Training for Your First Triathlon? Here’s What You Need to Buy.

Ali Cook Jackson shares her tried-and-true products that have helped her cross the finish lines of triathlons and Ironman competitions.

Background via iStock user Utro_na_more.

It is training season, folks. Many of you have already been training for the upcoming Broad Street Run — a nothing-to-scoff-at ten-mile run.

But if this is your first year you’re dipping your toes into triathlon training — perhaps you’re prepping for the new women-only triathlon this July —  you’ll need the right gear. To get you started on the right foot, we asked local Ironman competitor, triathlete, and owner of Manayunk’s Never Give Up Training, Ali Cook Jackson, to give us a list of her must-have gear.

Below, you’ll find the products Jackson has come to rely on through her years of competing in triathlons. You won’t find a bike however, because Jackson says it’s debatable whether you really need a tri-specific bike — so go ahead and use whatever’s in your garage to get started.

But for the rest of it — from compression clothing to the best race watches and padded bike shorts — Jackson’s got the gear recommendations that’ll get you run, bike, and swim ready.

Babo Botanicals Swim and Sport Shampoo and Wash

“Chlorine is the perfume of all triathletes. It sticks on you, and your hair carries the smell (and damage) for days following. I love the Babo Botanicals Swim and Sport Shampoo and Wash for after every pool-training swim. It is sulfate-free, smells pretty great, and gets the chlorine out of my hair if I use it immediately. It is ACTUALLY a kid shampoo and works well on my toddler, too, for all those mamas who need a multi-purpose product for summer time!” Starting at $11.07 on Amazon.

Lightly Padded Bike Shorts

“I spend anywhere from one to seven hours on my triathlon bike during training. A good tri-short is a 100-percent necessity. No one likes a sore tushy! I don’t like a lot of padding. Reasons are because first, you can’t race in a lot of padding because it would be full of water from the swim, but secondly, I can’t feel the saddle, feel my position or feel the road. I prefer to get my body used to the tough seat, if necessary. The Castelli Tri bottoms are my favorites. They are great compression, fit well around the waist without rolling down, and don’t make you look shapeless.” $99.99 from Castelli.

Roka Women’s Elite HD One-Piece Swimsuit

“My go-to swimsuit for training is my Roka Elite HD One-Piece. Not only has Roka completely perfected the art of compression with these suits, but the fit is perfection for almost any body type!” $60 from Roka.

TYR Alliance Backpack

“To and from the pool, the track, and the gym, this backpack holds all my stuff and then some. It has been my go-to bag for over five years and I get a new one each year so it stays fresh because I love it so much. I love how the clips on the front holds my helmet or bike shoes without taking up room (and smelling up) the inside of my bag.” $59.99 from TYR.

Compression Socks

“For any runs over eight miles or even post-long-workouts, my CEP socks are my go-to. For optimum support and recovery, these let me have the correct blood flow, while supporting my muscles and helping with any — or preventing any —injuries that may come about. I also race in these for marathons and Ironman. I like to jazz it up with some neat colors. They also have sleeves, not a full sock, which I love for the shorter runs or hot, hot days to walk around post-workout with flip flops.” $60 from CEP Compression.

iPod Shuffle (or Nano)

“Call me old school, but I like the shuffle for a number of reasons, but there are two major ones: first, no fuss. Triathletes can’t race with music. I like to mimic race day as much as possible, but lets face it — music is necessary sometimes. I like the forced autopilot of the shuffle. You hook it on you, hit play and you get a mix of all your favorites while you get in the zone — not knowing what’s next which helps the mental aspect of a long run or bike ride for me. Second, it’s not a heavy thing to carry around your arm or waist.” $49.99 from Target.

GPS Multisport Watch

“I use the Garmin Forerunner 935 for training and the 920XT for races. The reason I switch is because, while the Forerunner is supposed to last 24 hours in GPS mode, during an Ironman it died after 11 hours so I won’t risk that again. I love both and don’t leave the house without either one of them. It shows me everything from where I am in the pool or road, my distance, my speed, my heart rate, my lactate threshold, my splits, and more. Definitely worth the high price tag.” $449.99 for the 920XT (left) and $449.99 for the 935 (right) from Garmin.

Lululemon Tight Stuff II Running Tight

“I’m all about the compression and these babies aren’t only cute, but they keep your muscles steady throughout the longest of runs. Love the details, love the fit and love how they feel during a run. I wear these in the fall, winter and spring then switch it up and miss them terribly in the summer when it gets too hot.” $148 from Lululemon.

Alega No-Show Run Socks

“Similar to the need for a good bike short, the need for a run sock that I can run miles and miles in is key to a successful training session for me. I hate bulky run socks. Now, I don’t walk out the door without my Balega socks. They aren’t hot, yet they have great support and compression with the no-show look that I prefer.” Starting at $11.90 on Amazon.

Jaybird Sport Bluetooth Headphones

“These headphones are the only headphones I’ve ever used that stay in my ear with a pool of sweat after biking for four hours and running for 18 directly after. I love them and the never-ending charge they seem to carry. They are easy to hook up, portable, low fuss, and the earpieces come in different sizes — which is amazing. This is a perk, yes, but warning: your significant other or friends may steal them. My husband steals them and switches out the ear piece to fit his ear for his long runs or rides because they are so great.” $179.99 from Jaybird Sports.


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