Transitions in triathlon

This month, Cat Benger from ABCpure is our guest blogger. Thanks so much Cat, let’s start off our training this year as we mean to go on!
ABC are our go-to experts for all matters triathlon, they provide bespoke & intelligent training for triathletes of all levels. If you want to make a difference with your training talk to Cat, you’ll find it worthwhile. Here is Cat’s take on transitions in triathlons:

In the world of triathlon, transitions are often referred to as the 4th discipline as your transition time counts towards your total race time. If you transition faster, you’ll race faster!

For clarity, there are two:

T1: The swim to bike transition

T2: The bike to run transition.

Many triathletes find the transitions a tricky element of the race but just like swim, bike and run, transitions can also be trained. Transitioning is defined as: ‘change from one form, state or style to another’. For triathletes, this means we are going from swimming where we are horizontal in the water, to cycling where we are being semi supported on our bikes, to then supporting ourselves on the run.

This piece will focus on 2 keys elements:

  • Training the body to transition
  • The practical organisation of T1 and T2.

Training the body to transition

Throughout the event we are using different muscle groups and there will be a shift in blood flow, predominantly from the upper body during the swim to the lower body during the bike and run legs.

Swimming primarily involves utilisation of the upper body and core muscles for propulsion, whereas the lower limbs are being used mainly for balance. It is the opposite for cycling and running, these disciplines predominantly use the muscles in the lower limbs albeit in different ways. A key difference between cycling and running is the hip angle, being more closed whilst cycling, then open during the run leg. This forces slightly different muscle patterns where the load between the glutes, quads and hamstrings are varied and thus feels very foreign for the first time in attempting running off the bike.

Training our bodies to cope and adapt to these changes can be achieved through a brick workout (linking two disciplines), swim to bike or bike to run. The most common brick is the bike to run transition, although swim to bike can also be practised and should not be overlooked. These sessions can be incorporated into your training programme.

It is useful to understand as we proceed throughout a race from swim, to bike to run our perceived effort and heart rate rises. Through brick sessions this can be experienced and understood.

In a race situation, the following tips will aid you to transition effectively from one discipline to the next:

  • Swim to bike: Towards the end of the swim leg, (final 100m), increase the rhythm of your kick to encourage and enhance blood flow to the lower limbs.
  • Bike to run: In the final few km’s of the bike, spin the legs out in a lighter gear to help ease the load.

It is during transitions, in particular T1, where the heart rate will peak and be at its highest. To cope with this take your time, ‘hurry slowly’ when you exit the water and until you have found your feet

Once you and your body are accustomed to and know what to expect next, a 2nd key element to a slick T1 and T2 is all about being organised and having a process to reduce the ‘phaff’.

How to organise your kit in transition with helpful tips for race day

You do not need the kitchen sink, just take what you need; space in transition is at a premium – with the adrenaline flowing and heart rate pumping you want to keep it simple!

  • Know where you have racked your bike. Identifying a permanent landmark can help.
  • Know your entry and exit points. Walking the routes can aid familiarisation.
  • A bright coloured towel can be used to help identify your spot. Place your towel and gear on the side which has the most space and away from other competitors’.
  • Place your kit in the order you will use it, i.e. closest to you being the bike kit.
  • Have the chin strap on your helmet undone.
  • Leave your bike in the correct / an easy gear to ride away from T1 in.

So what could possibly go wrong!? I think it’s fair to say if you have not built in brick sessions to your training programme and / or not simulated T1 and T2 then there are some adaptations and time savings to be made!


You can find out more about ABCpure at, follow them on Twitter  or contact Cat directly at

Lawton Gate House,
7 Hill Street, Richmond,
London, TW9 1SX

020 8332 1132