Triathlon is one of the world’s most difficult sports, and it takes an immense amount of training and skill to be able to compete in even an entry-level triathlon event.
It's a sport that requires immense amounts of endurance and a strong mindset, as the combination of different types of sports into one huge event would daunt even the most dedicated and professional of athletes, which is why triathlon often only attracts a niche crowd of athletes who are able and willing to face the immense challenges that the sport imposes on competitors.
This isn’t to say that only elite athletes can compete in a triathlon, however, and there is a very active and dedicated amateur following for triathlon events, as many people value the immense reward and challenge that the sport provides, as well as the hugely beneficial fitness benefits that training for a triathlon can provide you.
In this guide, we’re going to look at what a triathlon actually consists of, as well as some history about the sport and how events work to give you a better understanding of whether this is something you’d be interested in participating in.
We’re also going to look at how hard it would be for you to start training for a triathlon, and what you’d need to do to best prepare yourself for this Herculean undertaking.
But let's start with the basics.
What Is A Triathlon?
A triathlon is a type of endurance focused race that consists of several different sports all rolled into one competition/event.
As a multisport, triathlon consists of swimming, cycling, and running, and these are done over varying distances with no breaks in between (except to mount/dismount bikes).
Triathletes compete to finish as quickly as possible, racing each different part of the competition sequentially, with any time transitioning between the different segments included in the final time.
The sport is one of the most difficult in the world, as it requires immense endurance as well as skill in three very different sports that require an incredible amount of effort to become proficient in.
Triathletes train very hard to achieve peak strength and endurance as well as coordination and speed, and will often have to spend a lot of time learning each of the three disciplines independently as well as working on general strength and fitness conditioning to ensure that their bodies are as well rounded as possible for the various demands of these different sports.
What Is The History Of The Triathlon?
Triathlon is a sport that is actually quite old, and it has its heritage based in various multi-event races held in France during the 1920s, however by the 1970s more specific and codified rules were starting being used, particularly in California where many sports clubs and individual athletes began developing the sport in earnest.
The disparate nature of the sport and its origins means that there are many different formats of triathlon and several variations that are all popular to this day.
This has also led to other three-stage or multi-event sports using the name triathlon even though they don’t use a continuous swim, cycle, and run format which is the main format of modern triathlon.
How Does Triathlon Work?
As previously mentioned, triathlons are made up of three phases, a swim, a cycle and a run, and these usually happen in this order.
Typically, the swim is the shortest element of a triathlon competition in the standard format, and this phase is often completed in open water, which means triathletes need to use a wetsuit designed for swimming.
After this, triathletes will rise out of the water and dive straight onto their road bikes as quickly as possible, while donning helmets and shedding wetsuits.
This phase of the triathlon is the longest in the standard format and can range up to tens of kilometres depending on the particular course and event.
After the cycle, the standard triathlon usually finishes with a run that is a significant distance but often quite a bit shorter than the cycling phase.
Triathletes all compete at the same time so there can be significant numbers of athletes all competing for both space and position, and crowding can be a huge issue.
Often hundreds or even thousands of competitors will be racing at the same time, so there’s a lot of competition to deal with in these events, which is why training hard and getting out in front is so important.
Can Anyone Be A Triathlete?
Speaking of training, it's important to note that triathlons are absolutely not for the faint of heart or mind. These events are grueling.
While most people would finish an open water swim and be finished for the day, triathletes are only a third of the way through their ordeal, and have to immediately transition to a very long bike ride and a run, and the nature of these different sports means that athletes need to be incredibly well rounded in order to succeed and do so safely.
However, with the right training and commitment, almost anyone can become a triathlete, and even if you’re not the most dedicated sportsperson, a triathlon can be an excellent event to participate in and is very rewarding, while also being an excellent motivator to get into better shape and broaden your sporting horizons.
Triathlon may not be one of the world’s most popular sports, but it's definitely growing in popularity as people seek new challenges and the huge health benefits that come with the demands of triathlon training.
If you’re looking for something new to try or a real challenge, triathlon may well be the perfect choice for you, so consider looking for your next event and preparing for one of the most exhilarating and challenging undertakings of your life!