"Life is a positive-sum game. . . . Everyone from the gold medalist to the last finisher can rejoice in a personal victory."
Remember when you were a kid? Think back for a minute and remember a time that was simpler, less worrisome, and, well, more fun. Think about how you used to play: chasing your friends, pedaling your first bike, going to the beach. Hear your friends shouting, “Let’s jump in the pool! Let’s go bike riding! Race you to the corner!”
In a sense, we all grew up as triathletes. Sure, we may not have swum, biked, and run in that order or traversed any significant distances, but we knew the fun of mixing things up a bit. For playful, energetic children who craved fun, running, cycling, and swimming were three common summertime activities.
Everybody has his or her unique motivation for getting involved in a new activity, but I’ve always felt that one of the greatest lures of the multisport world is the sheer enjoyment of combining three different and challenging physical activities into one exciting sport.
During a recent beginners’ triathlon seminar put on by the Chicago Triathlon Club, a revelation hit me as I looked at those assembled. The attendees were no longer frustrated runners, limping to the triathlon to relieve their overstressed ligaments. Nor were they prune-skin swimmers, tired of following the black line at the bottom of the pool. Pedal-happy cyclists looking for a new reason to shave their legs? Nope.
Most of the attendants were true newcomers to the sport, many with little athletic background or training knowledge. They were the homemaker who never even ran a 10K, the construction worker who could barely swim one pool length, and the nurse who hadn’t been on her Schwinn since high school. All of them were eager to become active participants in multisports, achieve fitness, and find personal satisfaction in doing triathlons.
More and more people today—regardless of their background or athletic talent—are interested in total fitness. The type of person who seeks to become a triathlete nowadays is, on average, just that—an average person wanting to achieve something extraordinary in his or her life. Sometimes there’s a specific motivation—a life turn or wake-up call to embrace a healthier, fitter lifestyle. No matter where you’ve come from and why you’re seeking to “tri” all three, triathlon is the ideal sport of the new millennium for many reasons.
Triathlons give you the refreshing, invigorating feeling of swimming in a lake or ocean, cycling on roads that take you through striking countryside scenery, and running on a pristine trail or path. How else can you experience nature in three distinct ways, all in the span of a few hours? Granted, not all triathlon venues are located in national or state parks. Sometimes the scenery from the bike consists entirely of metal skyscrapers. Still, with the exception of indoor multisport events and big-city races, the great outdoors makes the triathlon a feast for the senses and a welcome respite from urban blight.
If you’ve ever trained for a single sport event, such as a marathon or a long bike ride, then you know how monotonous training can get. Multisport training brings variety back to your workout routine. The simple act of doing a different workout each day will be a real lift to your body, mind, and spirit. The variety will also increase the odds that you stay on track and reap the many health benefits of triathlon, such as increased fitness, better health, and a more active lifestyle.
For many people, fitness is drudgery. It’s a daily or weekly chore, something that has to be done on a regular basis, like cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, or paying the bills. You see it all the time in health clubs—frustrated men and women who monotonously and joylessly push themselves on stationary machines for the sole purpose of burning calories or shaving those love handles. They never look like they’re having fun, which is probably why most New Year’s fitness resolutions don’t last past the first day of spring.
Exercise doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, exercise can be fun, especially when you have three sports to work with. Sure, you’ll have to work hard and get your heart rate up, but who says it has to be drudgery? If part of your purpose in pursuing multisports is losing weight and getting into shape, that’s OK. Just try to keep it lighthearted, and you might find that you’ll achieve your goals regarding weight or physique without feeling like you’re mopping the kitchen floor.
This is an excerpt from Triathlon 101.