What is a Triathlon? – Everything explained!

What is a Triathlon?

A Triathlon is a race which involves 3 separate sections which must be completed one after another. The people who participate in Triathlons are known as Triathletes and come from a large variety of fitness, age and social backgrounds.

Over the past 15 years the sport of Triathlon has grown hugely in popularity due to it’s social aspects and challenging nature, as well as  a very strong ‘Beginner Friendly’ culture.

The 3 sections of the popular Triathlon are:

  • Swim first
  • Bike second
  • Run last

A Race organiser can design a Triathlon with any distance they may wish for each section, but the most popular and common  Triathlon Distances are:

Try-a-Tri: 300m Swim, 10Km bike, 3Km Run (Distances can vary)

Sprint Triathlon: 750m swim, 20Km Bike, 5 Km Run

Olympic Trathlon: 1,500m swim, 40km bike, 10 Km Run

Half Iron Man / Distance: 1,900m swim, 90km Bike, 21Km Run

Iron Man / Distance: 3,800m swim, 180Km Bike, 42 Km Run.

I’m worried about the Swim Section of the Triathlon?

The swim section of a Triathlon can take place in a pool, river, lake or the sea. If the swim takes place in an outdoor setting it may be necessary to wear a wetsuit. For many people the swim section of a Triathlon can be the most daunting, but you’ll discover that many competitors used their first Triathlon as a great excuse to learn how to swim properly for the first time in their lives!

What does ‘Transition’ mean?

The point in a Triathlon when participants change from one sport to another (i.e from the swim section to the run section,) is known as Transition.

Are Triathlon Clubs just for the fast guys?

Definitely not! Many people sometimes choose to train alone for their first Triathlon, but joining a Triathlon Club can provide a friendly and supportive network of people to help you on your way. Triathlon clubs are full of people at all levels of fitness from complete beginners to fast professionals and sharing information and encouragement is what it’s all about! The best thing to do is to get online, contact a local Triathlon Club and arrange to join them for one or two sessions and see how you like it:) Here’s some helpful advice for your first Triathlon.

What’s a Brick Session?

A ‘Brick session’ is a term used to describe a training session which involves two of the Triathlon sports, one after another. For instance: Finishing a cycle and then going for a Run would be a Brick Session. Check out this helpful article explaining the benefits of Brick Sessions!

Do you need an expensive Bike?

 Nope. The most important thing is that you have a bike which is safe & reliable and also have a helmet. Many Sprint Triathlons are aimed at beginners and it’s not unusual to see mountain bikes and hybrids (a cross between a Mountain Bike and a Road Bike) in Transition. Nobody wants to buy an expensive bike without first seeing if they enjoy the sport of Triathlon, so don’t let the fact you don’t own a flash ride hold you back!

 Here’s an article explaining what gear new Triathletes should purchase depending on their experience

What is Drafting?

Drafting in Triathlon: is when one athlete benefits from the slip-stream that another athlete creates as they move forward during the swim and the bike section of the race.

How does it work?

When an athlete swims in a pool or in the open water, they break through the resistance which the water offers . Once they have broken through that resistance they leave a slipstream behind them. If another Triathlete is swimming in this slip stream they won’t have to work as hard as the first athlete to create forward momentum! That’s drafting! The exact same principle applies in the scenario of cycling.

Drafting is allowed during the swim section, but most Triathlons don’t allow drafting during the cycle portion of the race for amatuer athletes (for safety reasons)!

Whats the story with all the Lycra Triathletes wear?

Yes it’s true, Triathletes can usually be found wearing some kind of lycra when their training and racing. We’re not going to lie, nobody looks cool in Lycra… well almost no one! It’s just a fact, but Lycra is an incredible elastacated material which allows the body to move easily and wicks excess moisture away when your working. That’s our excuse anyway…:)


If you have ANY questions about Triathlons or what’s involved drop us a comment  below!

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