Tips for a Healthy, Safe Triathlon

By Lynn Carlson, Physical Therapist, Burnett Medical Center &  Sarah Motl, MS, RD, Dietitian, Burnett Medical Center

Pre-Race Tips

  • Three days before the event, don’t start eating new things. Be sure to eat protein, some healthy fat (avocados, nuts, olives) and a lot of carbohydrates.
  • Tune up your bike—put new tubes in the tires if they are old.
  • Put reflective tape on your running gear.
  • Make sure your fitness monitor has a new battery.
  • Make sure your toenails are clipped.
  • Avoid using new gear for the first time on race day.
  • Study the course—know where the hills, flats and curves are.

Night Before the Race

  • Replenish body fluid—drink plenty of water.
  • To help with the recovery process, also consume fresh fruits, vegetables, and/or 100% juice, which contain the anti-oxidants, Vitamins C & E.
  • Eat protein, some healthy fat (avocados, nuts, olives) and carbohydrates.
  • Organize your gear and lay everything out. If possible, have a bag for each event—a bike bag, a kayak bag, and a running bag.
  • Go to bed early. If you’re nervous about waking up in time, set multiple alarms for a more restful and peaceful sleep.

Morning of the Race

  • Try to eat something like you did the night before and at least two hours before the race. Stay with the carbohydrates and if you have trouble digesting, a drink that is high in carbohydrates works well.
  • If the weather will be cool, dress in layers—compression clothing and/or tri suit, light shirt, sweatshirt, sweatpants and hat.
  • Arrive about an hour early.

Biking Tips

  • Be prepared. Consider having a spare tube and CO2 cartridges or a pump.
  • Hydrate while you are cycling. If you can, keep two water bottles in your holders.
  • Ride single file.
  • Stay right until you want to pass. Warn “on your left” when you want to pass, then pass quickly and get in front of the cyclist.
  • Don’t draft other riders.
  • Do some shoulder shrugs occasionally to relax your shoulders. 

Kayaking Tips

  • Sit straight or slightly forward with knees bent. This will give you more balance in the vessel.  Hands should be shoulder width apart.
  • If you are right handed, keep your right hand tight and left hand loose on the paddle, ensuring your right hand will rotate the blade.
  • When pulling back on one side, you should be pushing forward on the opposite side at the same time. This will give you power from the torso.
  • The more you relax, the less chance you will fall in.

Running Tips

  • Keep hydrating as you go. Sports drinks are likely needed at this point.
  • Start slower and get faster as the distance increases and as you loosen up from the bike and kayak.

Post Race Tips

  • Keep walking around to avoid cramping.
  • Refuel with a mixture of carbohydrate and protein food in the first 30-45 minutes of finishing.
  • Eat a meal with carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats within 2-3 hours of finishing.
  • Get out of your running shoes, put on something comfortable, and give your feet a rest.
  • The next day, go for a bike ride, walk around, swim or get a massage.