Taking on a triathlon is a huge athletic endeavor. In addition to the physical challenge, you also need to tackle the logistics. What you will wear is often at the top of that list. You need to wear something suitable for swimming, biking, and running. To help you get started, here’s a guide on what to wear for a triathlon, both in training and on race day!
Considerations For Race Day
The typical triathlon format is to move from a swimming segment into a biking segment, before finishing off the race with a run. It’s a huge challenge, and it will be a great accomplishment when you stride across the finish line at the end of the day.
Before you start shopping for gear, focus your efforts by thinking about what is going to take place during the race:
- You’ll start in the water. Right off the bat, you are going to be heading into the water for a swim. Many triathlons allow wetsuits, which are a big advantage for long swims, because they keep you warm and buoyant, which helps you swim faster with less effort. However, wetsuits can be expensive, even to rent. If you choose to wear a wetsuit, the clothes under it will get wet, so make sure not to wear anything made of cotton.
- Are you going to change? Most triathletes typically wear just one outfit from start to finish, in part because only the longest races give you a place to change between segments. However, you may choose to make some wardrobe adjustments that don’t require a whole new outfit. For instance, if it’s cold, you might want to put on a dry top or a jacket for the bike segment. If it’s sunny, you might grab a hat for the run.
- Think about your feet. Once the swim is complete, you’ll head out of the water to find your bike. At that point, you will need to put something on your feet, which could either be your running shoes or bike-specific shoes. Bike shoes may help your performance while pedaling, but they are an additional investment, and you’ll have to switch to running shoes to finish the race.
Race Day Clothing Checklist
Use this quick checklist to make sure you’re prepared for race day:
- Tri Shorts. It's next to impossible to run in cycling shorts, and very uncomfortable to bike in running shorts. Therefore, tri shorts—which have a thin pad so you can ride and run in them—are your best bet for race day.
- Tri Top. Tri tops and suits have lots of pockets for storing nutrition, and they’re snug to your body, so the nutrition you carry doesn’t bounce around. This is important because you need more nutrition in the run segment of a tri than on your training runs, due to the fact that you’re already depleted from the swim and bike segments. If you’re not ready to invest in a tri top, a running shirt will be your next best option.
- Triathlon Suit. Tri suits (one-piece suits made specifically for triathlons) are sometimes more comfortable than having a separate top and shorts. They are often worn by more advanced racers. However, getting the right fit can be tricky, and they can make bathroom stops complicated.
- Swimsuit. If you’re not ready to invest in tri-specific gear, you will need a swimsuit for the swim event. If you’re a woman, you can wear a one-piece suit and then slip shorts over it before you get on the bike. If you’re willing to invest in tri shorts, you can also wear those with a sports bra on top. For men, Speedo-style briefs are a popular option. Men should also keep in mind that some triathlons don’t allow bare chests, so a swim shirt may also be required.
- Goggles. You’ll need to bring your own goggles. Be sure to use a pair that you’ve worn before.
- Swim Cap. Most likely, your swim cap will be provided by the race itself, and it will have your race number on it. Just check the race details, or bring a backup just in case.
- Running Shoes. Seek out quality running shoes that fit well. For a quicker transition, you might also consider using “speed laces,” which are bungee-cord-type shoelaces that allow you to slip your feet into running shoes without the need to tie them them.
- Sunglasses (Optional). Between the bike and the run, you’ll be out on the roads for quite some time. If the weather predicts sun, save yourself the discomfort of squinting by donning a comfortable pair of sunglasses.
Clothing Considerations For Training
When training for a triathlon, athletes typically break up their training by event. This means that your clothing can be a little more specific to the task at hand. For instance, if you’re working on improving your bike time, you will likely wear cycling-specific gear, which may not be ideal for race day, but which will improve your comfort during training.
Here’s what to wear for event-specific triathlon training:
- Swim. If you are training in a pool, consider wearing a regular swimsuit rather than your tri clothing. Chlorine damages every type of material, so wearing a swimsuit will spare your expensive tri gear and help it last longer.
- Bike. It is well worth investing in cycling-specific gear for training. Bike shorts in particular will make it more comfortable to spend a lot of time in the saddle. If you train in cooler weather, you may need a jacket and tights to stay warm. Keep in mind that on race day, cycling-specific gear may not be ideal. Running in your bike shorts is going to be nearly impossible, because the padding is just too thick.
- Run. A fitted running shirt made from synthetic materials will be the best way to stay comfortable. (Choose your sleeve length based on weather!) Other essentials are a pair of running shorts or tights and quality socks and shoes.
Closer to the race, avid triathletes will typically do a combination workout called a “brick.” This is a bike segment, followed by a run. A brick is a great time to try out all of your race-day gear, especially those tri shorts. Remember: Nothing new on race day!
Keep Your Triathlon Gear Fresh
Triathletes will typically run at least 3 times a week, bike at least 3 times a week, and swim 2–4 times a week. Some also take strengthening classes like Pilates or stretching classes like yoga. Each of those activities requires different clothes, which generates a lot of laundry!
To keep your triathlon gear and other activewear fresh, order a bottle of WIN Sports Detergent today. We have specifically designed our product to care for and remove odor from the synthetic materials in activewear. With WIN, you don't need drawers and drawers of triathlon clothes—you just need to do your laundry to stay fresh!