Why Not Try a Tri (Part 3) – Transitions

It’s the third week of the triathlon basics series and today we’re going to look at an often overlooked event in the sport – transitions! Especially as you’re starting out, it’s easy to forget that the clock doesn’t stop when you switch between events. Transitions are an important part of the sport and I want to make sure you’re prepared!


One of the best tips I heard as a beginner as to S-L-O-W down. When you’re starting out, you can quickly get frazzled with everything going on and forget what you’re doing. Take a deep break and slow down, think of what you need to do one step at a time. The more you practice and race, the faster you’ll get. But even then, it’s more about moving through quickly and methodically, not rushing.

Setup Your Transition

You just need the basics in transition. You’re wearing your clothes, so this list includes everything you might need to leave in transition (next to your bike).

Before the race starts, you’ll want to lay these items out next to your bike in the transition area. You can start by laying down a small towel (like a kitchen towel) to mark your space. If you use a larger towel, fold in down to this size – no one likes that person with a beach towel stretched out in transition. There’s not usually enough space for that!


You want everything ready to pick it up and put it on. No fumbling with opening clasps or straps.

    • Place your helmet on the ground with the chinstraps up and open – ready to put right on your head.
    • The sunglasses go inside your helmet, open and ready to put on your face.
    • Your bike shoes should be open and ready to slip your feet into. If you don’t have bike shoes, replace these with your running shoes.
    • Your running shoes go next to your bike shoes (if they have laces, make sure they are untied)
    • Roll your socks down halfway, so you can slide your foot into the sock easily and fold up the other half.
    • You can attach your watch and race belt to your visor, so it’s ready to grab and put on while you run. OR you can lay each item out separately – just make sure the watch strap and race belt are open.

Why Not Try a Tri: Transition

Swim to Bike

In your first transition, you’re moving from a horizontal position in the water to a vertical position running to your spot in the transition area. As you get out of the water, you will probably feel a bit disoriented and very out of breathe. In my experience, it’s easy for your heart rate to spike and your breathing to get out of control. Relax, you already set up your transition area to make this easy.

As your running to your bike, take off your swim cap and goggles. When you get to your bike, throw them next to your towel as you lean over to put on your cycling gear.

Step into your open bike shoes and attach the velcro (or whatever straps are there). Before standing up, put on your sunglasses and then put the helmet on your head. As you stand up, close the strap on your helmet.

After your helmet strap is attach, THEN grab your bike. You’re now ready to run with your bike to the mount line outside of transition!

Bike to Run

As you come back to transition on your bike, watch for the dismount line outside of transition. This is usually in the same spot as you were allowed to mount your bike. Get off your bike and jog back into transition to put it back where you found it.

Why Not Try a Tri: Transition

Your transition area should now look similar to what you see above. After racking your bike, take off your helmet and set it down with your swim gear. While you’re bent over, unstrap your bike shoes and step out.

Now it’s time to put on your running gear. Step into your socks and roll them up over your ankles. Step into your running shoes and grab your visor/hat. If you decided to attach your belt and watch to the visor, start moving out of transition while you detach them and put them on. Otherwise grab those items after putting on your visor and then start putting them on while you go.

Now you’re ready to finish strong and RUN!

Last Minute Thoughts

The tips above give suggestions to minimize wasted movements and time. If you have time to practice these during training, you will be ready to go! If you don’t feel comfortable after practicing, just remember it’s okay to SLOW DOWN! Remember to determine your goals for the race.

If it’s your first race, I always recommend looking to finish with a smile. For my first race, I took my time and sat down in transition and took my time. There’s no problem with that approach – do what works for you! If it’s your second (or 40th) race, you can look for ways to get a little faster each time. 

 Don’t miss the other posts in the Why Not Try a Tri series:

Editors Note: This post was originally published in April 2012 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and the latest information.


Questions for you:

  • What other triathlon or duathlon questions do you have that you’d like to see me answer?
  • For my experienced triathlete friends – what tip would you share with first timers?

Subscribe & Download FREE eBook

If you enjoyed this post, you'll want to sign up for the email newsletter and be the first to know about new workouts, recipes, fitness inspiration and more! As a thank you - you also get a FREE copy of my "Healthy Inspirations for YOU!" eBook.

Click here to download now.


  1. says

    Great tips! I’m doing my first duathlon in 2 weeks and I have no idea what to expect! Our first triathlon is in June and that is even more daunting but these tips help. I need to practice the transition more, although we have done some brick workouts.

    • says

      Part 1 in the series covered the bare minimum, but it depends on your goals. I typically wear a pair of tri shorts, sports bra, and tri top. Would it be helpful for me to do a post going more into depth on clothing options?

    • says

      I’ve heard mixed reviews with the baby powder – sometimes it works and sometimes it becomes sand paper. Just be careful. I put my socks on only for the run, which will help since your feet are drier. :)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge