Kids And Youth Triathlon: Preparations And Expectations

As enthusiasts of triathlons, one of the things we love is the large number of kids’ triathlons around the country. COLON SPACE (We) began seeing the emergence of triathlons specifically for youth about a decade ago, and the number has risen steadily since then. PERIOD SPACE These races are not only a great way to get kids active, but they also typically support extremely deserving organizations or non-profits.

The main goal of a youth triathlon is to have fun. To encourage participation and make sure everyone has a great time, we wanted to provide some guidance on how to prepare for and what to expect with kids or youth triathlons.

Choosing a youth triathlon


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You will likely choose a race based on a few different factors. It may be a local race, one that the child wants to do with friends or one that benefits an organization your family is passionate about. Any of these are great reasons to choose a particular race.

First, you should take the distance of each leg into account when choosing a race. Make sure your child is excited about one leg, like biking, and find a race that focuses on that particular leg. You might also want to find a race with a short swim, like 100 meters or less if your child is nervous about swimming.

Examples of typical swim, bike and run distances in a youth triathlon:

  • Ages 6-10:  Swim 100 meters, Bike 3 miles, Run 1/2 mile
  • Ages 11-15:  Swim 200 meters, Bike 6 miles, Run 1 mile

The distance of a youth triathlon varies depending on the age and experience level of the participants. Although there are standard distances, some events may have their own specific distances.

Here’s a quick rundown of the categories you can expect to see:


The kids’ triathlon program is divided into two age groups so that whatever age your child is when they become interested in triathlons, there will be an appropriate distance for them.

  • Age 8 to 10: 54.6-yard swim, 1-mile bike, 710-yard run.
  • Age 11 to 14: 218-yard swim, 3.7-mile bike, 1.25-mile run.


There is no real difference between a tristar and a novice, some competitions may use the term novice while others use tristar.

Tristar is divided into four categories instead of two. This helps your child to progress more gradually, whereas novice is a bit of a bigger jump.

  • Age 8: 54.6-yard swim, 1-mile bike, 710-yard run.
  • Age 9 to 10: 218-yard swim, 3.7-mile bike, 1.25-mile run.
  • Age 11 to 12: 164-yard swim, 1.8-mile bike, 0.8-mile run.
  • Age 13 to 14: 328-yard swim, 4.6-mile bike, 1.5-mile run.

Youth and Junior

The Youth and Junior category is for teens aged 15-19. This event consists of a 437.5-yard swim, a 9.3-mile bike ride, and a 3.1-mile run.

Training for a kid’s triathlon

For a child who is not highly active in other sports or fitness activities, the triathlon could be a perfect way to get the body moving and create a nice, weekly rhythm for fitness activities. In many cases, only 20-30 minutes of activity three to four times per week is needed. For a child who is already quite active, plays other sports, and tends to run and bike a lot, the training is mostly about building the right skills and creating a few new habits.

The swim leg of a triathlon can be the most nerve-wracking for many athletes. They can get in the pool and do a few swims to work on their swim stroke. The plain old front crawl, or freestyle, is the norm when it comes to triathlon swimming. If the race will be in a lake, athletes should find a beach and practice swimming along the swimming boundary to get the feel of swimming in open water.

Most kids can do the bike leg of a triathlon easily, but they need to be trained to pace themselves so they don’t run out of energy. Bike legs in kids’ triathlons are usually 1-5 miles, which most children can handle with proper training.

Accompany them on their ride, instructing them to hold back their speed a bit so that they will have the energy to keep up a strong pace for the whole race instead of starting quickly and then slowing down.

Pacing is important for the run leg too. Try to do a few practice runs of the same distance as the race to get an idea of what the whole run will be like. Many kids start too fast and then get too tired to continue running later in the race. Try to find a pace that is fast but won’t make you need to slow down too much later on.

Most youth triathlons involve runs that are .5 to 1.5 miles long, so it’s important to be able to pace yourself so that you can perform well without getting too tired out. This is a skill that will be useful in many other physical activities as well.

What gear do you need?

It is best to keep things simple when it comes to kids. This should be a fun activity, not one that requires a lot of new equipment.

The biggest factor in deciding what gear to bring is probably whether the swim leg will be in a pool or in open water, like a lake.

Swim gear

Young triathletes usually don’t wear wetsuits. All they need is a swimsuit, goggles, and a swim cap that they’re comfortable in.

