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Woman to woman: The triathlon tips we wish we knew when we started

Seasoned triathletes share their female-specific tips for other women in the sport.

Canadian Ironman pro Angela Naeth and her female triathlon team IRaceLikeAGirl partnered with Women for Tri to come up with the top triathlon tips they wished they had known when they first got into the sport, and want to pass along to other women.

Here are the swim, bike and run tips from all levels of triathletes — first-timers to seasoned pros:

Some things we wish we knew when we started the sport:

  • “Go to the bathroom if you need to go during a race, holding it in can cause all kinds of problems that are worse than losing a few minutes of time”
  • “The more expensive gear isn’t going to make a better athlete”
  • “You’re never too old to tri! I participated in triathlons in my early twenties, and then life got in the way.  I rediscovered triathlons just in time for my 50th birthday, and I’m so glad I did!  I don’t ever finish on a podium, but I love every training minute and am energized by all things triathlon.”
  • “Race day is the reward for the grind of training.”

Our top tips:

  • “I put hair elastics everywhere (in my shorts, on my water bottles, in my transition bags). It’s the one item that I can’t race without, so always better to have more than you need in case they break.”
  • “Use vaseline on all clothing seams to avoid chafing.”
  • “Look up and smile as you exit the swim – there is always a photographer right there! In fact, smile whenever you can – it boosts your energy and people smile back which makes the whole day more fun.”
  • “Get a couple of good sports bras – the investment is worth it”
  • “Your ironing board has a much better use than for ironing, it’s the perfect bike stand!”
  • “Put sunscreen on the night before and the day of the race, you wont burn as much.”
  • “If you don’t like tampons make sure to put on sports glide when wearing pads! (the pads rub against your legs and can cause chaffing)”

Swim tips

  • “Goggles fog. Saliva and dish soap the night before help a ton.”
  • “Everyone looks terrible in a wetsuit. And no one is looking at you in yours, so don’t worry about it”
  • “Choosing a lane near the water aerobics class helps when in the pool to get the “open water” feel. Swimming in a lane with my five kids helps with swimming with a bunch of people.”
  • “Use smaller plastic bags on feet to ease putting on wet suit”
  • “Waterproof mascara will last through both the swim and the sweat.”

Bike tips

  • “Get a professional bike fit, no matter how little you paid for your bike.  The right seat and correct handlebar height make all the difference in comfort!  Do not be afraid to tell your fitter if you are an “outie” — and know what that means (when I first started, a nurse friend said to me, ‘If you cannot say “vulva” to your coach, get another coach.'”
  • “When you’re getting used to clipping in/out, you will fall once or twice but it’s okay, it happens to all of us.”
  • “Bend over in front of the mirror to check if your tri shorts are see through when stretched.  Similarly, bend over in front of the mirror and mock the aero position to see if cleavage might be a problem 
  • “Learn how to change a flat tire and always carry supplies with you just in case. It will happen at some point. Most likely at the most inconvenient time.”
  • “Less padding in the shorts = less friction = more comfort.”
  • “If its cold the day of your race, sandwich bags (not the zip lock kind) are cheap toe warmers for the bike ride. Put your foot in the bag and then the shoe. They come off and are not needed for the run.”
  • “You don’t need to wear underwear in bike shorts”

Run tips

  • “Running without socks is not for everyone and needs to be built up slowly (I gave up on it, but my 30 minute easy run in which I thought I’d give it a shot became very uncomfortable and bloody really quickly)”
  • “Fold socks halfway inside out so that it’s easier to put them on in transition. This is a time-saving hack!”
  • “Get yourself s pair of bungee shoe laces.  Trying to tie running shoes after a bike is a lot harder than it sounds.  Bungee laces may make you feel like a kindergartener who also should have light up shoes, but they slip right on with no fuss.”