First Sprint Triathlon From No Idea To Swim Bike Run AddictYou’ve just entered your first sprint triathlon!

You’ve been hovering over the ‘enter now’ button for a while because you’re a little apprehensive about entering.

Finally you took a deep breath and entered and today I hope to give you an idea of what to expect from your first triathlon.

Why Enter A Triathlon Anyway?

Why did you decide to enter a triathlon in the first place? Triathlon has become very popular in the last few years. It appears to be such a challenging sport so why are so many people entering triathlons in the first place?


Ali_triathlon_finish_video_thumbnailI have just achieved my goal, which was to complete my first triathlon! I felt really scared when I first entered it, but now I have much more confidence!

When I started training with Nico I could not swim a single length of the pool but now I can complete the whole swim easily! I used to feel that running was my weakest discipline but I have seen it improving.

I can run further and faster than before, and on the bike I can keep up with others – my cycling has improved massively! 

Ali Followed This Sprint Triathlon Training Plan


Triathlon is no longer just for the elite or super-committed triathlete. And it is no longer a minority sport. In fact triathlon is now one of the fastest growing mass participation sports. A sport that welcomes all abilities from complete novice to elites which is fantastic.

So what is it Reasons to enter a triathlon? Below are several reasons someone might enter their first sprint triathlon in the first place:

  • Inspired by a friend who did one
  • Want to challenge self to a new sport
  • Want to break away from a single sport background to try a new sport – multisport.
  • Want to join a triathlon club to meet new people and get roped into an event
  • Fed up of being unfit and want to look and feel fit
  • Health benefits if exercise led to entering a race
  • Opportunity to raise money for charity
  • Milestone birthday challenge
  • The list goes on…

Finding A Suitable First Sprint Triathlon

You’ve been thinking about it. having decided that you want to enter your first sprint triathlon the big question is – which one?

There are hundreds of events online that are suitable for beginners. You might know of a local event that you wish to enter.

Or you might be interested in entering a bigger regional or national event. It doesn’t really matter which race you enter, but here are some considerations for a beginner triathlete.

Considerations For Your First Triathlon:

  • Is it a pool or open water swim?
  • What’s the bike leg like? Hilly?
  • Is the run on or off road?
  • Consider special equipment depending on the above three points
  • Where is the race and do you need to an over night stay in the area?
  • Is there a particular charity attached to the race who you’d like to raise money for?
  • Time of year will affect likely weather conditions

When entering your first sprint triathlon you might first want to think about your ability in each sport. For many the swim is the big mental barrier to overcome. If swimming is your weakness you might want to find a race with a tamer swim. Triathlon distances do vary regionally and the swim might be a short 400m, a 750m or even a super-short 250m.

The swim could be ‘open water’ in the sea, river or lake. If you are a real novice, these are some things to consider. Imagine you are lacking in confidence and you enter an open water swim. I think this could be a really great opportunity for you to achieve a real challenge. But on the other hand it could put you off and you may be better off entering a triathlon with a shorter pool based swim.

Open Water Swim Cons

  • Open water swims may seem ‘scary’
  • Open water swims may be cold
  • Open water swims may be choppy
  • Open water swims may require a wetsuit
  • Open water swims are subject to water quality variations
  • The water may be turbid and navigation a challenge
  • Salt water (sea swims) may be ingested

On The Other Hand… Open Water Swim Pros

  • Challenging your comfort zones can be a real buzz – particularly after the event
  • Wetsuits are very buoyant and can help with poor technique
  • A wetsuit can increase confidence
  • Opportunity to practice sighting in a shorter race if you are planning longer events in the future
  • Open water swimming is very liberating and can be a very nice experience in the right setting
  • There are safety boats / kayaks that will help you if you need it on the day

When deciding which triathlon to enter as your first event, the swim can make a big difference to your experience. Think about what would suit you and go for an appropriate event. Whatever you decide, remember to enjoy it.

Your triathlon is not all about the swim though, and the bike and run legs of the event are also important. Considering whether you want an off road event. Would you struggle on a hilly event? Would you feel more comfortable riding a traditional road bike, a mountain bike with slick tyres on the road or a time trial bike?

Equipment You Need For Triathlon

Depending on the event you have entered, you might need to buy some special triathlon equipment. You will probably be able to get away with using a lot of the kit you already own.

