Triathlon Tips for Kids: Swim, Bike, Run, Fun

triathlonpool-impTriathlons for kids are popping up in communities all across Canada and with the recent announcement from the Active Healthy Kids Canada 2014 Report Card that kids are getting a D- in physically activity levels, this is great to see. Most kids triathlons are based on fun first and not competition and that must be why they are selling out, and FAST!

Recent reports have shown that kids thrive on outdoor free play  and if you watch kids left on their own to keep busy outside they usually do one of 3 things . . .grab their bike and ride off with friends, jump in the neighbours pool to swim or grab a ball and start running.

It is no wonder kids love doing triathlons – it combines 3 of their favorite pastimes.

There is a difference however, in loving to run, bike and swim and combining them all in a triathlon with hundreds of other kids and a goal to cross a finish line. For most, this may be their first organized race-style event and without mom, dad or familiar faces beside them, a race course can seem daunting.

How To Prepare Kids For A Triathlon

triathlonsetup-impWhether it is their first or their 10th, practice is always a good idea. You wouldn’t enter into a 10km run without having run before, and kids, even younger ones, can benefit from a little pre event practice. A walk through of what they will be doing and what to expect will make sure they have fun all the way to the finish line. If your event offers an orientation day, be sure to go and get the layout of the race course ahead of time.

The Swim
A triathlon always starts with a swim. Kids triathlons are set up by age and each age group has a set swim distance. Younger ones swim a short distance in shallow water only and are allowed life jackets or other flotation devices. Swimmers can wear swim caps and googles and need not wear their bib in the swim portion. Most will offer body marking so your little triathlete has his or her number on them at all times!

Once out of the water, the kids will WALK quickly across the pool deck and usually are allowed to run the remainder of the way to the transition area to the spot where they have left their bike and shoes. Make sure your child knows where they left their bike!

The Bike
A quick dry off with a towel, shirt on, shoes on – maybe shorts and socks if desired – THEN a bike helmet with strap DONE UP (A MUST), and the kids can grab their bike and walk out of the transition area to the “On Your Bike” starting line for the bike portion of the event. You may want to practice getting out of a pool, drying off a bit at their bike and riding while still wet – it is not something all kids will be used to and a ‘dry run’ ahead of triathlon day might be a good idea.

Once on their bike they may be required to do loops of the same circuit. Again, depending on age group, the length of the bike course may be fairly long and if many loops are required, parents can help count from the sidelines as you cheer on your athlete.

There will be experienced cyclists on the course at all times with the kids to help in case of flat tires, fallen off chains and to keep them on the right track. When all loops are completed there will be a bike drop off transition area where volunteers will help the kids rack their bikes and store their helmets so they can take off running.

triathlonB-impThe Run
For sure the best part of the whole triathlon. Make sure you are near the spot where the kids come out of transition and start running – the smiles on their faces will be priceless. They know they are going for the finish line!

Some runs are around loops again, others are out and back and some weave through small trails. There will be different distances for each age group, and again, it can be long for older kids, practice ahead of time is so important to enjoying their race day.

Make sure you are at the finish line with camera in hand and excitement. Triathlons can be a lot of fun for kids and it is a great way to introduce them to individual sports and the fun of crossing finish lines and goal setting.

What to Pack
hat, sunscreen, water, flip flops, snacks
goggles, running shoes, bike, helmet, race bib
towel to dry off, blanket to sit on while waiting for events

What to Expect – Sample Distances
3-7 year olds – SWIM 1 width to 1 length (with floatation device), BIKE 500m to 1km, RUN 100m-500m
8-11 year olds – SWIM 1-2 lengths, BIKE 3km-5km, RUN 1km-2km
12-15 year olds – SWIM 4-6 lengths, BIK 7km-9km, RUN 2km-2.5km