Can Kids Do Triathlons? Find out When and How!

eric-awwy By Eric Awwy, 07 Dec 2022

As a parent who loves cycling and following-up cycling events, you’ve probably heard about triathlon. Maybe you’ve heard your kids talk about it or seen people train to compete in Ironman races.

Triathlon is a great sport as far as kids and youth are concerned. If you are looking for a shared activity with your family or a means to get your kids to the outdoors to enjoy the benefits of exercising, triathlon has many valuable benefits for the little ones.

In recent years, we’ve witnessed the rising popularity of mini-triathlons for kids as young as three years old. Some of these events are for fun, while others are exclusively competition-based. Kids with passion and zeal to run, cycle, and swim have the opportunity to hone and showcase their multiple talents and abilities.

You have probably heard of the junior triathlons, where kids 5-10 years come together to compete in basic running, swimming, and bicycling. A lot happens in the background to have kids participating. If you are a parent, you need to get the facts right.

In this article, we will highlight some critical factors about kids’ triathlons, like how to introduce a child to triathlon, so that you are aware and can decide to introduce your child without facing resistance and setting them up for long-term success.

What age is best for kids to get into triathlon?

A triathlon involves three separate events, including swimming, running, and biking. It is a multifaceted sport that takes outdoor love to the next level. Kids can participate in triathlon by competing against other young athletes in swimming, biking, and running races. Although formerly a crazy event linked to Iron Man and Iron Lady, kids can have fun doing triathlons. It is an endurance sport or event that needs physical and psychological strength, so training for it is also necessary.

The minimum age for kids to start and compete in triathlons varies between events, depending on the aim of the event and the policies that the event organizers follow. Kids as young as 3-6 years can compete in introductory triathlon for fun without being pressured or timed. However, per the international triathlon union, the prime age to start a triathlon is 8.

Most of the age group competitions range from 8 years onwards to 30 years. The best performance for youth triathletes is achieved between 25 and 30 years when the triathletes build the endurance, resilience, and strength required for more intensive races. Below are the age group categorizations for kid and youth triathletes (source):

Age Bracket Name

Age Bracket

TriStars Start

8 years

TriStars 1

9-10 years

TriStars 2

11-12 years

TriStars 3

13-14 years


15-16 years


17-19 years

Ways to Introduce Kids to Triathlon

Kids are always willing to explore the thrill of any new sport as long as there is fun and safety. Children never like being dragged into an activity. Instead, they want to flow with it naturally.

One of the greatest and most effective ways to introduce kids to triathlon is to be a triathlete or a tri yourself. You can do it for fun or professionally; it is never too late to train and participate in triathlon events. You can train yourself to cycle, run, and swim, which comprises triathlon.

At an early age, you can turn your backyard into a mini-triathlon training camp. Buy the portable swimming pools for kids and kid-specific bikes (balance bikes or pedal bikes), and let the kids swim, run/walk, and cycle as they develop the psychology of a triathlete. They will reap the benefits of all these three sports, but you must consider their safety first by ensuring they have the proper gear, a professional to look for them, and motivation to participate.

If there are kid's camps and races near you, you can also use that as a chance to introduce the children to the triathlon. Check whether the organizers have training events for young triathletes.

Still, you can invite your kids to join you during family events. For instance, you can involve them in family cycling competitions at a local park or pump up the track, family swim, and have some short races and bike rides. You can set up obstacle courses at local parks, challenge the kids to participate, and award them gifts. While this might appear farfetched, the little things improve their skills and enthuse them into triathlon. The basic things such as playing in the pool, biking with kids, walking, or running eventually set things up in motion.

Tri-training for kids can also take a professional approach. Many budding organizations offer to train young triathletes at an affordable fee. If you are the active type and your kids are interested, enroll them in a triathlon training program. Get them a good coach that will help them nurture their talents and hone their skills. As you struggle with any way to introduce your kiddo into triathlon, be the best mentor they can ever have so that they live up to it. Your positivity and encouragement throughout the journey are vital.

Reasons Kids Should Do Triathlons

Triathlons are the epitome of all competitions in the world of sports. Many wish they had started early enough to smash the IRON Man and Lady competitions.

