Triathlon do's and don'ts
There's a lot to think about when you take part in a triathlon for the first time - use our step-by-step guide to make sure you follow the official rules and have everything covered.

Triathlon do's and don'ts



FoodGet your nutrition right
"One of the golden rules of good nutrition is to be organised," says elite triathlete Caroline Livesey. And go with tried and trusted food and drink on the big day.
Triathlon nutrition tips
KitSort your kit
Get everything ready the night before - a tri suit (all-in-one, worn for the whole race) makes life easier (as does a number band) but it's fine to stick with what you've got.
TimeGive yourself time
Allow extra time for the journey to the event. When you get there, the first thing to do is pick up your race numbers and timing chip (if it's timed) at registration.
Practice transitions Get things ready in the transition area(s)
"You need to develop a system - or order you do things in - and practice this," says Mark Pearce, coach to some of the UK's top triathletes.
Mark's step-by-step guide
Tips Set-up tips
Roll up your socks and put talc in them for after the swim, leave your bike in a relatively easy gear and tape gels or food to it as required.
Detailed set-up advice


BriefingSafety briefing
Before your race starts you'll be given a swim cap to wear (whether pool or open water) and an event briefing will take place, highlighting the rules and safety advice.
Open water safety pointers
BackstrokeBackstroke not permitted
If it's pool-based then you can't swim backstroke. And even if it's open water you must let the event organiser know beforehand.
How to: Swim in open water
WetsuitWetsuit guidelines
British Triathlon recommend a wetsuit is worn up in open water temperatures up to 22°. It's compulsory once it dips below a certain level (14° for anything up to standard distance triathlons, 15° for swims of 1.5km-3km and 16° for over 3km).
FinishFinal few strokes
You'll be told by your counter when you've got two lengths to go and then when it's time to get out - in open water it's a question of sticking to the prescribed route.


CyclingFollow the rules
Whatever the distance you must put your helmet on before touching the bike - and then don't get on the bike until after the mount line (see penalties below).
First transition - tips
NumberNumbers game
The other key thing to remember is to put your number on (if it's not already) after the swim - it needs to be on your back for the bike ride, front for the run which is why a number band is a worthwhile purchase.
5 metresDon't draft
In most triathlons (except 'draft legal' ones) you can't slipstream on the bike. That means don't get within 5m of another rider unless you're overtaking. There is a shift towards making more events - and not just elite ones - draft legal so check beforehand. 


RunningAvoid 'jelly legs'
For the final kilometre or so of your bike ride drop down to an easier gear so that you can get your legs spinning ahead of the transition to the running phase.
Second transition - tips
Flying squirrelBe a flying squirrel
"This is borrowed from cyclo-cross where riders are constantly jumping on and off the bike at high speed," Mark Pearce, coach to some of the UK's top triathletes.
Second transition - tips
MedalBack to front
Make sure you're off the bike before the dismount line, then put it on the rack and take your helmet off. Now put your number on the front and off you go!
Second transition - tips  


We've highlighted the key things to remember during your triathlon.If you break the rules, here are the costly sanctions you could face, via governing body British Triathlon:
One minute penaltyOne-minute penalty - unless corrected
For helmet violations (unclipping helmet while in contact with the cycle) and riding in the transition area, including over the mount/dismount line.
Two minute penaltyTwo-minutes penalty
Number violations (unless corrected) and first offence of drafting in a draft-illegal sprint or standard distance race.
Five minute penaltyFive-minutes penalty
For first and second offences of drafting in a middle or long distance race.

Breaking road traffic regulations, second offence of drafting in a draft-illegal sprint or standard distance race and third offence of drafting in a middle/long distance race.


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