Some Basic Equipment Needed In A Triathlon:

  • Wetsuit
  • Swimming gear – swim hat, goggles, tri siut
  • Towel
  • Bike
  • Bike gear – helmet, shoes, race belt, eye wear, gloves, repair kit and tools
  • Run gear – shoes, socks, race belt, hat
  • Sports nutrition, bottles etc
  • Safety pins
  • Triathlon bag

Training For A Triathlon

Training for a triathlon could be a daunting, particularly for your first triathlon. I recommend that you write your goals – what you want to achieve – and then what you need to do to achieve it.

Following a systematic training programme that is ‘doable’ is the next step to successfully completing your goal event. Don’t make the mistake of doing too much training and then having enforced rest through overtraining.

When training for your first sprint triathlon consistency is essential.

By planning a moderate amount of training, and by making each training session effective you will be able to achieve consistent training. This will pay off.

Set yourself a minimum amount of training sessions weekly that is EASILY achievable. Then set yourself extra sessions you could do. By doing this you are onto a winner. Even if you skip several training sessions a week – because life gets in the way – you will still be on track.

Mental Toughness

Nobody said your triathlon journey would be easy, and depending on your background it might present many hurdles.

With this in mind, you should take the time to create some leverage for yourself.

WHY are you doing this? Why have you entered a triathlon? What is your motivation for doing this? Think about this and keep your motivation in mind during the challenging moments – both in training and in the race itself.

Racing Your First Sprint Triathlon

In the week or so leading up to the race you should think about logistics of the day and getting your equipment ready.

Get others to help you. Your entourage will help you carry things, help get you to the race venue, and just make your day run smoothly. Family and friends want to help so ask them to.

Arrive early, get registered and set up.

Setting Up Your Transition Area

  • Bike in place
  • Equipment set out in order
  • Not obstructing others
  • Make a note of your location – landmarks – to help you find your bike
  • Do not mark you area with a flag or similar

Attend the race briefing, and get ready for action with a warm up.

When the race starts, stick to your plan. If you are doing a pool swim, you will have put a ‘predicted time’ down so will be placed with similar ability swimmers.

If you are doing and event with open water swimming you are likely to have a mass start. This will likely be set off in ‘waves’ but even so there is a chance you will get caught up with other swimmers.

Stay calm and place yourself towards the back if you are a beginner to avoid getting over taken.

On exiting the swim, calmly find your transition area. Keep moving and re-orient yourself. Get your helmet on BEFORE you lift your bike from the rack.

Out on the bike, you should stick to your pacing strategy. It is an individual race so don’t concern yourself with other cyclists. Don’t try to keep up with faster riders, and do not draft.

In the final couple of minutes of the ride, take it a little easier, spin your pedals in an easier gear to prepare for the run ahead.

On arrival to transition, be aware of the dismount area, and rack your bike BEFORE you remove your helmet.

Again, move methodically through transition and onto the run. Hang in there, sticking to your race plan and towards the second half of the run you could assess how you feel and really push yourself to beat your target.

Have a great race!

Reward Your Success. Learn From Mistakes

If you took time to plan your triathlon and set goals, you will know if your race was successful. Reward your success and learn from mistakes.

If the race went badly, don’t be too hard on yourself. Think of it as a learning curve and hone your skills in a future event. What went wrong. Was it in your control? What could you do next time if this happens?

I hope you race goes well, and you are able to reward success.

When rewarding yourself you might want to consider positive rewards that will further enhance – or at least not hinder – you goals.

An example would be if you entered you first sprint triathlon in an attempt to get fit and healthy. After successfully completing you training and culminating in a great race day, don’t then jump off the wagon and return to sedentary lifestyle with junk food rewards.

Instead, keep the momentum. Treat yourself to a positive reward. Enter another race or challenge.

No matter what your background is, I hope this has inspired you to enter a triathlon. As I said, triathlon is no longer a minority sport and is accessible to all abilities. For more advice on training and racing in triathlons here is a list of several articles you might appreciate:

Nutrition For Healthy Body And Triathlon Performance

Triathlon Planning From Goal Setting To Perfect Race

Two Super Simple Triathlon Swim Technique Drills That Will Make You Faster Without Masses More Time Spent Training

19 Ways To Train For A Triathlon That Make A Better Training Plan

I hope these help. In the mean time if you need further assistance please just get in touch or take a look at this online sprint triathlon training plan. It is super-flexible to meet the needs of ‘real-world’ athletes – most of us and guides you through the elements of planning, assessing fitness, training, nutrition and race day.

Happy training, Nico.