What Is A Triathlon?

So before starting out, you'll want to know: what is a triathlon?

Triathlon is an exciting sport involving a continuous race over various distances in the three disciplines of swimming, cycling and running . A standard triathlon is made up of swimming, followed by cycling, followed by running.

It is a sport that is becoming more and more popular. It has come a long way since its beginnings in 1974 when a group of friends began to train together. The group consisted of swimmers, cyclists and runners, and before long they were organising competitions combining the three sports.

One of the reasons triathlon is such a popular sport is that it can be enjoyed by someone looking for a big challenge through to people who are not very fit but wanting to be. This is because a race can last as little as 1 hour up to 8 – 10 hours plus!

Do you:

  • Want to do something a little different to the usual marathon
  • Get bored easily or like variety in training
  • Get injured if you run too much
  • Want a challenge
  • Want to get fit and lose weight
  • Like gadgets (oh yes, beware, triathlon will feed your gadget craving if you are a gadget geek)?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then triathlon is for you!

If all this doesn’t sell it to you, the “break” or transition between each stage is effectively a frenzied change of kit in (usually) the middle of a field or car park. Now you don’t get that in a marathon!

Starting out in triathlon can seem a little daunting, but we have all the information you need to get started with confidence.


A triathlon always starts with swimming. The swim section of beginner events (usually sprint or super sprint distances) usually always takes place in a swimming pool. Most Olympic distance races and longer involve what is known as an ‘open water’ swim. This is usually in a lake or the sea, sometimes in a river.


The bike section comes next, and is usually the discipline that takes the most time. If you’re not sure if triathlon is for you, you don’t need to worry about going out and buying a fancy bike . Many beginner triathletes will ride their old mountain bike that has been lying around in the garage.


The run is the final discipline. People often find their legs feel like cement when they get off the bike and start running. But never fear, the correct training can make this easier!


Transitions are often referred to as the fourth discipline of triathlon. The time when you move from one discipline to the next is referred to as a transition, as is the area where this change occurs.

You will set your bike and running kit up in a given location in the ‘transition’ area.

On emerging from the swim you’ll have to run and find your bike (whilst impersonating Harry Houdini getting out of your wetsuit).

This is often easier said than done, as after you racked your bike, chances are a good few more people did so and your bike which was ‘third from the end of the row’ is now 23rd…

At the end of the bike leg you’ll return to the transition area, hop off your bike, rack it, remove your helmet, pull on your running shoes and set off on the final discipline.

The time it takes you to make these changes is included in your overall time. For most people an extra 20 – 30s struggling out of your wetsuit isn’t going to make a huge difference, but for those competing at the higher end, those extra seconds can make the difference between winning and losing.


Triathletes fall into two categories - Elite, the professional triathletes who compete at an international level, and Age Group - triathletes who are non-professional.

The Age Group system allows you to compete against other triathlon entrants of the same age (within a five year band) and sex. Triathlon and Duathlon World Championships give all triathletes the chance to enter (having qualified through a series of races beforehand) - they have an Age Group category as well as an elite category.

What Triathlon Equipment Do I Need And What Do I Wear?

You don't need to spend loads of money on all the latest triathlon gear. A few of the basics are all you need to get started. Have a look at our triathlon gear page for more information.

If you're not sure which bike or wetsuit to buy you can look at the wetsuit and triathlon bike reviews that triathletes have posted. Or post a review of your own!

If you have any questions about your triathlon training please ask us!

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