Three sports rolled into one make triathlon a challenge when you’re just starting out – it’s definitely a sport that favours the organised. It’s tough to get the balance right between the three different activities, and almost as hard to work out the balance between value, necessity and what’s right for your level when it comes to your gear. Here are some tips to get you on your way.
For brick training (training two disciplines in the one session) and shorter events in warmer water, tri shorts will be a good option for swimming in open water. Tri shorts have the advantage that they have some padding through the crotch for the bike, but it’s thinner and absorbs much less water than cycling shorts. Swimming in the shorts gives you one less thing to do in transition to the bike. Shorts can also be a good under a wetsuit. Try the 2XU Active Tri Short
(available for men and women), which features SBR SKIN X fabric for enhanced power, durability, moisture management and comfort.
For racing, you might like to invest in a full tri suit, which you can wear all the way through the triathlon, even under a wetsuit (many athletes will unzip their tri suit under the wetsuit). When you’re starting out, a sleeveless tri suit can have the advantage of giving you a sense of more freedom around the shoulders so your swim technique isn’t compromised. The 2XU Perform Trisuit
is a good choice – it has outstanding durability and performance, with a lightweight compression elastane to help stabilise muscles and enhance endurance.
Compression Calf Guards
are another item you might like to put on before the swim and leave on for the duration of the race. They will help support the lower leg muscles and reduce fatigue more for the bike and run legs. Guards are lighter than calf sleeves, so if you put them on before the swim they won’t hinder or slow your stroke – then it’s just one less thing to handle in transition.
A swim cap is cheap, takes no time to take off after the swim, plus it provides benefits by keeping longer hair dry, reducing drag and maintaining body warmth. 2XU has a latex cap
and a silicon cap
for colder waters or those who have an intolerance to latex.
Goggles are another cheap investment and easy to deal with in transition. 2XU triathlete Sam Ward says, “2XU goggles are really good for sighting, which can make all the difference for taking the straightest line during the race!” The 2XU RIVAL Mirror Goggle provides the ultimate protection for open water, outdoors and low light conditions.
You may not need a wetsuit at all when you start out or it may not be allowed in the race you do.
“A wetsuit is another ‘thing’ to think about on race day so if you are already pretty stressed and the conditions are warm, then give the wetsuit a miss,” says 2XU triathlete Grace Musgrove.
If you do need a wetsuit, when you fit one for size just remember that it will have to fit over your tri suit or your shorts without bunching them up or creating discomfort. It should be snug but allow you to breathe and do a normal swim motion – it’s a fine line. 2XU’s A:1 ACTIVE Wetsuit
is perfect for beginners because it gives great flexibility through the arms while bringing the tech the elite boys and girls enjoy, such as 2XU’s Rollbar technology for better buoyancy through the core a smooth body position in the water. It’s available in 16 sizes, so you can be sure you get the right fit.
Get the bike you need, not necessarily the bike you want. When you’re starting out, it will be more important to invest in some advice on better riding technique and then buy from a shop that will set-up a bike that’s right for your body type, comfort requirements and race format.
The major factors are crank length and seat position. The best handlebar position will allow for a combination of power efficiency and aerodynamics, but it also has to be something that you can comfortably maintain for the distance of the race – so it make take a little experimenting to work out what’s right for you. The shorter the race, the more of an aero position you can usually maintain. Sam Ward says to point out to the expert at the shop that you need “a triathlon-specific set up, so that you can run off the bike as efficiently as possible.”
Should a beginner start with cycling shoes? It depends how seriously you take your racing. You can get away with wearing runners on the bike, then have an easier and faster second transition, but the 30 seconds or so that you save will be more than cancelled out by the time lost due to inefficiency on the bike.
Cycling shoes made specifically for triathlons usually feature a heel-loop, a single strap for fastening, a stiff sole and a reasonable level of comfort. The heel-loop helps putting on your cycling shoes quickly and gives you some leverage to pull them on. A single wide single strap is quicker to put on than the three or four straps you find on shoes for cycling. A stiff sole is for the efficient transfer energy to your pedals.
If you do use bike shoes, have them already secured to the bike pedals – and practice getting into them this way in transitions training sessions.
If the race is longer, you may want to wear socks for the bike ride. Try the 2XU Race VECTR Socks
, which are quick and easy to put on, and they will make your feet feel great during the run.
If you’re not using a tri suit, you’ll want a tri top. A good one to start with is the 2XU ACTIVE Tri Singlet
, which is made with compression to support the muscles and enhance performance. In hot weather, you might prefer to go for the 2XU GHST Tri Singlet
, with its ultralight fabric for speed and cooling, plus a rear pocket for secure storage.
Get some advice on your running technique and fix that, rather than expecting the shoes to compensate for technical flaws such as overstriding and heel striking. Then have your gait checked – you can often have this done in-store. A little inward roll (pronation) is good – you can use a ‘neutral’ shoe. Excessive pronation or supination (roll to the outside of the foot) can be corrected (to some extent) with the appropriate shoe.
Your running shoes should be soft and supple inside – remember that on race day you will need to be able to run in them without socks. Keep a track of your kilometres and check for wear from 400km onwards, as worn shoes can cause injury (the km you get from a shoe will vary a lot with shoe model, running style, weight and sex). Check the mid-sole – if the cushioning there is compressed (you can bend it in many directions and you can see creases through it) then the shoe’s often had it. Another test – put a shoe on a table and if it has a lean to either the inside or the outside, then it’s approaching the end of its life.
“Light isn’t always the answer for running shoes, warns Sam Ward. “Lots of people go for the lightest shoe and get injured because their tendons and muscles can’t handle the load.”
Here’s a top tip: Look for shoes with a Boa
or elastic lacing system, or buy the lacing system separately and put them in your shoes so you don’t have to tie laces.
In training, you’ll need some Compression Run Socks to help protect your lower leg muscles and ward off post-training soreness. For women, make sure you are wearing the correct sports bra for you
– running is a high-impact activity, so you need the appropriate support.
For your run training as well as your strength or cross-training sessions, you’ll need some comfortable, light clothes, and 2XU has you covered.
The training volume for triathlon is a killer, and repetitive strain / poor recovery is a leading cause of injury. You can help your body out with 2XU’s recovery-specific compression tights and socks
Researchers say that compression clothing works for recovery best when it is worn in the 12 to 48 hours after “significant amounts of muscle-damage-inducing exercise”. Aim to wear the compression clothing for at least a couple of hours – but it’s perfectly safe (and convenient) to wear compression clothing to bed or sitting down for long periods (e.g. air travel), too. This just became a whole lot more comfortable with the new 2XU Refresh Recovery Tights
. In addition to all the great benefits of 2XU Recovery Compression, such as enhanced blood flow back to the heart for improved oxygenation of blood for faster recovery, these tights have a wide, comfortable waistband that won’t cut or dig into you when you wear them for long periods.
GETTING SERIOUS YET?
It could be time to invest in a multisport watch with heart rate monitor. A heart rate monitor will help you to control your pace if you’re not confident judging it by how you feel. If you learn what pace you can sustain in training, then you can compete a little inside this during the first half of the race and then see what you have left to come home with – no-one want to walk to the finish because you overheated!
This blog post is written by Dom Cadden of www.wtfitness.com.au for 2XU Australia