Triathlon Transition Training

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Posted: 10/04/2016 Print

Triathlon Transition Training

Guest blog by Helen Russell,

Top Tips for Triathlon Transition Training

The triathlon season is here and those of you that are preparing for your first triathlon will be busy doing plenty of swimming, cycling and run training. However, how many of you are training for the fourth discipline of triathlon - the transitions?

Winners are often decided by the smoothness and speed of the transitions from swim to bike and bike to run - I know this from experience having won and lost races by just two seconds!  Now, whilst you may not be trying to win a race I am sure you will certainly want to go as quick as you can, so it really is worth trying these simple skills exercises to get you smoothly through the transitions.

Swim to Bike

If you are racing in open water, practise getting your wetsuit off. This is best done after your open water swim practice.

Upon exiting the water immediately grab your zip tog and start to undo the zip, then pull the suit off your arms and roll it down to your waist whilst running. Then it is time to take off your goggles and swim cap. If you make the mistake of taking these off first your hands won’t be free to remove your wetsuit whilst on the move!

The hardest part is removing the suit from your lower body. I find that it is useful to assign a number to each movement so that I know that it should take just seconds to remove my wetsuit. I mentally count each move, which helps my focus.

1-grab suit at waist and pull down

2-pull down further so that over legs

3- pull leg up so that only foot remains in suit

4-pull second leg up so that only foot remains in suit

5-pull suit over first foot

6-pull suit over second foot

If your race is a pool based triathlon then you will have to exit the pool and unless you are in the outside lane it won’t be via the steps!

Regularly practise pushing yourself up the pool wall and out of the water. Too many novices take a couple of attempts to push up and out, due to never having tried it before.

On and Off the Bike

The next thing to practise is getting on and off the bike.

During my race season I practise this part of transition once a week in a quiet car park, where it is safer.

More experienced triathletes will have their bike shoes already clipped into their bike pedals and held level with a rubber band from the loop in the back of triathlon specific shoes.  Getting on the bike and slipping your feet into the shoes involves real skill and should definitely be practised before race day. Also don’t forget to practise taking your feet out of the shoes and getting off the bike.

It is also worth to try running with your bike. The fastest way to do this is to push the bike via one hand on the saddle. Getting it to go in a straight line and around bends does take practise. Key to this is pushing it assertively - the more hesitant you are, the harder it is to steer.

Trainers on

The final part of transition is getting your trainers on. A lot of people neglect to practise this but just a few minutes rehearsing can save seconds. Again I assign a number to each movement so that I know it takes just four seconds to get both shoes on.

1-grab tongue and put ball of foot in trainer

2-pull up heel of trainer so that foot slides

3 & 4 repeat for other foot.

On the Day

Upon arriving at the race venue you will be directed to set up your equipment in the transition area.

The first thing to find out is where the entrances and exits are, usually marked bike in/bike out and run in/run out. There is usually a rack to hang your bike on - sometimes you can decide where to hang your bike, other times it will be numbered racking, where your place on the rack is dictated by your race number.

If you get the choice there are a few things to consider. It is quicker to run without pushing the bike, so place your bike as close to the transition bike exit as possible, which means you won’t have as far to push the bike. This also gives you time to get your wetsuit off whilst running out of the swim. Of course you will have to push the bike further at the end of the bike leg but the transition area is usually less crowded by this stage so it should be easier.

Once you have racked your bike and laid out your equipment (helmet, trainers, sunglasses etc.) it is worth walking through both transitions. There is nothing worse than not being able to find your spot and having to run up and down the rows until you find your kit! Try and notice some non-moveable things such as trees or signs that are in-line with your spot. These are much easier to see from a distance when running into the transition area than your bike which will be one amongst many. You are often allowed to have a colourful towel to make your spot more noticeable on the approach but you aren’t allowed to have balloons or flags to designate your place!

Hopefully these tips will make you more confident about the transition part of a triathlon and after having put in many training hours of swimming, cycling and running practising the transition can save you quite a bit of time for relatively little effort.


Helen is a Great Britain age group triathlete. She is a former age group World and European Duathlon champion and European Triathlon champion. This year Helen was part of the One Day Ahead team which raised £1million for Cure Leukaemia by riding the entire route of this year’s Tour de France one day ahead of the pros. Due to Helen's part in this fundraising, she was named Wychavon (her local area) Sporting Hero of the Year!

You can follow Helen on Twitter via @helengoth

Other articles from Helen:

Winter Training for Summer Results

Cure Leukaemia Le Tour One Day Ahead

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