Top 30 Newbie Triathlon Mistakes You Are Probably Doing!


I have been in the sport for a good while now, yet, I still find myself falling into some newbies pitfalls every now and then.

If you are a beginner or not, I think It is worth it to go over the list that I compiled below

On a side note, do not waste your money on useless gear purchases and check out my Best Triathlon Battle-Tested Budgeting Gear

Also, check out What Do You Really Need To Do For Your First Triathlon? Avoid My Pitfalls

1- Overspending on Triathlon Gadget

I have done this and you are probably doing it right now. While it is difficult to find that sweet spot between how much you can spend to justify the value, I would say start with what you are trying to achieve.

At the end of the day, what matters the most is your fitness. All the other gadgets will only give you marginal improvement.

In triathlon, buy what you need not what you want.

Know which category of triathlete you belong to, and you will find it easy to figure out if this next thing you want to buy is worth it. Check this post I wrote which will help you out figure out this part; The Actual Cost Of Racing Triathlons; First Timer, Beginner, Enthusiast, And Advanced

2- Over Hydration

Overhydration should be taken seriously. You should Never “EVER” assume that drinking a lot of water is good for you. The scientific name is Hyponatremia. And if you do, Make sure to take in enough salts.

A study found (source) that 13 to 15 % of racing athletes are subject to Hyponatremia. This thing is usually not leather but it could happen. A British man died after completing Frankfurt’s 2015 Ironman from excessive hydration (Source)

3- Stretching In Transition

Stretching in transition is such a waste of time, especially when you’re competing for the seconds.

A better substitute, is just before ending the swim, slow a bit so that you’re not out of breath in T1, and when you’re ending your bike ride, Stand and stretch on your bike. At least when stretching on the bike you’re still moving.

4- Under Estimating Nutrition And Hydration

In long events, water and food could be the difference between finishing or not.

Hydration is easy to remember, just take a sip every 10 min or so, but food, It’s easier said than done.

I find myself ignoring my gel even though I know I need it. I just do not feel like eating, but here is the thing, you should force feed yourself. Even if you had to slow a bit just to get the thing in there, then do it, it’ll be totally worth it

5- Not Carrying Extra Tube & Pump

I have seen many, I mean many, people on the side of the road in an Ironman or even shorter races stuck with a flat tire. Some may even never get help. While the chance of getting a flat is low ( check the article I wrote about How Common Are Flat Tires In Triathlons? Causes And How To Avoid Them) they still happen.

After months of training for an event, it would be wise to add few grams to your ride just in case things come to worst. An extra tube with a small Co2 pump will do.

6- Skipping Swim Draft

Drafting on the bike and run is widely illegal in Triathlon, however, this is not the case in the swim. Check out my article about Why Is Bike Drafting Illegal In Triathlons? And How You Can Still Draft for details. Swim drafting can actually help by 15 to 25 percent.

7- Trying New Nutrition/Hydration on race Day

It’s easy to slip into this, but please do not do that. Especially when traveling for a race, take with you the type of food/gel you are used to with you because you may not find it where you will be racing.

I had to throw my hydration bottle on the ride, just because that lemon flavored electrolyte was not something my stomach welcomed.

8-Wearing or not wearing socks

While many refer to waring sock as a matter of personal preference, I think one should not war sock in a short distance like a sprint triathlon; however, as the distance stretch, I find spending a minute in an Ironman triathlon putting on socks is worth it as drastically decrease the potential of developing chafing or blisters.

Check out the article we wrote about How To Avoid Chafing And Blisters In Triathlons? Prevention & Treatment Tips

9- Not washing after a saltwater swim

Do not skip this step if you want a pleasant triathlon experience. Use some fresh water and rising areas prone to chafing. Saltwater may give you hard time with chafings (Source)

10- Pushing hard before the transition

Again, what is the point of pushing hard before a transition than having to take a minute to recover in transition? Remember you will also need some cognitive capacity putting off and on transition gear, and I find it hard to do if I was out of breath.

11- Using External Assistance

I haven’t been to a race where the community was not amazingly helpful. But take note that most triathlon events do not permit athletes from receiving external assistance.

This is considered a violation and may get you some time in the penalty box. Check out What Is A Penalty Box in Triathlon? And how to avoid it!

12- Taking your Tops off

While it could be extremely tempting on a hot day, it is widely illegal to take your tops off. That’s why you do not find any professional triathlete racing topless.

Read my article about Triathlon Run Leg Rules: Most Common Violations Listed!

13- Not pumping tires on race day

Do not skip on Pumping your tires on race day. There is a scientific metric called rolling resistance. Rolling resistance is bad for triathletes.

Rolling resistance is the friction between your wheels and the floor. The higher the resistance, the more effort you will have to exert.

One way of shrinking your bike rolling resistance is by pumping it up. Even overnight, your tire pressure could drop. (Source)

14- Not training with your wet-suit enough

It is no secreted that one should never try new gadgets on race day, but this is especially true when it comes to wet suits. You have to get a feel of the wetsuit you’ll be racing with. Is it too tight, too loose, what are the friction points, and how to get out of it quickly?

