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Part 1: Triathlon tips and tricks for first-time competitors

Part 1: Triathlon tips and tricks for first-time competitors

Because I work as a Personal Trainer in London, and because triathlon is a sport that I have competed in for several years, I often discuss different aspects of the sport with first-time participants.

The following is a 4-part blog series that provides helpful tips on different parts of triathlon, including:
    1. Swim to T1
    2. Bike to T2
    3. Transition set up, tips and tricks, and
    4. Nutrition

As a caveat, while I would love to take credit for coming up with every one of these insights I cannot. There are numerous gurus of the sport who have all published pioneering tips and guidance…all I want to do here is put some helpful (and easily executable) advice in one location so that when you compete in your first triathlon you will enjoy it more.

By the way, I’d love to hear your feedback, comments and questions. Please post your comments and questions onto my Facebook page here.

Swim to T1

Part of personal training is mentally preparing your client for what lies ahead (especailly in competition), and to help alleviate anticipated stress through various cues and aide memoires that create structure, and by extension calm.

With triathlon, of all things that seem to frighten people most about their first event, the open-water swim takes the prize as most off-putting.

While the actual open-water mass start and swim itself can be challenging if it’s your first time, there are a few steps you can take in advance to put your mind  (slightly) at ease and get you into a better headspace.

Practice removing your wetsuit in advance
While this may seem like an obvious point, take the time to stand in your back garden, get someone close (and non-judgmental) to turn the hose on you, and practice taking off the wetsuit when you are soaking wet.

Tip: the chafe protection you probably have to protect your neck from chaffing in a wetsuit is very effective as a lubricant to help get the suit off faster. Apply the anti-chafe to the outside of your wrists and ankles while wearing the wetsuit, so when you are taking it off you will glide right out of it.

Tip: do not use a petroleum-based product as a lubricant either inside or outside the wetsuit, as this will destroy the seams of the wetsuit and further destroy the neoprene.

Use an eye-level landmark on the same aisle as your bike
If you have ever lost the location of your bike (as I have, not enjoyable believe me), this will save you lots of time in both T1 and T2. The London Triathlon is a great example of a room full of bikes that all look the same when you are trying to find your particular steed. When you arrive to set up your transition area look both ways down the aisle you have chosen and locate a highly visible (and permanent) landmark that you can see while standing straight up. The aisle markers beside the bike won’t help you when you are standing straight up, running, and trying to regain your bearings after completing the swim leg.

Tip: Whether it’s an advertisement or some other permanent mark, find a visible landmark along the same aisle as your bike and make a mental note. Your stress levels at race time will decrease accordingly, as when you leave the water you will be able to find your bike quickly and easily.

Wear 2 swim caps, one under your goggles, and then one over your goggles
With a mass start you will invariably get the errant hand/foot to the side or top of your head. If your goggles are not covered by a second swim cap, it is more likely to come off because of this unintentional contact.

Tip: take a swim cap with you, put it on under your goggles, and place the one provided by the organizer over your goggles.

For the last 50-100 meters of your swim, kick as if your life depends on it
One of the great advantages of using a wetsuit is that it will help you maintain buoyancy in the water, meaning you can save your legs for the cycle and run legs. The only downside is the tendency to not kick frequently during ht swim leg, meaning that when you leave the water you will feel wobbly in the extreme.

To counteract this, as you approach the last 50 meters of your swim, start kicking (using your full leg, not just your feet) to restore the blood flow to your lower extremities. While I can’t promise that you still won’t feel slightly wobbly when you leave the water, you will feel much more stable than if you don’t kick before that helpful volunteer hoists you from the water!

Tip: when you are scoping out the swim route before the race, make a mental note of 50-100 meters away from your exit point, and make a mental note to start kicking like mad when you swim across it.

Remove your wetsuit as soon as you leave the water and its safe to do so (don’t run to your bike wearing it)
New triathletes often want to get to their bikes so badly they forget that they have wobbly legs when they finish the swim. This makes your journey to your bike challenging enough, but when you add the additional weight of a waterlogged wetsuit, the difficult becomes really difficult. Take a few extra moments when you leave the water to remove your wetsuit and carry it…your legs will thank you, and the time you take removing the wetsuit will be more than saved in time and energy as you sprint towards your bike.

Again, I’d love to hear your feedback, comments and questions. Please post your comments and questions onto my Facebook page here.

Stay tuned next time for helpful tips on Bike to T2
To learn more about healthy exercise and eating habits to achieve your fitness goals, contact James Staring, a leading personal trainer in Clapham, London.


James StaringJames Staring is a personal trainer based in Clapham, London. His methods have featured in publications such as Your Fitness, Hello, Healthy, Daily Mail, Closer, and many more. After giving up smoking and entering the fitness industry in 2009, James has focused on his passion to help others transform their health and fitness. However, James is convinced that most people struggle so much more than they need to in an effort to improve their fitness. Through his company, Fit to Last, which he runs with his partner, Ali Page – James has helped hundreds of men and women make small adjustments in their daily habits to transform their fitness and to love how they look and feel.

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