Cert. no 9701
The reputation and participation numbers of triathlon is going from strength to strength. Since the modern form of the sport developed in the 1970s, there has been a steady rise in those who are challenging themselves with the swim-bike-run combo. However the rise is more noticeable in recent times. The Brownlee brothers may not be household names however it is safe to say that with the extra sporting focus on potential gold medal winners at the 2012 Games, they are certainly more prominent than triathletes gone by. An example of this would be that it is a safe bet to assume that recreational athletes and those interested in sport will know more about Alistair and Jonny than they would do about Simon Lessing, who won five Olympic distance world titles. All are British, all have shown exceptional ability within this sport, but only the brothers are reaping the rewards of the increased exposure.
Truth be told, Alistair and Jonny are athletes of supreme ability. Both have been known to run sub-29 minute 10k times in the running segments of the event. This time is only one minute shy of making the British team for the 10k Olympic race. Imagine their speeds with fresh legs! It is predicted that their performances at the Olympics will lead to a whole new generation of triathletes for both competitive and recreational purposes.
A triathlon consists of four disciplines; swim, bike, run and transitions. For the recreational athlete, the transition segment may prove to be nothing more than a brief respite before the next stage of the arduous challenge, but for the elite performers, this is not where you can win a race, but get it wrong and you could certainly lose it.
Going the distance
One of the reasons that the event has become so popular over recent times may lie in the variety of distances that can be covered depending on your fitness and goals. There are five different recognised distances, ranging from the super sprint which involves a 400m swim, 10km bike and a 2.5km run; all the way through to the Ironman which is one of the most challenging mass participation races consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle and 26.2 mile run. From novices to ultra-endurance athletes, there seems an event for everyone.
Another reason that some come to triathlon is through sheer frustration that they can no longer train for long distance running events without picking up injuries. Instead they attempt to do an amount of running that their body finds achievable but with an addition of the swim and cycle segments to create a significantly greater challenge.
Figures for 2010 from British Triathlon show that there were 132,325 race starters with 59% of participants being male. The largest category by age was 35-41 which contributed to 41% of participants. It is often thought that triathlon is solely for the affluent, and to a degree these statistics may reinforce this as it is likely that this age range is more likely to hold some element of disposable income. However, contrary to some beliefs, this is a sport that doesn’t require a great deal of expense. Of course you can go and spend a fortune on a top of the range bike, swimsuit and trainers but these can also be purchased for a very reasonable price if you shop around intelligently. More so, there is an even cheaper alternative developing in gyms around the country, the indoor triathlon.
Indoor triathlons can theoretically incorporate the same swim, bike and run utilising the pool, stationary bikes and treadmills of a gym. However logistically this isn’t particularly effective due to the ‘dripping’ issue following the swim phase. Instead, many gyms and health facilities offer an alternate version of row, cycle and run. The rowing action will mimic some of the upper body muscular requirements that you get from swimming offering this as a similar challenge to a traditional triathlon or to be utilised for ‘brick’ training purposes for those training for the real deal.
Those who wish to compete in triathlons train by mixing their individual sport session with a brick session. Brick training involves a combination of different cardiovascular exercises into a single session. As with training for any component of fitness for sport, specificity is the key and in order to convince the body to adapt to transitions between swimming, cycling and running, we need to construct specific training programmes to simulate the sport. The idea is that you need to fit the different disciplines, ‘bricks’, together in order to be a successful performer.
Bricks simulate the effect of race conditions on tired legs and encourage different muscles to be recruited as the triathlete transfers from one sport to the next. Usually, bricks are performed from bike to run, but can also refer to swim to bike and run to bike workouts. If performed in a gym environment a variety of approaches can be adopted. The importance of performing bricks once or twice in a weekly training programme cannot be overstated. They prepare the body to adapt to moving at speed from one discipline to the next. This not only builds up confidence in your own physical ability but is also an excellent form of mental rehearsal.
If you’ve never given triathlon a go, why not try it out, and see what all the fuss is about? You can take baby steps by starting out in the gym and see if you want to take it on from there. All the signs are that it will continue to catch the imagination of a wide range of people and following this summer, I predict the upward trend will continue.
YMCAfit have developed a one day Triathlon training course for fitness professionals who wish to support clients who take part in the sport. For more information about this course, or any of YMCAfit’s training courses, please contact 020 7343 1850 or email email@example.com.