Today in the chart

Have You Ever Considered Trying a Triathlon? 

Triathlon season runs from March through November in the US, and what many people don’t know is that the season is filled with hundreds of sprint triathlons all over the country.

If reading that headline made you want to throw your phone against the wall, we apologize. We promise that we’re not trying to throw one more seemingly impossible idea onto your to-do list or your pipe-dreams-you’ll-never-accomplish list. If the idea of swimming, biking, and running in a race just for fun makes you want to curl up on your bed, we won’t judge. But hear us out. You might be surprised—or you might still hate us for today, and that’s okay too. But we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t stretch your horizons or inspire a few new ideas now and then.

First, we’re not talking about the Ironman, an incredible test of endurance that includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and then wraps up with a complete marathon run (26.2 miles). And we’re not talking about an Olympic-length triathlon, which is a 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike ride, and a 10 km run. If you’re already a triathlete or have done a few triathlons before, perhaps you’ll want to consider challenging yourself this season with an Olympic-length triathlon or longer, but we’re talking to the triathlon virgins here.

Triathlon Season

Triathlon season runs from March through November in the US, and what many people don’t know is that the season is filled with hundreds of sprint triathlons all over the country. A sprint triathlon is like a baby triathlon, with different lengths. The shortest, for example, is a super sprint: 400 m swim, 10 km bike ride (6.2 miles), and a 2.5 km run (1.6 miles). A standard sprint triathlon is a 750 m swim, a 20 km bike ride (12.4 miles), and a 5 km run. But a lot of local places will run sprint triathlons that vary these distances a bit.

They also vary in terms of the course. For example, the swim is in a pool for some races but open water, such as a lake or even the ocean, for others. The bike course may be flat most of the way or very hilly. The run is typically on pavement, but some places change it up with a run through a forest trail or, for the particularly masochistic folks, a sandy beach. (We don’t recommend sandy beach runs for newbies!)

So now you know the options, but why on earth would you attempt one? To which we say, why not? (Don’t worry — we’ll give you more reasons than that.) Of course, we don’t know your fitness level or your current workout routine, but we’ll bet some of you can look at those distances above and think, “Huh, I could probably do that or at least work up to it.”

Others reading this may not be physically able to do one of those short triathlons, or at least not yet. If you have a disability, you might consider whether paratriathlons will occur in your area. Also, if you’re carrying some extra weight, even a lot of extra weight, running might be painful or risky because of the pressure it puts on your joints. But one of the beautiful things about triathlons is that you’re never really competing against other people. Instead, you’re competing against yourself, meaning you can adapt a triathlon to be whatever you need it to be to finish it.

Just because the 5km run is called a “run” doesn’t mean you have to run. You could fast walk, or even slow walk, the whole thing. No one will give you grief for pausing for a break during the swim or the bike sections. If you’ve never done a triathlon, you have only one goal: finish it. Even if you’re last, even if you cross the finish line an hour after everyone else, finish. And that brings us to one of the reasons we’re pushing you to consider doing a triathlon this season: the sense of accomplishment you get when you casually mention to your friends that, oh, you just did a triathlon this summer. No biggie. Or, get your friends to join you: do a 2- or 3-person relay triathlon with each person competing in the stretch that they’re best at.

Stress levels remain high, tempers are short, shifts are long, and patience is dwindling. It’s been a long, hard couple of years. Most of us are beaten down to our lowest. Stress levels remain high, tempers are short, shifts are long, and patience is dwindling. So deciding to do something you would never have considered in the past can give you a renewed sense of purpose and vigor. Workout routines get stale, and one way to change them is to have a goal you’re working toward. While those competing in Ironman and Olympic-length triathlons will usually spend months training, many people can work up to the lengths of a spring triathlon over a few weeks, depending on their current baseline fitness level. Even people who aren’t very active or carrying a lot of extra weight can usually train over six to eight weeks enough to complete a triathlon.

Triathletes Come In All Sizes

Before you say you don’t want anyone seeing you in a swimsuit, consider that triathletes come in all sizes. Many people participating in local, recreational triathlon races qualify as obese based on their BMI, but they don’t let it stop them, as this “Diary of an Overweight Triathlete” shows. Others use training for a triathlon as their plan to lose excess weight and become healthier. Many local triathlons even have a separate division for heavier competitors: “Athena” for women and “Clydesdale” for men.

We could list other benefits of triathlons; meeting cool people in a new community, finding workout partners, riding your bike more often with your family, and strengthening muscle, but the main reason to do a triathlon is just because you can, and so you can say you did. So, if we haven’t convinced you, that’s okay, but if we have convinced you to at least think about it, here are some links to get you started:

  • Trifind will help you find all the triathlon competitions in your area.
  • Trinewbies is precisely what it sounds like; a resource site for newbies.
  • This article provides an overview of how to get started with training.
  • (By the way, not everyone trains or follows a set schedule, especially for sprint triathlons. Some people just wing it. You do you.)
  • Still not ready to compete against others in person? There are virtual races too!

(PS: If you decide to do a triathlon after reading this article, let us know how it went!)

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