In a triathlon, the transitions have a similar effect to the feeling you get when you forget to wake up in the morning and you realise that you have to be at work in the next 10 minutes. The stress levels go through the roof and you run around like a headless chicken. If you don't keep your cool, you will waste time!



In a triathlon, the transitions have a similar effect to the feeling you get when you forget to wake up in the morning and you realise that you have to be at work in the next 10 minutes. The stress levels go through the roof and you run around like a headless chicken. If you don't keep your cool, you will waste time!

The two transitions during a triathlon are key moments during the race. Handling them properly will not necessarily make you win the race, but if you don't prepare for them, you will lose a lot of time. On the other hand, a little bit of training and organisation will help you achieve very fast transitions that will help you gain a few places in the rankings. This article will give you details about the different steps involved during transitions as well as the physiological effects that occur during this phase of the race. I will give you some tips to perfect your organisation and change between sports without a hitch.


They are two phases of the race that get you from one sport to the next. The first is the switch from the swim to the cycle leg, and the second is where you park your bike to start the final section of your triathlon, which is the run leg. This is usually done in a physical space that is marked out or totally enclosed. Only the athletes and referees are allowed inside.

The first time you enter the transition zone is before the race when you drop off your equipment. You will have a dedicated area (there is not much space, so don't take a full suitcase with you!) You will feel relatively tight for space and you need to make the most of every square inch available to you. Your space will be marked out with your race number.


                                                                          THE TRANSITIONS ARE GOVERNED BY CERTAIN RULES:

-        You have to follow the correct traffic flow direction (to avoid the kind of traffic jam you get on the M25 at rush hour).

-        You are not allowed to ride your bike in the transition zone. You must run alongside your bike and have your helmet on with the buckles closed when you have your bike with you in the transition zone.

-        On leaving the transition zone, there is a line on the ground to indicate that you are now allowed to straddle your bike. The referees are there to point this out (or caution you). You will cross the same line when you arrive for the second transition, and the same referees will be there to check that you get back off your bike.



When you start a sports activity, the cramps and stiffness you feel on the following day are your body telling you about it. As a result, you will discover muscles that you never thought you had. With triathlon, this is what you feel during the race and if you lack some preparation, it could force you to stop the race.

You won't discover new muscles when you switch from the swim to the cycle leg and from the cycle to the run leg. However, you are changing environment and posture. The first transition is less traumatic to handle. During the swim, your posture is horizontal. The sudden change of posture when you finish the swim can sometimes cause you to lose balance. What's more, in an aquatic environment, your body weight is supported by the water. You then switch to a sport where your body weight is no longer supported in the transition zone because you are running. This can cause the onset of cramp, a problem that can be exacerbated by the fact that you do not use your legs very much when swimming. You therefore need to reactivate the blood flow by speeding up your leg kicks over the last few metres because the legs will suddenly have to work very hard as you get out of the water.

This effect will be reproduced during the second transition when you switch from a non-weight bearing sport, i.e. cycling, to a weight bearing sport, i.e. running. You can reduce the negative effects of these changes in posture by preparing for them in training. Once a week, include a session that combines two of the sports in your training programme. You can ride at a fast pace, e.g. 20 to 40 km, and when you drop off your bike, you start running for 5 km. The first few times, you will feel the onset of cramps, but the more you repeat the exercise, the less cramping you will feel. Similarly, this works for the swim/run transition. This is because the problems associated with cramps occur when you are running in the transition zone, not when you start riding.

So here is a solution to the physiological problem that you will experience during the transitions of your triathlon. Now you need to get yourself organised!


Indeed, when you start triathlon, the time savings that you can achieve during the transitions can actually be counted in minutes. If you think that the transitions are an unimportant detail, I can guarantee that, on the day of the race, you will lose a huge amount of time between each of the disciplines that make up your race. This is because you will forget to put on a piece of equipment in the confusion, you will find it difficult to get your socks or shoes on due to your feet being wet or you will simply get lost in the transition zone… So, in order to avoid this, you need to get organised. First of all, before the race, draw up a check-list of all the essential items you need for the transition.

For the bike:

-        approved helmet

-        cycling shoes (if you have them)

-        socks (if you want them)

-        glasses

-        towel to dry your feet

-        race number belt

-        sunscreen

For the transition to the run leg:

-        running shoes

-        cap


Once you have verified the check-list, you need to practise how you are going to physically arrange your equipment around your bike. First important point: In the vast majority of triathlons, the bicycle will be held by the nose of the saddle in staggered rows. The space you will have for your belongings will be limited to the width of the handlebar.

I recommend the following layout:

-        Towel laid out at the base of your front wheel.

-        Helmet, race number belt, glasses laid upside down and straps open, and laid out so that you can get the different items on as quickly as possible.

-        As for the cycling shoes, forget the method that involves putting elastics on the pedals (this technique requires some real-life racing experience). Open the shoes fully and simply place them at the base of the wheel and, if you wear socks, put them on your shoes (what you put on first must be laid out last, so that you get to it first).

-        Lay out your running shoes with the cap on top in a similar way.


When you have tested your organisation, GET YOURSELF READY, put on your wetsuit and practise removing it, while jogging.

Another point that can save you time during the second transition is to practise removing your cycling shoes (if you have them) while riding the bike. A few hundred metres before you get to the transition zone, keep one of your shoes at the highest point, hold the handlebar with the opposite hand, loosen the fastening system of your shoe with the other hand and pull your foot out. Place your foot on top of the shoe and continue pedalling until you get to the bike park. Do the same with the other shoe. This will mean that, when you get to the transition zone, you will already be ready to put on your running shoes while your cycling shoes stay fastened to the pedals.

To finish off, on the day of the triathlon, just before the start, work out the route that you will take from the water to your transition space and on to the exit of the bike park, so that you don't get lost and set off in the wrong direction during the race.

At last, you are ready for the big day! Don't kid yourself, your first transition will not be perfect, purely and simply because it will be your first and you have not yet acquired enough experience. However, you have completed your physical training, you have not forgotten any of the equipment you need for the race thanks to your check-list and you have prepared for the consequences of the changes of posture. So, now all you need to do is make the most of each moment of the day and enjoy yourself! Enjoy your run!





I have been a triathlon fan for 5 years, tackling full-distance and full-distance triathlons. I am a member of the AMSLF Triathlon club in Fréjus, France. I have ticked off some wonderful experiences so far: Ironman® 70.3 in Aix en Provence, Polar International Triathlon in Cannes, Embrunman… A seasoned cyclist and mediocre swimmer, my running reflects my view of the triathlon itself - pushing myself to the very limit and beyond!