Why You Should Try a Triathlon

Posted On Oct 4, 2013 By Tom Holland


The sport of triathlon has absolutely exploded in popularity over the past decade, with more and more people each year choosing to swim, bike and run as part of their overall fitness plan. There are numerous reasons for this meteoric rise in triathlon participation, all of them the exact same reasons why you, too, should try a tri if you haven't yet.

It's a Great Goal.

Success in fitness is contingent upon setting concrete goals with dates for achieving them. Having a triathlon several months away on your calendar will give your workouts purpose and make getting out the door much more likely. The constant variation in training will help keep you stimulated mentally as well.

Tris Have Built-in "Muscle Confusion."

One of the keys to seeing results from your fitness program is to constantly mix it up. A triathlon by definition involves three sports, four if you include strength training. Training to swim, bike and run all at the same time will ensure that you keep your body challenged while avoiding hitting the dreaded "plateau."

Injury-preventing Cross-Training.

Triathlon training involves engaging in complementary exercise modalities, which is the very definition of cross-training. Doing any one of the sports involved exclusively can lead to overuse injuries; engaging in all three simultaneously will keep your body in balance and significantly lessen the likelihood of injury. I often say that almost all runners will eventually become "accidental triathletes" after they are forced to cross-train to rehabilitate an overuse injury. The muscle-activation patterns involved in swimming, biking and running are a perfect blend that will help make you bullet-proof without any weak links.

You Don't Have to Be Good at Any One Thing.

I hate swimming. It's not a sport; it's a means to keep from drowning. Even after 21 Ironman triathlons I'm still not great at it, but it's not an issue because I can make up for the weakness on the bike and run. Triathlon is the great equalizer: You don't have to be really good at any one sport if you want to be competitive; you just have to balance out your training to accommodate any weakness you may have.

It's Fun.

As I wrote in my book The 12-Week Triathlete, triathlon is just like a great summer day as a kid – swimming, biking and running. Most people seldom do any of these things on a consistent basis, much less all three in the same day!

There are four standard distance triathlons to choose from:

Sprint: .3 mile swim/12 mile bike/3.1 mile run

Olympic: .9 mile swim/24.9 mile bike/6.2 mile run

Half-Ironman: 1.2 mile swim/56 mile bike/13.1 mile run

Ironman: 2.4 mile swim/112 mile bike/26.2 mile run

So you can start by conquering the shortest distance and continually challenge yourself by working up to the longer distances if you choose, or you may decide to stick with the shorter distances and work on improving your times in all three disciplines.

So try your first tri – I guarantee you'll be glad you did!