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Triathlon Training Tips from Fit Bloggers We Love

Ready to swim, cycle, and run? We asked fitness bloggers who've tri-ed for their top training tips, best race day advice, and gear recommendations. Get a leg up on the competition with their insider info.

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Photo courtesy of Kristen Seymour,
Jocelyn completing one of her races
Photo courtesy of Jocelyn,
Photo courtesy of Callie at
Photo courtesy of Heather at
Photo courtesy of Meghann at
Photo courtesy of Theodora at
Photo courtesy of Susan at
Photo courtesy of Danielle at
Photo courtesy of Emily at
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Kristen from Fit Bottomed Girls

My training plan: I worked with a personal coach to develop a plan that would include activities I was already doing (swim and group runs) as well as workouts I don't generally do, like long bike rides and speedwork at the track. The weeks leading up to the race included 2-3 runs, 2-3 bike workouts, and 2 swims, with some yoga and strength thrown in there for good measure.

I wore: For the swim, the water ended up being chillier than I'd expected, so I ended up wearing a wetsuit for the first time -- ever. I really, really wish I'd done a little more swimming in it beforehand; swimming is my strongest discipline, and I wasn't able to get into my groove with the new gear. Under the wetsuit (and for the rest of the race), I wore a Speedo tankini top with a surprising amount of support, Zoot tri shorts, and a bright pink Oakley sport tank. Wearing a bright color makes it easy for my husband, friends, and family to pick me out as I'm going into or out of transition (or the finish line!).

I ate (during the race): GU -- Jet Blackberry, to be specific. I had one a few miles into the bike, and another around 20 miles into the bike portion so I would get a bit of a kick on the run. I also drank a bottle of Gatorade and plenty of water.

What I wished I'd known: I knew I'd be riding the bike over a couple of bridges, but didn't realize until that day how steep the climb was. I should've prepared better for that.

The best part: Getting a surprise third place in the Athena division after a really disappointing finish. (Getting my beer mug trophy filled with a tasty post-race brew wasn't too shabby, either. All things in moderation, right?)

The worst part: T2, the transition from bike to run, was miserable. I had pulled some muscles in my right leg, and when I got off the bike, I was unable to bend down to get my race bib, and I really wasn't sure how I was going to run a 10K. I considered quitting, which is not something I've ever done. I shuffled out of the transition area, tears welling up in my eyes, and saw my husband, who reminded me how hard I'd worked and that all I had to do was do my best. The first mile hurt -- a lot -- but things loosened up after that, and I was able to hold a reasonable pace the rest of the run, even picking it up on the last half mile for a strong finish.

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Jocelyn at Enthusiastic Runner

My training plan: Was very random. I tried to follow a specific plan, but ultimately I love to run and bike more than I enjoy swimming, so sometimes I would skip a swim for a run! During the swim on race day, I immediately regretted every time I skipped a swim practice.

I wore: A tri suit and wet suit.

I ate (during the race): 2 Hammer Gels

What I wished I'd known: Practice open-water swimming with a group as much as possible.

The best part: Crossing the finish line with a smile on my face.

The worst part: Being kicked in the face during the swim. (Ouch!)

Read more from Jocelyn at Enthusiastic Runner

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Callie from The Wannabe Athlete

My training plan was: Run three times a week, swim twice a week, bike twice a week, with at least one brick workout (a run immediately followed by a swim or bike ride) per week.

I wore: An Ironman tri suit my sister found at Goodwill! Can you believe it?!

I ate (during the race): Nothing! I totally forgot to eat. Oops!

What I wished I'd known: A sprint triathlon is a totally doable goal. I wish I hadn't been scared of trying it for so long!

The best part: Crossing the finish line!

The worst part: Running through the sand on the beach toward transition. Yikes.

Read more from Callie at The Wannabe Athlete

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Heather at Mile 26 and More

My training plan: I joined the local triathlon club and met a ton of triathlon veterans who provided great advice. I also met a coach who helped new triathletes so I worked with him for 6 months to figure out how to balance running, biking, and swimming, all the while still training for the Chicago marathon!

I wore: I'm not a big fan of the triathlon outfits, but I did invest in a pair of triathlon shorts. I wore a thin tank top with the shorts and it worked great for me!

I ate (during the race): I drank lots of Gatorade (I get very thirsty on the bike!) and had about 4 Honey Stinger chews during the ride to fuel me through the rest of the race.

What I wished I'd known: Even if you're not the fastest swimmer, don't start in the back of the pack! I did this in my first triathlon and wasn't experienced enough to know how to pass other swimmers. I ended up just sticking where I was the entire swim even though I could have passed others if I knew how. Next time I started in front and it was great!

The best part: The run is my jam. I love putting on my running shoes and knowing the hardest two parts are already behind me!

The worst part: Learning when to push and when to reserve energy. I'm still working on this and it's over a year later!

Read more from Heather at Mile 26 and More

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Meghann at Meals and Miles

My training plan: Was nonexistent. I went into my first triathlon on a whim and didn't realize I should have actually trained for it. I do not recommend this for other beginning triathletes.

I wore: A half wetsuit (at the time I didn't realize these aren't the best thing to wear in a triathlon), spandex shorts, and a regular running top.

I ate (during the race): I had a Power Bar taped to my bike, then Gatorade on the course.

What I wished I'd known: That you don't really need a lot of "stuff" in the transition area. My first triathlon I had a bucket of water, extra fuel, extra clothes, socks, sunscreen, and other items that took up space. It's best to have a streamlined transition area so you don't waste a lot of time finding what you really need.

The best part: Crossing the finish line. My whole family was at this race, plus I had friends who had traveled from out of town. I was honored they all came to watch.

