Choosing your first triathlon is like choosing what route you should take to go on holiday… if you make a mistake, what promises to be great day can turn into a disaster!


The first triathlon that you choose will define how much training you will have to do as well as how much you will need to improve in order to achieve your first success as a triathlete. In this article, we will tell you about what is required for the different formats. It will also help you to ask yourself the right questions so that you know where you stand and can immerse yourself in the world of triathlon with peace of mind.


First of all, you need to identify what you want to get out of this first experience. Is your only aim to finish the event and enjoy the moment without any concern for your finishing time? If you are looking to take on new challenges, then everything is possible. Just bear in mind that you are a budding athlete and if you give yourself the means to fulfil your ambition, nothing is impossible!

If you want to tackle a long-distance event, it is possible! Even if I would strongly advise against doing so, it is only a question of training – and I mean a lot of training. In your case, it is all about the pleasure of finishing. Where would you like to start in order to really compete? In this case, the choice of race will be even more important: you will have to find out if the level is high or not. For example, choosing a short format early in the season is risky as it is often sought after by the elite athletes preparing for their more important races later on. You must also know the profile of the race in order to identify if it is good match for you. By defining these essential elements, you will not start your preparation in the same way and it will probably influence the choice of format and race in general.


Just stating why you are doing it is not enough! When seeking the right target, you need to have a good understanding of yourself in order to make the right choice! Once you have opted for the way in which you want to run your race, you need to assess yourself in order to select the ideal event. Having a good understanding of your abilities will help you to avoid a stinging disappointment that will often drain any motivation to sign up again! Each triathlon corresponds to a type of sportsman or woman.

There are two facets to the short formats ranging from the initiation to the sprint races. The first is the easily accessible nature of these races for beginners (which is why they're called initiation races), in which you can take part in the adventure of a triathlon without necessarily devoting all your time to physical preparation. Then, there is a second aspect which the more explosive and powerful runners will enjoy, given that the race is very fast and the distances short in each sport. The athletes at the start of this type of race format can be very nervous and there is often a lot of elbowing in the water (the notorious washing machine!)

As for the L and XL race formats, they are for the long-distance sportsmen and women. The keys to these triathlons are: endurance and race management. The mental aspect will an extremely important part of your preparation. Depending on your profile, the Olympic format triathlons will be the most challenging because they combine all the requirements of the other race formats – they are fast-paced races in which the athletes react quickly, but the distances are long enough to make it necessary to have a good level of endurance and to keep up an intense pace throughout the event.

According to your sporting profile, you will need to be more or less predisposed to the different triathlon race formats. If you want to compete, opt for the initiation or S triathlons.

Even if you do not feel ready, a properly prepared training plan can lead you to victory. Whereas on the M to XL race formats, the European level is so high that trying to achieve a good ranking in these races will be truly an excellent feat. However, these distances can be a good challenge for those triathletes who seek a challenge without necessarily having to monitor their stopwatch every minute. Warning: it is important for ambitious novices to bear in mind that, in order to dive straight into the two big race formats, you must have previous experience in one of the triathlon sports (running, swimming or cycling) in order to have one strong point on which you can rely, and naturally, you will have to dedicate a significant amount of time to your training!



Before signing up on the spur of the moment, test yourself! If you are a beginner in all the sports disciplines, dust off your old bike that is lying at the back of the garage and go for a short cycle. On the next day, get your trainers on and run for 20 or 30 minutes. On the following day, you should also get yourself down to your local swimming pool for a dip. All this will give you a better idea of your physical condition so that you can get a sense of whether you will be able to do all three disciplines one after the other. For the race, your only goal should be to finish an S race format in order to get your foot on the ladder. The shorter distances of this type of triathlon will be enjoyable and will not put you off this great sport above all.

If you already do sports, this will depend on your previous experience. Let me explain: Someone who practises team sports will really enjoy the short race formats that require explosive power. Conversely, a marathon runner will have a blast in an M race format that requires endurance skills! You will also need to get in the saddle of your old bicycle, go on a run and swim to get a feeling for the event and commit to the right race format.

Then, there are those who already practise one of the triathlon disciplines, in which case you need to beware of getting overconfident! You will have a strong point during the event and this can cause you problems during your first race. By being too keen to demonstrate your skills in your own sport, you run the risk of getting your fingers burnt and being forced to abandon the race… Consider this as an opportunity to manage your effort levels rather than trying to overtake everyone on your bicycle, just because you have some cycling experience (and I know what I'm talking about because this is what happened to me on my first triathlon). During your preparation, you should nevertheless remember to continue exercising this strength. With a good preparation, you can definitely sign up for an Olympic race format, or even an L race format for those who are more ambitious and a little mad. Once again, I would strongly advise against throwing yourself into the adventure of an XL race for your first triathlon. It could be your first and last experience of a triathlon. Only very high-level athletes (professionals) should consider taking on the showpiece distance.


Once, after much thought, you have decided on the format that will suit you, you need to address the technical aspects. Indeed, the location of the race will determine whether your friends and family can come to this first event. If the triathlon is taking place near your home, it will make it easier for them to come. I can tell you that such moral support can be a real source of energy when you have to dig deep within yourself.

Then, the geographical location of the event can also be a deciding factor. Do you want to swim in the sea or in a lake? Seawater makes you more buoyant than freshwater, however you will be more exposed to waves that can be stressful. On the other hand, swimming in a lake is easier from a psychological point of view. You also have to take into consideration any hills or mountains that form part of the route, or not. Although triathlons involving hills on the cycle and run legs are often very beautiful, they can require more physical preparation and be more stressful.

As you can see, each triathlon format can be suitable for a beginner in this sport. You can find races that are suited to each profile of sportsman and woman.Naturally, you will find more beginners in the short events, but, depending on your sporting experience and your motivation, you can treat yourself to the longer distance triathlons. If you still have some concerns, feel free to ask some advice from an experienced triathlete that you know. The triathlon community is a small world where everyone knows all the events. As a consequence you can get some invaluable advice to guide you in this way. The most important thing is to be aware of your own body and have faith in your own abilities. You can move mountains if you give yourself the means. So, let's get to work! And don't forget to enjoy yourself!