The triathlon season is just starting and quite a few of my friends are doing their first triathlon this year (I can’t think where they got the idea from!), and as they’ve all had lots of questions about how to prepare, I thought I’d stick down a few quick thoughts here.

It's always easy to smile at the finish line!
It’s always easy to smile at the finish line!

This first one looks at clothing – it focuses on women as that’s who’s asked me, and I haven’t gone into wetsuits, as they’re all doing indoor races, but most of the rest of it applies to anyone. Maybe I’ll do a wetsuit blog once the water warms up a bit more! And then the second one goes through setting up in transition, on the course and pre race prep.

Firstly, if you’re about to do your first triathlon, congratulations. You’re joining one of Britain’s fastest growing sports, and with good reason. Hopefully this will be your first of many. So, onto the advice.

What to wear?!!

No nudity in transition!
No nudity in transition!

This is the thing that most people worry about – the most important rule in transition is NO NUDITY (sounds obvious but there’s always at least one incident in every race!). Ideally you want to wear the same thing for the 3 different disciplines, so it needs to be something you’ll be comfortable doing all 3 things in – again, sounds obvious, but if you’re thinking of wearing a swimming cossie have you tried running in it?


Try doing a run in it and check for any rubbing and the boob wobble factor. If you want a bra for the run and don’t have support in the cossie then you could wear a sports bar underneath for the whole thing – might look a bit stupid but better than the alternative, or you could put a bra on top of the cossie, plus a top to cover it , in first transition but that’s a lot of clothing.

Lots of the pros dont wear shorts

Don’t worry about your clothing being wet from the swim, you can towel down in transition and they’ll dry out fairly soon with the breeze as you swoosh past on the cycle. If you’re happy with running (and cycling) in the cossie then go for it, you’ll probably want to throw some shorts on top at the first transition, but up to you, the pros dont bother!

But if you’re not comfortable running in a swimming costume then ditch it. If you don’t want to buy all the tri kit (yet…), then I would go with a sports bar and tight sports top on top – avoid anything baggy because it will flap in the water (although tucking into your waist band will help). Again, try and try it out in the pool in advance, you’ll feel a bit stupid but it’s worth it.

Then on the bottom, if you don’t want to buy tri shorts then either cycling shorts or tight running shorts/leggings, again tighter the better for the swim. Tri shorts have a bit of padding between the legs, but less than cycling shorts, so are sort of between the two. So you just need to choose whether you value padding on the cycle more than getting a bit sweaty between the legs on the run!

If you don’t already have tight running or cycling shorts, personally I’d say get some cycling shorts. They don’t have to cost much and if you’re going to get on your bike again after the race then once you’ve started wearing them you’ll wonder how you ever cycled without!

Last thing, but not essential, is a race belt. Some races only give you one number which you need to wear on your back for the bike and front for the run (you’ll probably have a number written onto your hat and maybe body as well for the swim). So rather than faffing round re-pinning it you’ll want to swivel it. They’re not expensive, or a bit of elasticated band from a haberdashery store will do just as well, just safety pin on the numbers and knot it safely (for a wetsuit race put it on under the wetsuit, for a swimming pool race tie it in advance and step into it in transition).  And then remember to move it round after the bike.

Even if they give 2 numbers (for front and back) you might want to go with this option to save time pinning on numbers/having them flapping in the swim. (NB they say it’s a rule that you have to move the number but it’s mostly so they can sell you photos afterwards, so I don’t imagine many races would disqualify you for having the number the wrong way) (on the other hand stewards in some small races will use your number to look up your name to shout you encouragement on the race, which can be amazingly motivating when you’re flagging!).

So now that’s you dressed for the race, let’s go onto setting up on the day.

4 thoughts on “Doing your first triathlon? What to wear

  1. This is really useful thanks! I’ve got my first triathlon this weekend and have decided to ditch the swimming cossy and wear top and shorts (even though there def wasn’t any chance of me for being mistaken for a pro!)

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