Lucky enough, if you are a parent who sees a triathlon spirit in your kid, you should explore it early enough so that they develop to become indomitable triathletes in their later years.

Triathlon is a competition for the fastest time, and one learns to transition from one event to another. It takes determination, resilience, and great skill to complete every course.

Completing the entire course without being among the top 10 is not a mean feat. There are many benefits of triathlon for kids, including physical activity, social skills, discipline, a healthy lifestyle, and skill development. Let’s explore them in detail.

1. Builds Social Skills

Triathlon has the advantage of making kids meet and interact with their peers. The child will meet other kids during triathlon training or the main events. Socializing with kids who share the same passion builds strong social skills. The kids learn the importance of communication and handling people from different backgrounds.

2. Discipline

Triathlon, like any other sport, trains kids to be disciplined. Once a child begins training and participating in a triathlon, their mindset shifts.

They become composed and disciplined. They have to train at specific periods, avoid certain foods, and compromise on some behavior that they would otherwise develop if they weren’t budding triathletes.

If the child has a strict coach, they will also learn how to approach issues, talk to people, and generally compose themselves alone and around people.

Triathletes are people who respect their bodies and can always say no to any distractive and destructive habits.

The kids also learn to set their own goals and meet them through honest hard work. Your kid will become self-responsible when they begin to participate in a triathlon.

3. Promotes Healthy Lifestyle

Training for and competing in a triathlon needs extra endurance and resilience. Bringing in the benefits of swimming, running, and cycling on the same plate means optimized health.

Triathletes, kids, and youths need good health to complete the courses. The training helps them develop stamina, stay fit, and become trimmed as sports people.

The preparation entails eating healthy meals, exercising regularly, and sleeping adequately, which promotes healthy development and growth.

Our blog has discussed the pros of introducing kids to cycling. Now imagine combining those health benefits with those of swimming, walking, or running.

Since triathlon races are intense, kids must work out all their muscle groups and train and develop adequate balance, endurance, and strength.

If you have a kid who wants to get outdoors and do crazy or extreme sports, triathlon helps them achieve the goal of building all three.

Kids and youths participating in triathlons are more fit than most kids. They also have a resilient cardiovascular system and stronger muscle tone, and they set up their muscles for good growth.

 Triathletes have well-being compared to non-triathlete kids.

4. Promotes Physical Activity

Not so many kids today have the chance to have at least an hour of physical activity daily. Participating in a triathlon training or event makes the kids stay active, which comes with a hoard of health advantages.

The child triathlete will likely avoid lifestyle diseases such as low bone density, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. They can beat all these by staying active, which promotes energy balance, improved cardiovascular health, mental health, and other health benefits.

5. Skill Development

Triathlon events are time-based competitions, and men compete against time, just like in a cycling time trial. Kids eventually develop essential skills in cycling, swimming, and running.

They fine-tune their skills each time they train in readiness for the competition. If your child is a slow runner, they eventually pace up and become faster through regular exercises.

 You will be amazed that within a few months of training, your kid becomes a sprinter and swimmer and develops other excellent skills that set them up for success. The triathletes who train often find the training rewarding.

A kid who does a triathlon can become a lifesaver in case an event occurs, and there are no lifeguards at a public pool. The beauty is that they carry these skills into adulthood.

Gear to Get Kids Training for or to participate in a triathlon

Triathletes, like any other multisport athletes, are gear junkies. However, this is not yet the place to have a backpack or suitcase full of tech items and other just-in-case items. Triathletes travel light and need only the basic stuff. Getting all the prerequisite equipment can be cumbersome, given that kids eventually outgrow their gear. If you are wondering what to buy for a kids’ triathlon, here is a list of the essential equipment:

  1. Swimming goggles
  2. Bikes
  3. A fitness tracker or smartwatch
  4. Bike helmet
  5. Bike gloves
  6. Running shoes
  7. Cycling shoes
  8. Clothing (athletic shorts and shirt, jerseys, bib shorts, and a swimsuit)

These are the basic gear to get your kids started with triathlon. You are probably wondering where to get this gear for the kids’ triathlon. We recommend using what you have when introducing the kids to the sport. There is no need to go in with a heavy investment when you are not so sure your kid will hold the love for triathlon that long. You can let them train using their bikes, exercise clothes, and swimming costumes; they will be comfortable in them from the start. However, as they advance the budget, they will have the items listed above per the preference of triathlon race organizers.