15- Gear Grinding

Cadence is the key to efficient bike climbing. Check the video below for a real-life comparison, but long story short, Spinning is much more efficient than gear grinding, but not necessarily faster.

16- Depending on race nutrition

I did this mistake before. Race organizers often list what kind of food you will be provided on the course, but do not rely on them. Take your food with you.

There is a chance that some aid stations will run out of certain food or worst, it has been moved forward due to some events.

17- Questioning yourself during a race

Be very clear on your objectives and why you are doing this. Triathlon is a tough sport, and when one hits the wall, self-doubt will start surfacing. The best way of dealing with it is to have this conversation with yourself before hands.

Check out Are Triathlons Harder Than Marathons? Alternatives & Why To OR Not To Race One

18- Not training on your weak discipline

It is easy to be caught up on doing what you find easy, but the real deal is when doing what you are not good at.

I am a victim of this myself. I consider myself a strong swimmer and runner, thus, making cycling my weak leg. However, by being self-aware about it, I try to sneak more bike hours into my training whenever possible.

19- Overly obsessed with a complicated Training Program

Oh man! I hate this one the most. Triathlon does not have to be a serious go-by-the-book sport.

You will find all types of training programs with so many fancy words and complex workouts.

I personally have never went by the book. No plans, and no checklist.

In triathlon, you swim, bike, and run, so, swim bike and run every week. Things can easily slip into being more of an obligation than a pleasant exercise. Note that this is not ideal for someone who wants’s to go pro.

My ways; Twice a week I do brick exercise, long run once, long ride once, and long swim once. I tend to focus more on time rater than speed, as in how long I spend working out. Also, my workout intensity peaks 3 months before the event and gradually drops.

20- Skipping on Sunscreen

Do not skip on sunscreen in a sunny climate. You will get sunburned. Here is how my back looked like after my Malaysia- Langkawi IronMan without sunscreen

Sunburned after Ironman Triathlon
Sunburned after Ironman Triathlon

21- Getting carried away

Although we know that we should not buy into the excitement of everyone around us going fast very early on in the race, our human competitive feature compels us to do so.

This is especially true in triathlon as you will have to fight the urge in all three disciplines.

Have a plan and stick to it.

22- Massaging right before a race

The muscles often get sore after a massage and getting one right before a race is not a good idea. If you really feel you need one, then allow at least 3 to 5 days before the race day.

23- Use unnecessary gadgets ( like gloves)

There is all sort of addons that you can get but adding one more item to remember to pack for no value is not always the smartest thing to do.

For example, cycling gloves. They take forever to put them on and really won’t add much to your ride. Been there done that. Check out List of Triathlon Gear You Do Not Need & What Is Actually Required!

24- You Can Stand and Stretch On Your Bike

My favorite hack. Aero position or not, after riding sometimes standing on our bike will give you a nice relief from the saddle and will give this small psychological boost

25- Prioritizing speed Over Endurance

This is the part where I use “It depends” . If your goal is to finish the race, why bother to do it fast. Just get it done, but make sure you can do it.

Thus, I would encourage you to focus on building your physical endurance. Also, keep in mind the cut-off times. Check out What Are Triathlon Races Cutoff Time? What’s a Good Finish Time!.

However, if you’re aiming to be an advanced triathlete competing for the podium, both, speed and Endurance are equally important.

26- Swimming in ZigZags

Swimming in open water one can easily slip into zigzags swimming. This can easily add several minutes to your swim time. You can check this using a GPS watch to see if you go off-track in long swims.

The most effective way is sneaking a look as you swim. Check the video below to help you avoid Zigzag swimming

27- Not understanding the course

Understanding the course is not only about where you’re supposed to go but what to expect and what you’ll have to do.

You should be aware of items such as elevation, how many laps, any off-road segments and where are the aid stations.

28- Not Sleeping Enough

I find sleep to be as important as working out. I would opt to sacrifice a workout session for sleep if I felt that I needed it. Not to confuse this with laziness. It’s not about not feeling like doing it, but rather understanding your body and listening to it.

29- Misfiling emergency detail

Organizers will usually ask for the contact information emergency details and usually will also provide space on the back of the bib number for this purpose.

Fill it right. In case something wrong happened, this quick access to this information will be invaluable to your aider.

Also when you’re asked to provide an emergency contact, do write in the details of someone who’s also participating in the race. They will not have their phone with them. Duh!

30-Have fun. Be in the moment

Triathlon is a nice sport and at the amateur level, the whole point of the sport is to enjoy yourself.

Experience the experience for what it is, and be in the moment. The fun of practicing all three sports at once and getting to experience it with a bunch of people

Athletes often slip into the urgency of competitiveness and get too fixated on just the finish line, which is one important part of the sport, but certainly not the full package.

If you liked this list then Check out my other list of Top 50 Tips For Beginner Triathletes! Complete Guide On What You Should Know

sherifjallad

An extreme triathlete who have competed in dozens of triathlons including IronMans and Extreme triathlons.

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