Last modified on November 11th, 2022 at 11:45 am

Interested in Getting Into Triathlon? Here’s What You’ll Need to Get Started

Triathlon is a sport that’s been around for several decades. It provides a sense of novelty and excitement for athletic-minded individuals, as it combines three disciplines into one multisport event: swimming, cycling, and running, and in that consecutive order. For those who are experienced in one or more of those disciplines, the idea of entering the world of triathlon is an adventurous way to challenge oneself and try something new.

If you’re keen on the newness and athletic stimulation that comes with triathlon, you’ve probably thought about doing one. For those who are interested in triathlon, it’s important to note that the barrier to entry comes with having the right set of equipment and gear, not to mention the cost of race entries are not always cheap. 

Whether you’re a beginner to triathlon or an entry-level triathlete looking to progress to the elite level, here’s some of the gear you’ll need to get the most out of your athletic potential in the sport.

1. Triathlon Wetsuit

No doubt one of the most significant performance-enhancing investments for the swim portion of the triathlon is a good swimming wetsuit. A wetsuit designed for open-water swimming or triathlon is critical to going fast in the water while gaining every possible competitive edge, as these wetsuits are tailored for optimal buoyancy and streamlined freestyle swimming. 

In addition to these qualities, what makes a triathlon wetsuit unique is that it’s also tailored for fast and efficient removal, helping triathletes transition quicker from swimming to bike. Available by gender with specific swimming wetsuits for men and women, there are many different types ranging from sleeveless to thermal-grade wetsuits. Depending on where you live and the type of swimming you’re doing, be sure to look do your research to find the best triathlon wetsuit to match your needs.

2. Running Shoes

Having a properly supportive pair of running shoes that fit great is essential to compete in a triathlon. Most competitive triathletes also leverage elastic shoelaces with a draw-string tightener versus traditional tying laces. 

This allows for fast tightening when transitioning from bike to run, allowing athletes to save seconds. Although you can find running shoes specifically-engineered for triathlon, it’s not a requirement. Some professional triathletes stick to wearing whatever running shoes feel the best.

3. Triathlon Bike

With the cycling leg the longest part of the triathlon, this discipline requires the most time invested and is thereby most critical in gaining every competitive edge possible. For this reason, having a fast bike is critical to be an elite athlete. Compared to traditional road bikes, triathlon bikes are designed with a steeper seat tube angle and are often equipped with aero bars and a specialized triathlon saddle. This enables cyclists to achieve a more aerodynamic position on the bike and realize dramatic speed gains.

Having a well-fitting, properly supportive pair of running shoes is essential to compete in a triathlon. Most elite athletes will also utilize elastic laces with a draw-string tightener versus traditional laces. This allows for fast tightening when transitioning from bike to run, allowing athletes to save seconds. Although you can find running shoes specifically-engineered for triathlon, it’s not a requirement. Some professional triathletes stick to wearing whatever running shoes feel the best. 

4. Tri Suit

Typically designed as one-piece race suits, tri suits are specialized types of apparel that are intended to be worn all throughout the race. They’re often made of tight-fitting, fast-drying materials, so they can be worn underneath your wetsuit. Some Tri suits also have a small chamois pad for cycling and have small, sewn-in pockets to carry gels and race fuel. It’s a highly practical form of attire that can help keep your race-day wear simple and effective.

5. Swimming Goggles

Especially important for long-course triathletes who participate in Ironman and half-Ironman distance races, having a great pair of swimming goggles is critical for maintaining optimal visibility in the water. Because most swim goggles fog up under variable conditions common in open waters, getting a pair with effective anti-fog properties is critical. Also, most triathlon-specific swim goggles are made with specialized lenses designed to optimize visibility and siting, as well as offer UV protection against the sun.

6. Nutrition

Most athletes are well-aware of consuming the right foods after training and racing to encourage optimal recovery. However, where most athletes struggle is fueling, or the nutrition they consume during training and racing. 

Figuring out your fueling nutrition can be quite a puzzle. Most athletes will rely on an electrolyte drink with ample sugar and carbs to keep their glycogen levels as high as possible. But for long-course triathlon distances, like Ironman, including some solid foods may be necessary. The only trick is figuring out what digests well during moderate-intensity cycling or running.

The best solution is to experiment with different types of nutrition, whether it be bars, blocks, gels, or drinks. Anything that causes stomach distress should be ruled out, whereas anything that keeps you feeling good and strong should be prioritized. Figure out what works for you as a triathlete.

7. Indoor Training Equipment

Whether for rainy days or winter months, having the option to train indoors can help you level up as a serious triathlete. Next to running on a treadmill or hitting the pool for a swim, cycling in particular is one of the most common types of indoor endurance training for triathletes. 

There are a couple of primary options when considering indoor bike training equipment. The first is a bike trainer, which is a contraption that enables you to hook up your existing bike and ride it using a stationary flywheel. The most popular types are called direct-drive bike trainers, or smart trainers, which can read your power output while simulating real-life elevation gain and actual course and routes. 

The other option is a complete exercise bike that can be ridden indoors. The most common brand name example of this is Peloton, which provides interactive features that allow you to join group spin classes online. While most serious athletes will utilize a bike trainer, those who enjoy the excitement and group dynamic of riding may prefer an exercise bike. 

Unfortunately, sports like triathlon are not the most affordable and accessible options out there. But it is most certainly one of the most rewarding. Completing a triathlon, let alone competing, is a challenging effort that comes with a sense of empowerment when you cross the finish line.