Why You Should Sign Up For a Triathlon
Maybe you already have a good reason for wanting to do a triathlon. Maybe you want to check it off your bucket list. Maybe you need a better reason to go to Hawaii than to sip cocktails on the beach. But for some reason you still can’t bring yourself to sign up for one. Maybe the word “triathlon” sends chills up your spine and you couldn’t possibly come up with a single reason why you would sign up to do one. Whatever your situation is, if any of the following apply to you, you are ready to sign up for a triathlon:
- You’ve run out of 5Ks and 10Ks to do
- The numbers 13.1 & 26.2 don’t scare you anymore
- You want to try something new
- You like challenges
- You already cross-train
- You want to know if you look good in a wetsuit
- You are a runner
- You are a human being
Being a competitive triathlete at UCLA for 4 years, I can firsthand tell you how triathlons have changed my life. But don’t take it from me, I’m sure you have that one friend who has made sure to tell you that they’ve done one. I’m sure they told you how tough it was but that it was a fun experience and they’re happy they did it. What they may have failed to mention is that it challenged them in an entirely new way and they discovered physical and mental strength they didn’t even know they had!
There are few sports that fully evoke the sense of what it means to be human. Triathlon is one of them, consisting of 3 sports, independently amicable, combined together to create a whole new beast. More than just a test of physical ability, a triathlon forces you to soar past the limits of your comfort zone to test what you’re really made of.
Whenever I mention that I do triathlons to someone, the first thing they say is, “Wow! I want to do one someday!” When I suggest they should sign up for one, they come up with a million excuses why they can’t. “I don’t have time to train”, “I don’t have a nice bike”, or my personal favorite, “I can’t swim.” Don’t be one of those people that says “I can’t”. You’ll never know what you can do until you tri! (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)
A standard sprint triathlon, the shortest triathlon distance, is a 750m swim, 20K (12.4 mile) bike, and 5K run. That is where all first-timers should start. If that seems daunting to you now, it will probably seem equally as, if not more daunting when you are at the start line. The only way you are going to know if you can do a triathlon is if you actually do it. There’s no other way around it!
Here’s more good news: training for a triathlon is fun! You don’t need that much extra time out of your schedule to train for a sprint distance. Besides, cross-training is actually beneficial for runners. It strengthens muscles and prevents injury. If you’re suffering from a nagging injury, training for a triathlon might be the perfect excuse for you to lighten up the miles hitting the pavement. Even if you don’t have an injury, breaking up the monotony of running is healthy.
Cycling builds up your endurance and targets your quads and hamstrings while being easy on the knees. Warning: you might find it so fun to be whizzing through the great outdoors on two wheels that you will want to go for long rides on the weekends instead of runs!
The swim portion is what deters so many people from signing up for a triathlon. Don’t try to tell me there are sharks in this lake, I know what you’re really scared of! If you have no confidence in your swimming abilities, don’t think that you have to be the best swimmer with perfect form to compete in a triathlon. That’s not the point. The point is that you have to get from point A to point B without drowning. You think I’m kidding, but there’s not much more to it than that. Even for the best swimmers, that’s the ultimate goal, make it through the swim to get to the bike leg. It doesn’t have to be that scary! There are tons of resources out there to help you get started. Once you get into a routine, you will be surprised how quickly you start to feel comfortable in the water. As for cross-training benefits, swimming is excellent for your cardiovascular health, and being a non-impact sport, will save you from stress injuries.
One aspect of triathlons that is fatally overlooked is transitions. Personally, I am awful at them. My friends used to ask me if I was making a sandwich somewhere in between getting off my bike and putting my running shoes on. If you are someone who takes their sweet time in moving from one task to the next, triathlons can help with that. I was so humiliated by my friends’ suggestion that I started practicing my transitions and realized I was over-thinking something so simple as taking my helmet off and lacing up my running shoes! After that I became aware of other simple tasks that I was over-thinking in daily life. I’m still not the fastest in transition, but at least no one can say I’m making sandwiches now!
I should mention that by signing up for a triathlon you are also signing up for new friends. The triathlon community is filled with motivated and friendly people that want to help you accomplish your goals. I’ve made life-long friends from it. You especially feel a sense of community at races. Often the atmosphere at running races can be a bit competitive due to runners trying to get PRs or place on the podium. You won’t feel that as much at triathlons because the goal of the majority of the people is just to cross the finish line. They’re in the same boat as you! (Hopefully not the paramedic boat). They signed up for a triathlon, trained for it, and showed up at the race. Though your motivations may differ, you can relate to them on the same level that you were crazy enough to sign up for a triathlon. Did I say crazy? I meant completely sane. You would be crazy NOT to sign up for one!
If you’re still not convinced, I think you’d be more inclined to sign up for a triathlon if you’ve actually witnessed one. You can feel the high energy at a triathlon race. Watching people of all ages and abilities stagger out of the water with swollen faces and purple feet, smiling at you, you can’t help but wish you were them. It looks like they are in complete agony but are enjoying it.
Whatever it is that motivates you to inevitably sign up for a triathlon, you become an inspiration for those around you whether you realize it or not. When your friends and family see you dedicate yourself to training for a triathlon, you are setting an example for them. So if doing a triathlon for yourself isn’t enough, do it for someone who could use your inspiration.
Most importantly, when you complete a triathlon, you get to call yourself a triathlete. When you cross that finish line, you prove something to yourself. Whether it’s that you did something you thought you couldn’t do, or that you committed to something and followed through, you pushed the boundaries of your comfort zone. It is so empowering to look back at something you once thought of as scary or impossible and realize you overcame it. So if doing a triathlon terrifies you, that is exactly why you need to sign up for one! If you can prove to yourself that you can do a triathlon, what else can you do? (Hint: Olympic distance triathlon).