The swimsuit should fit snugly and not have any slack material that could get caught in the wind or weigh your child down in the water.

Choose a pair of goggles for your child that fit snugly but are not too tight. A good seal around the eyes is essential.

Swim legs for youth triathlons are usually done in a pool for safety and because it’s easier for kids to manage. It’s a good idea to use darker tinted goggles to prevent glare from the bright pool bottom and surface.

A swim cap is also a good idea for keeping dirt and debris out of your kid’s hair and protecting their hair from chlorine, and if you choose a bright colour, you’ll be able to pick them out of the crowd easily!

Some swim caps are made from latex, which can cause allergies. If your kid has sensitive skin, you may need to choose a different material.

Bike gear

You will need a bike for your child at this stage. They should use a bike that is comfortable for them and not worry about features.

Unlike adult triathlons, your kid won’t need special cycling shoes. A simple pair of running shoes will suffice.

Make sure you pack a shirt for them to wear on the trip, one that will dry quickly if it gets wet. A moisture-wicking fabric would be ideal.

The most important piece of equipment is a bike helmet. Do not neglect this! Your kid most likely won’t be allowed to participate without one. Anyway, protecting their head should be the first priority.

Running gear

Kids only need comfortable clothes and a good pair of running shoes to go for a run. They don’t need as much technology in their shoes as adults, but the shoes still need to be durable, comfortable, and high quality.

There should be space for a thumb between your kid’s toes and the front of the shoe. Most kids will do well with a pair of neutral running shoes, but if they have very flat feet, a pair of stability shoes may be a better choice.

If your child is unsure about whether they have flat feet, have them try on a pair of neutral shoes and a pair of stability shoes. Let your child know which pair is more comfortable.

In addition to shoes, have your child wear light, fast-drying shorts and a soft, comfortable shirt.

For more experienced kids

When your child is no longer a beginner, they may want to get better equipment. The first thing you can upgrade is their clothing.

Tri-suits are outfits made specifically for triathlons that come in one- or two-piece designs. They are designed to be worn in every leg of the race to avoid chafing and increase streamlining and often include small pockets for snacks. They also make your kid look more like a pro!

How can parents help their kids physically and mentally ready

It is important to support your kid. If you want your kid to be in good condition for a great event, here are a few things to do:


People need to remember that resting is just as important as working out. This goes for kids especially, who need 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night. Without enough sleep, kids will start to lose motivation and feel worse physically.

Go to bed at the same time every night and make sure your child’s room is peaceful, dark and not too hot or cold.


Make sure your child is drinking enough water so that their body is healthy. This means water, not soda, fruit juice, or sugary juice boxes.

If your kid doesn’t like plain water, try carbonated water with a flavoured tonic. This mix contains much less sugar than a regular soft drink and it’s more exciting for a kid than plain water.


Don’t give your kid sugary, processed foods in the week leading up to the race.

Give your child a reminder that they are eating like an athlete if they start to crave sugary foods! It’s a great way to get them into healthy habits if you start teaching them about proper nutrition from a young age.

You don’t need to worry about counting calories. Just make sure your child is eating whole foods, a good mix of carbohydrates and protein, and having three meals a day.


This is a good time to teach your child how to visualize. You can make a game out of it by having them visualize every part of the race. This will help them to relax and sleep better at night.

It is difficult for children to comprehend, however, it might give them an excellent base for mental strength in the future.

What to Expect on race day

It is fun to arrive at the race a bit early so you have time to get adjusted to the environment, set up in the transition area, and take a look at the course.

You should check in for most races well before the race starts. You can usually find a schedule of events on the race’s website or in reminder emails from the race directors.

Survey the race course before the event to get an idea of the layout and where key landmarks are. This will help you locate the swim entrance and exit, as well as the bike and run course checkpoints. You’ll need to visit the registration table to pick up your race information, which may include a race number and timing chip if you pre-registered.

Runners will also have their race information written on their arms and legs. This is done by race volunteers and only takes a minute.

A triathlon is more fun when someone draws numbers on your skin. You can also set up your bike and running equipment in the transition area so it’s ready to go when you get out of the water.

There is a race announcer that will keep everyone informed on what to do. Waves are often done by age group and are usually spaced anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes apart.


We hope this article helped you make a decision about competing in a youth triathlon. It is an amazing sport that not only keeps you active and healthy but is also very fun. The key to any youth activity is to make sure it is enjoyable, and if you can do that we are sure this won’t be your last triathlon.

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