First-timer? Follow these essential
 tips from the pros.

By Kathleen Murray Harris
June 20, 2017
Per Breiehagen/Getty Images


For your first race, opt for a sprint triathlon, which is half the length of the standard Olympic distance, says Ryan Bolton, founder of the Santa Fe coaching group Bolton Endurance Sports Training. And if possible, “sign up for an all-women race, which often has a lot of first-timers,” says Dana Anello White, USA Triathlon Level 1 coach.


You’ll need at least 12 weeks
 to prepare, but 20 is ideal
 for your first triathlon. Following an online training program
 is easy and relatively affordable, but if you need more flexibility, work with a coach to personalize your program.


No need for a pricey racing bike―a hybrid will work fine. Running shoes, a helmet, sunglasses, good goggles, bike shoes, and a wet suit are also on the must-have list. Try everything out well before the race, especially the wet suit, says Christine Giacopelli,
 a mother of two in Ridgewood, New Jersey, who recently completed her first triathlon.


Becoming efficient in the water can save you time and energy
 for the rest of your race. But
 it can be hard to teach yourself proper swimming technique, says White. To master your form, look to your local Y for triathlon-
level lessons with a coach.


The best way to prep is to watch a race from the sidelines. Also, practice transitions to make sure you can unzip your wet suit on the run and switch your shoes when your legs are like Jell-O. Attend
 the pre-event meeting (often held the day before) to get tips about the course.


You did it! Stretch afterward to prevent soreness, then “hydrate, eat, and party,” says Giacopelli.