My First Triathlon Essentials

Your first Triathlon can be overwhelming and intimidating. Luckily, you aren’t required to spend thousands of dollars on gear, but you will need to get some necessities to get started. Lets go through some of the essentials needed for each leg of the race to assure your success in your first triathlon! Make sure to read my related post: How to Train for my First Triathlon.

She competed in a Triathlon &thenShe felt stronger than ever before, she knew she could do anything she put her mind to, she … [insert your victory]

Good gear doesn’t always mean good training, and good training wins every time.

Triathlon Essentials Checklist

Swim

Essentials:

  • Swimsuit – Dicks or Sports Authority. Ladies, I suggest a one piece to assure everything stays in place throughout your event
  • Goggles
  • Towel – during transitions you will need to quickly dry off
  • Hair Cap – most races will give you one that you have to use for the race (for both men and women)
  • Access to a Pool/Swimming area – check your local fitness facilities to see if anyone has a lap swimming pool. It will be worth buying a membership during your training

Optional:

  • Ear Plugs – this may move to the essentials if you’re like me and are prone to swimmers ear. A nose plug may be another item to look into 
  • Flippers – I didn’t buy this until I had a few triathlons under my belt. This is used just to help your training sessions and helps improve speed
  • Kick Board – another great training tool to work on those leg kicks
  • Hand Paddles – a great training tool to build up strength in your arms
  • Leg Buoy – during training, put this between your legs to let them float and let your arms do the work. It will isolate those arms and lats and you can focus on your stroke

Advanced:

  • Tri suit – a little more on the expensive side, but a great investment if you are serious about triathlons
  • Wetsuit – wetsuits are NOT always allowed as they can increase your buoyancy and give you a competitive advantage. Unless the water is very cold and your race is wetsuit approved will you be permitted to wear one

Bike

Essentials:

  • A Hybrid or Road Bike – cost can range from $100-$10,000+
    • Check out this article: 5 Great Entry Level Road Bikes
    • For novice riders, try finding a used bike on Craigslist or borrow from a friend
    • Look into renting a road bike from your local cyclery
    • Avoid using a cheaper bike from Target – it’s possible, but it’s going to be a real hard race without the mechanics of a well made road bike
    • Do not use a Mountain Bike (fat tires) – these bikes are made with different functionality and it will make you slower than average and probably really frustrated
  • Helmet – it’s required in every road race and could save your life
  • Water bottle – your bike should have a cage to hold a water bottle, if not, make sure you add it

Optional:

  • Padded bike shorts – this is purely for comfort, but you may also find they cause chaffing, so try a few out
  • Cycling jersey – they have convenient back pockets, but other than that, its just to look the part. Make sure you have some kind of wick away shirt
  • Bike rack – if you can’t squeeze your bike into the back seat of your car, you may want to invest in a decent bike rack. Make sure to get one that works for your car
  • Shoe cage – a shoe cage is a great option in lieu of clip-ons (advanced). It ensures you are using both the push AND pull mechanics of your leg when you pedal
  • Bike repair kit and seat pack – most races will have a mechanic at the race (make sure to check), however it’s always a good idea to have a couple tools in your bike. I actually have 2 bike pouches, one under my seat for repair and one on my handle bars for my extra Gu gels, sunglasses, phone, etc.
  • Speedometer – attach this to your bike to track your speed and distance
  • Helmet Mirror or Bike Mirror – I love my helmet mirror, I feel a lot more confident riding on the road because I don’t have to turn my head if I hear a loud car. Some races do not permit these, so always double check
  • Sunglasses – make sure you bring a pair that fits under your helmet and preferably with Croackies

Advanced:

  • Clip in Shoes AND Clip Pedals – I did not get these until I had a few races under my belt, but these will help improve speed and efficiency. Make sure you get BOTH the pedal for your bike and the shoe, and make sure they fit each other.
  • Aero Bars – great for improving speed and adds comfort for long rides. Make sure you get the correct one for your bike
  • Aero helmet – I’ve never used one and some look super silly, but if you are getting serious about competing, this may be a good investment

Note: Headphones of any kind are NOT permitted on the bike. You will be sharing the road with other cyclists and possibly cars, so it is imperative you can hear your surroundings. If you like to listen to music, I put my phone on speaker in the back of my cycle shirt during long rides, be respectful to other riders though.

Run

Essential:

  • Running shoes – your feet will be bearing a lot of impact through the course of your training, a good pair of running shoes is an important investment. You can get fitted at a local fleet feet or Dicks to see what type of shoe is best for you. I love Brooks, Asics and New Balance brands.
  • Water Bottle

Optional:

  • Hydration belt or backpack
  • Ball cap – triathlons by nature are during the summer, which means the sun is HOT, throw a ball cap on during the run to keep you cool. Ladies, get one with a pony tail hole.
  • Sun glasses/sunscreen
  • Headphones – check that you are permitted to wear them during the race and always have one earphone off to be able to hear your surroundings.

Nutrition Essentials

  • Gu Gels/Energy gels
  • Water
  • Gatorade/electrolyte replenishment

Tip: Check out a local cyclery or mom/pop bike shop near you to purchase some of these items. They are super helpful, will help you get involved in the community and allows you to give back to your local economy.

About the Author

I have completed multiple Sprint triathlons and Olympic distances and have trained for a Half Ironman (COVID cancelled the event). I placed first in my age group in my second Sprint triathlon. I have a degree in Exercise Science and was a certified personal trainer for about 8 years out of college. 

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