Three distinct sports make up triathlons: swimming, cycling, and running. Participants take part in all three disciplines in this specific order. The race starts in a swimming pool or an outdoor body of water; participants then go from the water to their bikes to perform the second part of the race. The final part of the race is running on foot to the finish line. Triathlons are physically demanding as they require skills in all three disciplines. In this article, we take a look at important information that will help you when it comes to preparing for a triathlon.

Race lengths

There are several lengths of triathlon you can participate in; your choice will depend on your level of fitness and your experience with triathlons and the individual sports. Generally, five different triathlon distances are recognised. These are supersprint, sprint, Olympic, half-ironman and full ironman. The shortest triathlon race is the supersprint, which consists of a 400m swim, 10k bike ride and 2.5km run. This triathlon is ideal for beginners that don’t have much experience or time to train. The sprint triathlon is longer but still achievable for many intermediate athletes; the swim is 750m, the bike ride length is double the supersprint at 20km, and the run is also double the distance at 5km. An Olympic triathlon is a 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run; this is something you’ll need to work up towards before tackling. Half-ironman triathlons are the second longest triathlon with a 1.9km swim, 90k bike ride and 21.1km run. The final and longest triathlon event is the ironman. This race is reserved for endurance athletes that want to push their bodies to the extreme; it consists of a 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run. That’s an entire marathon run after enduring a 3.8km swim and a 180km bike ride. Choose an achievable triathlon and work your way up to bigger distances; many people participate in several super sprints before deciding to push themselves and try the sprint.


A triathlon isn’t something you can do lightly; even the sprint will require you to train to work your body up for tackling each sport involved in the event. It would be best to allow yourself at least 12 weeks of training, potentially more depending on your current fitness level. When competing in a triathlon, you must practise each element of the race and don’t discount one sport. For most people, it's much easier to train for the running and biking parts of the triathlon. Finding a spot to swim in open water safely can be more challenging, but it's essential to practise each element, so you’re fully prepared. It would help if you also practised them back to back and the transition. You can lose valuable time during the transition, which could impact your finish time. Triathlon energy gels are a great way to refuel quickly between each sport; you should include these in your training so your body gets used to accessing and using this form of energy without any stomach-related issues.


For your triathlon, you'll need the right equipment for each part of the race. If the swim is in open water, you’ll need a wetsuit, especially in the UK, as the water can be incredibly cold. For the cycling part of the race, you’ll need a suitable bike; professional triathlon participants will use a specific triathlon bike. However, if you’re a beginner, you can use the bike you already have; investing in a triathlon bike is something you might want to consider later if you regularly participate in triathlons. For the running part of the event, you’ll need a good pair of running shoes. These are the basics required for each sport to get started; you can also purchase a triathlon suit that you can wear throughout the event. This can help you transition to the next sport quickly. A triathlon suit is waterproof, dries quickly and is breathable to help your body in each stage of the event. You can pick up a tri suit for under £30, so they’re worth the investment, even at a beginner level.