The Basic Must Haves for Your First Triathlon

So you've decided to do your first triathlon?  It may seem pretty daunting however when you break it down to each of the individual parts and just focus on completing one section at a time it's not quite so daunting anymore.  One of the first thing I teach my triathletes is that whatever their weakness is that is where the need to spend the majority of their training time.  But I'm getting ahead of myself!

First things first, in the sport of triathlon there is an unlimited number of gear and equipment to spend money on.  Unless you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you will be completing triathlons for years to come there really are only a few items that you NEED to have.  Here's a list of the most important gear:

  1. A REALLY good pair of running shoes.  This is one area I insist that my athletes adhere to.  Your feet are super important and are connected to the rest of your body.  A great pair of shoes that fit you really well are paramount to helping you stay injury free as you train.  Go to a local store that specializes in running shoes so that the experts there can fit you so that you walk (or run!) out of the store with a pair of shoes you love that fit you and support your feet and legs to help keep you up and running.  Expect to spend around $100 on a good pair of shoes.
  2. A bike.  Kind of a no brainer I know however with that said it really doesn't matter what type of bike it is for your first triathlon just that it has two wheels, pedals and brakes.  Whatever bike you have or can get your hands on take to your local bike store and ask someone working there to help make sure it fits you.  Trust me you won't be 'bothering' them because above all they LOVE getting more people riding and this means you!  Once you know the bike fits you the next thing is to make sure it has street tires.  I see many, many mountain bikes doing triathlons which is fine - they work- but to make your life easier put street tires on them, it really makes a big difference and tires are usually around $20 a tire.  Those nice people at the bike store will even put them on for you usually at no charge and while you're there pick up a helmet because you will not be allowed to do the triathlon without one.
  3. Goggles - my favorites are a type called 'seal' goggles.  They look similar to a diving mask without the nose piece.  They are a wide screen goggle the literally seals to your face.  They offer fantastic visibility and don't come off if you accidentally get kicked in the face.  They also come with clear and tinted lenses.  I've seen them on sale at Big 5 for only $20.

Pretty short list of HAVE to have items huh?  I'm serious about the shoes and that's why they're listed first.  As for a bike do your first triathlon to see if you even like doing triathlons before you commit to a road bike.  A great entry level road bike will cost around $800 and that's on the inexpensive side.  I bought my road bike back in 2002 for $1200 and it was considered entry level.  I love my bike and it was worth every penny but it was a HUGE investment for me, an investment I knew I needed (& wanted!) to make but I still suffered from sticker shock.  I tested a LOT of bikes before I settled on my bike because they each have a different feel along with having different components.   If you have bike purchasing questions email me directly at and I'll be happy to help you.

Okay now for clothing: 

  1. For women a GREAT sports bra is an absolute MUST - I recommend the Le Mystere Energy Sports Bra because it offers the best support of any bra I've seen and it's extremely versatile and comfortable.  
  2. You don't have to have them but a pair of tri shorts are fantastic.  You can get them from the friendly and helpful people at either the store where you picked up your shoes or from those nice people at the bike store.  They can run anywhere from $25 (on sale) to $50 but they're great because you can swim, bike and run in them.  For women all you need to do is where your sports bra and tri shorts for the swim and then throw a shirt on for the bike and run.  Guys you do the same thing only skip the sports bra part.
  3. Moisture wicking socks are super important for keeping you comfortable and your feet blister free.
  4. A hat not a cotton baseball hat but a moisture wicking hat that breathes which you can pick up from the nice shoe store people.
  5. sunglasses or some type of eye wear for the ride.  Wrap around glasses are wonderful and you can pick them up from the nice bike store people.  There are many types to choose from and most models come with extra lenses of different shades for different types of weather and usually run around $30 bucks or so.

Other things that are nice to have are things like:

  • Body Glide.  Body Glides helps prevent chaffing, easy is to put on, is inexpensive and lasts for years. 
  • Bike gloves
  • A hear rate monitor.  I put this in the nice to have category but I really feel it should go in the must haves.....  we'll talk more about this piece of equipment later.

As you can see there really aren't that many things you need to get started enjoy the sport of triathlon.  It's funny though how many super cool things that I've needed to have over the years.  Things I use season after season but these are things that you can pick up over the course of time.  Over the course of the next few weeks I'll be covering training tips as well as sport to sport transition tips.  For now putting together the things that I've listed here will keep you busy for at least a few days.  Oh and remember to train to your weakness, don't neglect your strength but your weakest sport will hurt your time much more than your time for the sport your strongest in.

Here's to You in Health, Wellness and Fitness,

Jennifer Malocha CEO of Fun at Wuhoo Fitness

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