The worst part: Having everyone pass me on the bike. I did two training rides tops before the race, so it's really no mystery why they passed me, but it still stung.

Read more from Meghann at Meals and Miles

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Theodora at Losing Weight in the City

My training plan: I've done two triathlons, both of sprint distance. For the first triathlon, I roughly used a Hal Higdon training plan. The second time around, I just used biking and swimming as cross-training for the running I was already doing.

I wore: I wore a tri suit so I didn't have to worry about getting in and out of a wetsuit.

I ate (during the race): I usually eat GU during my races. The last tri I did was 1/2-mile swim, 17-mile bike, and a 5-mile run, so I had one GU during the bike ride and one GU about a mile into the run. The GU during the run was like magic for my body, and gave my legs a much-needed jolt of energy.

What I wished I'd known: I really wish I had done an open-water swim before the race, since I panicked when I looked up and saw how far away the buoys were.

The best part: The best part was how quickly it seemed to go, since I was always switching from one activity to the next.

The worst part: The bike is absolutely my weakness, so this part felt like it went on forever! (It's also the longest part of the race.)

Read more from Theodora at Losing Weight in the City

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Susan at Susan Runs

My training plan: I didn't have one! I signed up on a whim about a week before the race just to see what it was like. It was my first (and only!) triathlon, so I just wanted to get a feel for what a tri would be like without any pressure.

I wore: A sports bra and spandex sports for the swim, then I put a tank top on for the bike and run.

I ate (during the race): Just some water -- it was a sprint distance!

What I wished I'd known: That it is really hard to swim in a straight line in open water! I had only been swimming in a pool, so I had no idea how off course you could get if you don't pay attention to what direction you're swimming in.

The best part: Running is most definitely my strong point, so I took off flying once we got to the run. It was really exciting to be passing everyone. They called my name as I crossed the finish line, which is really fun. Also, body marking makes you look so tough!

The worst part: I borrowed a bike for the tri since I didn't have my own, and I got crushed on the bike portion by everyone on road bikes!

Read more from Susan at Nurse on the Run

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Danielle of Eat, Sweat, Smile

My training plan: Was to get as comfortable as possible with the portions of the race I was most uncomfortable with, which would be open-water swimming and biking. Even though I was a competitive swimmer from the age of 10, open-water swimming was a little daunting, so I practiced swimming in Aquatic Park, which is an open-water swimming area in the San Francisco Bay. I didn't have a road bike for my first tri so I did lots of spinning classes and rented a road bike two days before the race. For my second tri, I purchased a road bike and did a lot better.

The most helpful thing I did was brick training, which is practicing certain portions of the triathlon one after the other. Doing bricks helped me to get comfortable with transitioning from one portion of the race to the other and also helped with endurance.

I wore: For my first triathlon I wore a one-piece tri suit and for my second I wore a tri top (with lots of pockets for GU!) and tri bike shorts, which have a little less padding than traditional bicycle shorts.

I ate (during the race): GU! Lots of GU. My favorite flavors are Mixed Berry and Chocolate Outrage. I also made sure that I filled my water bottle with Nuun Electrolyte Tablets so I didn't get dehydrated. And LUNA bars and mixed nuts for a post-finish treat.

What I wished I'd known: How supportive all of the triathletes are! Before my first one, I had heard horror stories of people getting elbowed and kicked in the face during the swim section, but there was none of that. I also received encouraging cheers from other racers that I ran/biked with along the course.

The best part: Finishing! By which I mean finishing the swimming portion (swimming past Alcatraz was pretty cool, but the bay is huge and a little scary) and finishing the race itself. It's very empowering to cross the finish line after months of training -- there's no other feeling like it!

The worst part: Biking up the hills of the Presidio in San Francisco. You haven't experienced steep hills until you've biked up a one-mile San Francisco hill after swimming a mile. The view at the top was great though!

Read more from Danielle at Eat, Sweat, Smile

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Emily at Sweat Once a Day

My training plan: For my first few triathlons, I followed the "just swim, bike, and run with friends" plan. I got into the sport of triathlon to have fun, and it's a lot more enjoyable to bike for six hours on a Sunday morning when you have some friends riding next to you. When I started Ironman training, I got a coach to help make sure I'd be able to race 140.6 miles and cross the finish line in an upright position.

I wore: TYR tri shorts and a running tank over a swimsuit. You really only need something that you'll be comfortable in and won't leave you covered in chafe marks. My biggest tip: Body glide is your wetsuit's best friend. Don't forget the back of your neck.

I ate (during the race): For shorter tris, I would eat GU, Honey Stinger Waffles, and granola bars. For Ironman Lake Placid, my bento box and special needs bags were full of all kinds of fun, quick carb snacks including peanut butter pretzels, cheddar cheese combos, flat Coke, and Snickers. And my water bottles are always filled with Nuun Electrolyte Tablets to hydrate me through races and training sessions of any distance.

What I wished I'd known: Flat tires happen to good people. Okay, I guess I knew this all along, but I wish I'd actually made an effort to not be a total bike dunce.

The best part: Every single minute of Ironman Lake Placid, even the ones when I thought I might die on the side of a road in the Adirondacks. I spent nearly a year training my butt off for the thing and few moments in my life will rival crossing the finish line and hearing the announcer yell "Emily Halnon, you are an Ironman!"

The worst part: Swimming in open water. I have an irrational fear of reptiles and spent every swim leg terrified that I was one stroke away from a water snake attack. On the plus side, I'm pretty sure this helped me shave several minutes off my swim split every race.

Originally published on, April 2013.

Read more from Emily at Sweat Once a Day

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