Things I wish I knew before my first triathlon. A woman’s guide to taking part for the first time.

Whether you’re about to tackle your first triathlon and need some useful tips or are a seasoned triathlete who will relate, this article is for you.  You may be starting your triathlon journey not knowing what to expect, or are a runner, swimmer or cyclist, but not necessarily all three.

Many experiences come from making mistakes and what some of you may call failures, but it’s important to reframe these as learning and opportunities to grow and improve.  All athletes learn regularly, but there are definitely some helpful things that our group of triathletes from the Her Spirit community and coaching team that will provide a great insight into what to expect and some useful advice for those starting out.

Why not listen to our Her Spirit podcast with Louise Minchin and World Triathlon Champion Helen Jenkins, it’s all about triathlon.

Practice, plan and rehearse the Race Itself

Lucy Partridge, Her Spirit Triathlon Coach maintains that planning & practice are vital to help you to get through the race. Youve put in the hard-work training, but don’t forget to also practice for the race itself, these will make race day better, build confidence and ease any anxiety you may have about race day itself.

Train in your race kit

Train in the kit you plan to wear on race day so you can be assured that it is comfortable for you. Get your kit worn in and prevent race day blisters, chafing, bouncing and other awkward or painful occurrences. Why not have a look at our Her Spirit Tri Suit

Open water swimming is not the same as the pool

Ensure that you practice at least a few session in the open water, because it is very different to training in a pool.  Gain some confidence in these conditions so that you aren’t panicking come race day.

Practice Brick Sessions

It is easy to assume that you can train in the three separate disciplines, but never actually do more than one of them in one training session.  Incorporate brick sessions into your training to get you used to performing one discipline after another and the feeling of running after cycling, for example, recognising how the transition feels and how long it takes you to adjust.

Practice Transition

By practicing the transition, taking off your wetsuit quickly, changing your shoes/ equipment from bike to run, taking on board some fuel, you’ll avoid last minute panicking and time wasting.

Practice and plan your Fuel

Don’t leave your fuelling and hydration strategy until race day.  Plan and practice what fuel you will take on board during the race.  There are lots of options to choose from: gels, drinks, bars, jelly babies, jam sandwiches (!), so it’s important to practice what works for you, both in terms of energy levels and what doesn’t cause digestive upset.  Also practice and plan when to eat them and take fluids on board.

Include plenty of recovery and cross train

Recovery is where the magic happens.  Allow your body to adapt and repair and include regular mobility work as part of this recovery.  “Working on your body is essential for longevity” says Her Spirit pilates coach and experienced triathlete, Louise.

Include cross training in your training, in particular, strength training will be a useful addition to help both improve your muscle strength and power and prevent injury.  There are a variety of fantastic strength training classes to choose from on the Her Spirit app that complement triathlon training.

Plan for the the route and race specifics

If possible, go and check out the route in advance.  If you live too far away from the race make sure you have an idea of the route so you are prepared for any big hills, the transition, and race rules.

You don’t need expensive kit

Yes, there is of course a need for the right kit that is comfortable and makes you feel good.  However, it is very easy to fall into the trap of buying everything that everyone else has.  The latest gadgets wont necessarily make you any faster or better.  

Find the right tribe!

Without question, the most popular message from the Her Spirit community of both experienced and first time triathletes, is to find a supportive community to go on your triathlon journey with.

Marie Moss, Her Spirit Mind Coach and first time triathlete, believes that everyone should find the right tribe. “I have yet to meet anyone that wasn’t supportive, friendly or encouraging. Don’t let thinking that it is for professional athletes put you off. Anyone and everyone should have a go. You will make friends.”

Enjoy the experience

After having done all the serious points above, it is important to take it all in and just have fun.  You will feel amazing afterwards!

At Her Spirit we have a wealth of experience and expert coaching to support you in your triathlon training.

Our strength, core, pilates, yoga classes are excellent cross training options to prevent injuries and support your mobility and strength alongside indoor cycling sessions.

We now offer local coaching in open water swimming, running, biking and bike transition training which can be booked via the app or website.

Our up and coming partner events can be found at Try A Tri

Some quotes from our community members

“The thing that surprised me most was how friendly and supportive everyone was. I was expecting triathlon to be very Alpha and for people to be tutting as I crossed the finish line in last place, but all of the events I have done have been truly lovely. Triathlon is a broad church” ranging from people who get very geeky about their bikes or swim stats and then people who just like to do some sport with others or to challenge themselves.

In my first event I was overtaken by a Brompton so you definitely dont need all the flash gear and snazzy bike to enjoy competing.

I hadnt realised how much cake there was in the social side of triathlon clubs. Long bike ride? Stop at a café for cake. Run in the park? Coffee & cake after. Open water swim? It would be rude not to have cake. If someone had told me about this thirty years ago, I might have looked more favourably on all sport in my teens instead of waiting until my forties to get moving more. Tri is nothing like school PE, unless you want it to be of course. And I love all the spin off activities like pilates, weights, spin/turbo training, cycle cross, cross country running, fell running, swim-run, fast-packing and trail running. Its opened so many opportunities for me to have fun outside in nature.”

DebsM – Her Spirit Community member 

“One size fits all isnt necessarily true. I initially thought it was only for super athletes- but theres a range of backgrounds shapes and sizes.

Make sure you recover – but also that you occasionally test your boundaries!! Its an art that you develop.” Louse J Her Spirit Pilates Coach and experienced triathlete

“I havent actually done my first triathlon yet due to do one in July but did the go tri last year. A friend lent me a couple of tri suits and I bought one for myself. I have a thing about my arms , hate them feel like they are too big …. I kept trying on these suits including my new one and every time just thought way too tight on my arms I couldnt move them, this went on for months. Only did I realise literally 2 weeks before the go tri I was putting it on wrong I didnt realise there was a bra bit in there that you had to step through I had it around my back no wonder felt like I was in a straight jacket. “

Lisa Brackner – Her Spirit Community member

Ask around for advice from your community.  There is quite a lot of technical language so don’t be afraid to ask questions. You will have set backs that’s how I learn. Be brave. 

Personally I would not have done any of this without HS and the community – A post, a two minute chat, the coaches all these provide information & guidance.” 

Marie Moss (Her Spirit Mind Coach)