Only do the basics if you purchase the triathlon gear for your kids. Talk with your kid about the three sports involved and agree to get them the basic gear essentials. You can also buy used items and gear, which can help you save money on kids’ triathlon gear. Consider that size, weight, and proportions can change faster than expected, and spending on fancier gear will only mean short-term efficiency.

It does not make sense to spend that much, especially for triathlons with young competitors and not so much prize money. You can get a secondhand kid's bike and cover its high costs because it is the biggest expenditure for triathletes.

You can borrow from friends who are not participating or consider renting a well-fitting kids’ bike. When making such decisions, explain to your child so they are not distracted from the competition.

Whatever way you choose to acquire the gear, ensure that the child has a well-fitting cycling helmet (which they truly love), swimming caps, race belt, race bib, towels, water bottles, t-shirts, shorts, and sneakers.

If the child is swimming in a swimming pool, you should consider getting them a swimsuit. You can also get them a tri-suit if you want them to save time in the transition. The swimsuit should be skintight and well-fitting. Consider the tri suit if they perform in open waters with moderately low temperatures. An excellent example of a kids tri suit is the Hyperflex Access Unisex wetsuit or the DIVE and Sail Kids wetsuit.  

Access essential training guides (in pdf format) from the Dental Center.

Triathlon Distances for Kid, Youth, and Junior Triathletes

If you are preparing your kids for a triathlon and want to set race distances for them, the Team USA experts recommend that you never put the children into races that are longer than they can cover.

You are developing a triathlete, and setting manageable distances gives them a spirit of competing with themselves and finishing rather than abandoning things halfway.

Even though there is no age limit for triathletes, it is vital to set the distances as highlighted below (source):


Recommended Distances

7-10 years

50-100m Swim / 2-3km bike / 100m-1km run

11-12 years

200m Swim / 5-7km bike / 2km run

12-15 years

Super Sprint ≤ 500m Swim / 10km bike / 3km run

15-18 years

Sprint Distance ≤ 750m Swim / 20km bike / 5km run

18-23 years

Olympic Distance ≤ 1500m Swim / 40km bike /10km run

As Justine Trolle or Team USA advised, the distances above ensure the safety of the kids who participate in endurance events. It is also an excellent way to ensure that the kids carry their triathlon mojo for the long term rather than having a short stint. It is vital to pick age-appropriate races and ones that match the ability of the kids and youths.

If you are dealing with kids aged 3-7 years, whom you want to introduce to competitive triathlon competition soon as they hit eight years, below are some distances to consider during training. These are the recommended triathlon distances according to the World Triathlon.


Recommended Distances


25m Swim/500m cycling/ 100m run


50m Swim/ 1 Km cycling/ 400 m run

Generally, kids take an average of 30% more time than adult triathletes. The average time depends on the age group category, time classification, and distances. Competitively, here is what to expect (source)

Age Group


Swim(open water)

Bike (Grass)

Bike (Tarmac)


TriStars Start






TriStars 1






TriStars 2






TriStars 3






Youth and Junior






Before you go …

Introducing your child to triathlon could be one of your best decisions. However, it does not just stop at the introduction; you have to walk with them on the journey as they develop and become avid triathletes crushing ironman and iron lady competitions. Read through our next article on how to travel with kids and bikes; you could need it as you prepare to travel around to the triathlon competitions.

How to Travel with Kids and Bikes

And if you are looking for the best places to train and feel like pump tracks and bike parks would cut it, read our article on some kid-friendly cycling areas around the USA.

List of Kid-Friendly Cycling Parks and Pump Tracks in the USA

Get your kid out there, prepare well, and crush that mini-triathlon. This 8-week triathlon training plan can come in handy; you can customize it to your kids’ needs and yours.

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