Most kids love to swim, bike and run. Triathlon is a natural step to combine these things, but sometimes people (mostly parents) are uncertain how to teach them how to transition from one discipline to another. But the answer is simple- just add water. I recently did this with my nieces and nephews (twin 12-year-olds, triplet 5-year-olds) with my daughters, kids triathlon veterans, helping out. They absolutely loved it.
The order for 99% of the triathlons out there goes like this- first swim, then bike, then run.
Here are the basics for what you’ll need (please note, this is mostly focused for kids aged 5 to 12. Older kids doing longer distances may want to use adult tri tops and bottoms).
1. Swimsuit (most younger kids)
3. Towel (any will do, but uniquely-colored beach towels are the best)
5. Socks (the shorter, the better with wet feet) and running shoes
As a parent, you’ll want to figure out a safe bike and run course, either a park or a cul de sac, or somewhere with little traffic. I’ll also enlist and older kid or another adult to help make sure no one goes off course.
The set up is important. At the event, there will be many towels laid out, so it’s best to use a beach towel or bike bath towel that’s a unique color or pattern. This towel set up is directly beside the bike.
HELMET- Lay the helmet down with the straps out and untangled. Make sure your child can easily strap on his or her own helmet. There are volunteers to help at the event, but it’s always quicker for a child to do their own. I had my girls practice buckling and unbuckling their helmet when they were younger while sitting in front of the TV.
SOCKS- If your child normally wears socks, have them wear socks in the race. I find it easier if you roll the top of the socks so you can easily slide them over your feet.
SHOES- Make sure shoes are unlaced or un-velcroed (is that a word)? You can also get zip-tie like laces or no-tie laces for $6-$10 of varying quality from Wal-mart for the cheap kind to your running/tri shop for the fancy kind.
SHIRT/SHORTS- Boys generally wear normal swim trunks for the whole thing. Some put on a shirt before the bike or run. Girls can add shorts and/or t-shirts before they put on their shoes.
SWIM to BIKE (“T1” or “Transition 1”)
For the “swim”, I’ll have my kids put on their goggles and spray them with the hose. They absolutely love this. If you don’t have that handy, have them all stand close together and throw a bucket of water on them.
They then run over to their bike and transition towel.
-The helmet always goes on first.
-Have them practice drying off their feet on the towel and then putting on socks and shoes. It’s fine to sit down to put on socks and shoes.
“Bike Line”- One thing kids need to know is that they can’t bike directly from their towel. They’ll have to run their bike to the bike line before they can get on their bikes (this is so they don’t run over kids who are still putting on shoes). I’ll set up a bike line at the end of the drive way with a cone where they are allowed to mount their bike.
Then they’re off! I won’t have them go too far, just down to the end of the street and back, or around the cul de sac. If it’s a street, I’ll make sure an adult is at the other end to turn the kids around, and to give warning if there is any traffic.
When they finish, they’ll dismount at the Bike Line and run their bikes back to their towels.
BIKE to RUN (“T2” or “Transition 2”)
Since they already have their shoes on, this is a really simple transition.
Have them park their bikes, take off their helmet and place it on the towel. Then can they run out. I’ll usually have them do a short run around the cul de sac or down the street, again with another adult at the end for safety.
I’ll also have a water station on the road, where I teach them the “drink and dump” move. This is THE highlight for the kids.
Basically, you set up a folding table on the sidewalk with a bunch of Dixie cups of water. As the racer runs by, you take a drink, and then dump the water on your head, and throw down the cup (after the practice race is over, make sure to pick up the cups, of course.) My nephews liked this part so much, they did the whole thing over again so they could ride their bikes over the cups.
Cheering is a must. Dust off that old boom box for some music. You can also throw water on them or anything else to celebrate their achievement, even in practice. If you keep the distances short, you can repeat this, invite the neighbors to try it with you, and just have fun. We love it.
I hope this helps you have some fun with your kids and get them (and you) prepared for their first or next triathlon.
Remember- a kid who can do a triathlon can do anything!
If you live in the Nashville area, make sure to sign your kids up for the BEAT Nolensville Kids Triathon on August 16– it’ll be awesome!