a thinner chamois and I suggest using these once per week on your rides to get accustomed to them for race day. It is a good idea to run in them once a week as well. A cycling jersey with pockets in the back is great to stash keys, a phone and most important of all, FOOD. Boy, riding sure does make you hungry. Yes, you absolutely can do the bike portion of a tri with running shoes and block type pedals but cycling shoes/cleats will help you apply more power to the pedals and thus you will go faster. A cadence monitor is a great tool to train with because it has very few variables attached to it. By that I mean you can control your cadence relative to the wind conditions or grade of the road. Heart rate and power monitors are also great tools for training but you will need to either know what to do with them or have a coach or training plan tell you what numbers to look for. Intervals are a key component of improving in cycling and most are time based so a digital watch is needed. It seems funny to mention this but I have seen many newcomers riding with analog watches and it is very difficult to see how much time has elapsed with analog watches. You can buy speed with aero wheels and that is totally up to your pocketbook. But the gear mentioned above is the bare minimum recommended to get going in the sport.

One foot in front of another. Running is a simple sport. A good pair of training shoes made for your gait and weight is crucial and changing them two to three times per year is a good idea as the support does wear out over time and usage. For women it is important to have a supportive bra to prevent damaging elasticity to the breasts. Runners can use a non petroleum skin lubricant on the inner thighs and under the arms to prevent chafing. Hydration is a key component to running so using some type of hydration system on longer runs will help you keep your pace and heart rate in check.  I suggest having fluids with you for anything over an hour. If you read above than you know heart rate monitors are a crucial tool for most of your training. But once again you will need to know how to use it to get the most benefit.

Other important gear for our sport is sunscreen. Enough can’t be said about using sunscreen. Get a good bottle and keep it in your gear bag to apply for every session. Chamois crème is also used to prevent chafing and discomfort when riding and can be applied directly to the skin but most cyclists prefer to slather some on the chamois of the shorts before they ride. Running or cycling specific socks are the way to go over cotton or another type of athletic socks. These socks will keep moisture away from your feet and will prevent blisters or chafing. A visor or running hat is a great way to keep the sun out of your eyes and off your face. You’ll also want to get a race number belt to keep your race number on for the race. You only need one of these and they are relatively inexpensive.

See, so it is quite simple to do a triathlon and in the end you can train and race with minimal gear. A swimsuit, helmet, bike and running shoes are all you need to tackle your first race. Now, about that coach………

Lee Zohlman is a USA Triathlon Elite Level 3 Coach and Owner of BodyZen Enterprises, a Full Service MultiSport Company. To get ready for your first race or to achieve your absolute best results visit, or email [email protected].


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