Every woman’s guide to getting started in triathlon: Part 1

Balance babes transition croppedThe sport of triathlon continues to grow in popularity and one of the things I’ve noticed is that women and men are signing up in equal numbers to test themselves in this challenging three discipline sport. I do confess to not knowing a great deal about triathlon (despite completing four Pink Triathlons) so I asked the women of Balance UTS Tri club for their advice on how to get started. Several of them responded and I’ve compiled their answers below. Stay tuned for Part 2 next week……….


What advice can you give to women who are just starting out in triathlon?

I think often as women we are really hard on ourselves in general. Men will often just “give something a crack” without necessarily knowing 100% whether they can do it and I don’t know that women will throw themselves into things with the same careless abandon! I would encourage any women thinking about wanting to start out in triathlons – “give it a go!” Don’t worry about whether you’re fit enough or whether you have the right gear or if you’re going to get the transitions right etc. I did my first race with a pair of old swimmers, my bike that was almost 10 years old and worn out pair of runners and put my helmet on backwards 🙂 2 years later I’m loving racing, have done lots of different distances and know how to put my helmet on! There are a number of great short races out there that encourage beginners and I find that the culture of triathlons is extremely supportive of all levels, so come and join us! –Natalie Dainer

It really depends what you want to get out of it, but first and foremost, join a triathlon club!  Not only is it a really sociable way of doing a triathlon, but you will also pick up lots of tips and tricks from more experienced members.  And don’t be afraid to lots of questions – everyone was a ‘newbie’ once, and most triathletes LOVE to share their experience!  It can be a bit of an intimidating sport, so being part of a club and gaining knowledge is a great way to allay any ‘newbie’ fears. – Jocie Evison

Just do it! Don’t hesitate or think you can’t do it – just get out here and have a go – you will surprise yourself at what you can achieve. Grab a friend to make it even more fun, or join a club to make it even easier. – Sarah Koen

What equipment do you need to get started? 

All the triathlon gear can be a bit overwhelming to start off with, but all you really need is a roadworthy bike, a helmet and a pair of running shoes.  If you decide you want to get a bit more serious, there’s plenty of time to gradually build up your gear.  If you’re a member of a tri club, you’ll find plenty of people will lend you bits and pieces so you can ‘try before you buy’.  (Before you know it, you’ll have a garage full of gear that you’d be very happy to lend to the next ‘newbie’!). – Jocie Evison

Equipment can be addictive in this sport! but in all honesty there are great entry level bikes on the market that are really reasonably priced. Second hand bikes are also a good option until you start to get a sense of whether you like the sport and then what type of bike you might like. Before purchasing a second hand bike make sure you know what size frame you would need. For this it might be useful to go to a bike shop and ask a few questions about sizing. The bike is the biggest expense as the swim leg you just need a pair of swimmers and some goggles and the run leg you just need your runners and some running clothes. As you spend more time in the sport you may want things like a tri suit for racing (something you can swim, ride and run in) but its not necessary for your first race. – Natalie Dainer

As far as gear goes – start out fairly simple, but be warned that if you get hooked you’ll quickly want to buy more gear or upgrade what you have! Swimming – swimmers, googles, cap. Running – running clothes and shoes, a cap. Cycling – a bike (any will do to start out but you’ll probably want to work towards getting a road bike – perhaps with time trial bars – or even a time trial bike), then you’ll need your cycling clothes – again start out in what you feel comfortable in but you may soon want to join the other triathletes in a cycling jersey with pockets in the back and cycling knicks, cycling shoes – sneakers if you don’t yet have cleats on your pedals, but if you do cycling shoes. A helmet, spare tubes, a pump, tyre levers so you can change the tyres, a drink bottle (bidon) and perhaps a multi-tool (in case you need to adjust anything on your bike). Front and back lights are very important to help you be seen and keep you safe when cycling in low light. You can see why we need 3 pockets in our jerseys!! Otherwise you can attach a small bag to the back of your bike to keep your spares in. Any good bike shop can help set you up with all these things. – Hally Bolt

Are there some shorter triathlons that you’d recommend as a starting point?

I think any woman who races will tell you the best starting race is Tri Pink – it’s all women and it has all different levels of racing. Its an extremely encouraging event for nervous first timers. alternatively alot of short course races will have what’s called an “enticer” (ie: Wollongong has one) as part of their festival. Nepean also has a women’s only sprint triathlon which is a good next step up from Tri Pink and an enticer. – Natalie Dainer

Definitely TriPink – a wonderful entry level event with various distances, all a bit shorter than ‘official’ triathlon distances.  There are also loads of other ‘Try a Tri’ and ‘Enticer’ distance events.  Again, your local tri club will be able to point you in the right direction of the best local races in your area. – Jocie Evison

There are lots of choices out there, I suggest you do what appeals and what you’re comfortable with. Some good options for shorter triathlons include TriPink (women only and the swim is in a pool. 3 race distances to choose from) and Women’s Triathlon Festival (again 3 different race distances to choose from and the swim is in the lake.) Otherwise look out for Enticer (300m SWIM, 10k BIKE, 2k RUN) and Sprint races (750m Swim, 20k Bike, 5k Run) at other triathlon festivals. Another idea is starting with duathlons (run-cycle-run) or aquathlons (run-swim-run) if you really aren’t confident yet in one of the disciplines. – Hally Bolt

How did you get started in triathlon?

My husband and I were cycling a bit and our friend told us about triathlon. I had never heard of it at the time. This friend was doing a long course triathlon and talked us into training for it too. It wasn’t until after I had done it that I found out there were varying lengths of triathlon to choose from and that I could have started with a shorter course! – Hally Bolt

A friend was really into it, and was doing an Olympic Distance triathlon at a local triathlon festival.  She knew I was sporty so suggested I do the ‘Try a Tri’ race at the same event.  Not wanting to be outdone, I ended up doing the Olympic Distance with her.  I came dead last, but I loved it! – Jocie Evison

I did a short one (a sprint) when I lived in London – in a pool, on a borrowed bike in the pouring rain and I loved it! So when I moved back to Sydney I bought a mountain bike, started riding to work and also entered a few events like City to Surf to improve my running. I was already confident at swimming. I decided to join a tri club before doing any races, and I’m so glad I did. The members were so welcoming and helpful – they loaned me a road bike to do my next race, bike shoes, taught me how to use them & on race day, showed me where to go and what to do! It took all the worry out of it and now I am hooked. It was a great way to get started. – Sarah Koen



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