Beginner Triathlete Mistakes: How to Avoid Being the Odd Man Out

There's nothing wrong with being a beginner triathlete: Everyone started somewhere. But, of course, it's always nice not to feel like a freshman in the lunchroom, furtively trying to look like you know where to find your friends and put your tray. Fortunately, even if you're new to triathlon, it's easy to look like you're experienced—and get the confidence that comes with that. These simple training and race-day tips will help to change you from newbie to seasoned veteran in no time at all.

The Clothes Make the Triathlete (Sort of)

"The gear gives you away in a heartbeat," says Sally Edwards, former pro triathlete and founder of Heart Zones USA, who has helped thousands of first-time female triathletes get across the finish line as spokeswoman and motivator for more than 100 races combined in the Danskin and Trek Women's Triathlon Series races. You don't need the latest, greatest triathlon speed suit, but you do need to get out of the baggy cotton T-shirt and 15-year-old shorts.

More: 10 Tips for First-Time Triathletes

Triathlon clothing is designed to dry fast, so there's no need to change what you're wearing during the race (ever tried putting a shirt on while you're wet? How about when you're wet, breathing hard and trying to move fast? Yep, one outfit for the whole race is a great thing). It won't get soggy, bunch up, and chafe you like cotton will. And the shorts are padded just enough to make cycling more comfortable without feeling like you're wearing a diaper when you're on the run.

Tip: Two-piece outfits, as opposed to one-piece triathlon suits, are the most economical, since you can split up the pieces and they look fine to wear to any workout, even to indoor cycling classes.

More: Beginners Triathlon Gear List: No Need to Break the Bank

Follow the (Often Unwritten) Pool Etiquette Rules

More than one beginner triathlete has been surprised or barked at because these key pool rules are often not posted:

  • Swim in counter-clockwise circles. That means swimming up the right-hand side of the lane and back on the left.
  • Check to see if there are a maximum number of swimmers per lane. You may have to wait for someone to exit before you can enter.
  • Choose the lane that fits your speed; most pools are marked with fast, medium and slow lanes.
  • If someone in front of you is going too slowly, feel free to turn around halfway in your lane and go the other direction to get in front of him.

More: My First Triathlon: 15 Things I Learned

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About the Author

Marty Munson

Marty Munson is a USAT Level 1 triathlon coach. Her writing has appeared in Health, Prevention, Marie Claire, and Find more triathlon tips and strategies from her and other experts in the field at

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