It’s no secret that triathlons require more kit than a single discipline event. However, if you are already involved in general sport and fitness, you’re likely to have much of the necessary kit to hand. We want to encourage people of all ages, abilities and most importantly, wallet size, to take part in triathlon and so we’ve put together a guide to doing triathlon on a budget.
Let’s start with choosing races. It’s smart to book races early as often organisers reduce costs for a period of time. The most high profile races often cost the most but it is important to remember that the cost of safety, particularly water safety, is what pushes the price of entries up and you can’t put a price on safety! Look for races that are combined with other events as a way of enticing your family to come and support you. Why not make a weekend of it? Accommodation is often a lot cheaper if booked in advance.
Now onto the essentials. In order to compete in a triathlon, you must have a swim suit (wetsuit when necessary), trainers, something to cycle and run in (triathlon rules on nudity are very strict – a top is essential), a bike and a helmet. Some pieces of equipment, such as wetsuits and bicycles can ramp up the price of kit. Avoid this by purchasing second hand, borrowing or hiring for the event. If you can purchase a bike, you’ll find the race easier as you’ll be more used to it. However, it doesn’t have to be a tri specific bike, rather your everyday one.
Chrissie Wellington, retired triathlete and four time Ironman Triathlon World Champion,
‘won the World Age Group Championships in 2006 using a borrowed wetsuit and a secondhand road bike’
and believe us, age group events attract the most expensive kit out there. In fact, she argues that ‘a set of £5 elastic laces (like these from Zone3) can save you more time in the bike/run transition than a £150 aero helmet might on the bike.’ Therefore, using the funds you have in an efficient way is the most important thing to take from this. A race belt is also a very useful addition to your tri gear for displaying your race number and storing essential energy gels, for example. They are a very cost-effective purchase and a piece of kit that you won't grow out of/wear out.
In terms of training, yes you could hire a coach. However there are a plethora of free/low-cost training plans online as well as brilliant apps to record your performance (ie. Strava). It might not be possible to swim in open-water all year round (in fact, we definitely wouldn’t recommend it!) but public pools offer cheaper sessions and all you need to run/cycle is the great outdoors. If training in all weather is not your cup of tea, there are now so many great value gyms out there. You should also consider joining a local tri club for a nominal fee as this way, you’ll have access to coaching and support as well as discounts to local sports centres and tri stores.
Nutrition is also key to remember. Good nutrition doesn’t have to mean the latest sports-specific products and often when in training for the shorter distances, a healthy, balanced diet is sufficient. Chrissie Wellington’s top tip is to combine a third of orange juice with two-thirds water and a pinch of salt to create a nutritious workout drink. And as for recovery, smoothies (milk, banana, peanut butter and chocolate powder) or homemade energy bars (oats, nutbutter, honey and dried fruit) are cheap alternatives to replenish stores. There is so much information online about effective pre and post-workout foods, that you’ll never be at a loss.
As with all sports, the more you become involved, the more likely you’ll be to spend on kit. Everybody has to start somewhere. The best kit will never guarantee success, as
‘the best investment is in the form of hard work, drive and determination’