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Triathlon for Runners Series: 5 Reasons To Give Triathlons a Shot

This week we kick off a new series focused on triathlon information for runners.  Since we know cross training is good for runners and biking and swimming are popular cross training exercise, why not mix it up and add a triathlon race to your calendar?   Lana, from her blog The Fire Inside offered her expertise in this topic in response to our Help Wanted ad a few months ago.   We were excited to have this marathoner turned Ironman share her knowledge with the Lounge.


By Lana Matthews Sain

Running is a great sport.  It keeps our heart healthy, our body strong, and our mind clear.  Just running mile after mile, day in and day out, though, can put you at risk for injury and/or burnout.  Ever had a doctor or a trainer tell you to incorporate some cross training in your schedule?  We all know that we need to mix it up some, but if the elliptical just isn’t doing it for you, how about a triathlon?  I can think of a gazillion reasons to get into triathlon, but for starters, here are of five of the big ones:


1. Swimming and biking are more fun than the elliptical!  Pounding the pavement daily can really wear on your joints, so we all know that cross training is important.  Swimming is the absolute best form of cross training, because there is no impact involved.  If you get involved in a masters swim club, you can actually make it competitive, too!  Cycling is the same way.  There is bound to be a cycling club somewhere near you, and getting out on group rides in the early morning or the evening is a blast.  You can also cover a lot more ground on a bike than on foot, making your workout way more interesting.


2. Swimming and biking can make you a better runner. I think one of the main things that keep runners from crossing over into triathlon is the fear of losing their running fitness.  That’s understandable, because for most of us, that fitness hasn’t come easy.  While there is much merit to the benefits of specificity in your training, there is also much evidence that the benefits gained from swimming and cycling can actually improve your performance as a runner.  For example, swimming requires you to engage your core muscles.  Many runners suffer from a weak core.  If you’ve found yourself falling off your pace in the late miles of a long run or race, more than likely a stronger core would help keep you stronger to the end.  By the same token, cycling helps strengthen your quads.  You know how badly your quads suffer from the down hills on a hilly running course, right?  Cycling will make them stronger, and you’ll have better runs on those hilly courses.  Both sports also strengthen your aerobic capacity, as well. 


3. Triathlon involves strategy.  If you like to strategize how to beat your competition in a foot race, you will love the strategy involved in triathlon.  Not only will you have to decide where to go hard and where to save a little for the run at the end, but you will also have to come up with the best process to get you in and out of transition.  Transition time alone can sometimes be the determining factor in who will win an age group, and who will come in 4th  or 5th.  There are all kinds of ways to gain an advantage in triathlon, and it’s up to you to figure out what will work best in your situation.


4. Prevent burnout.  Most runners inevitably suffer from some form of burnout from time to time.  Sometimes we change our routes or run with different people to mix it up, but triathlon can really shake things up for you!  Triathletes always have another option when burnout sets in.  If you are tired of running, go for a bike ride!  If you are tired of biking, hit the pool.  Having three different sports to turn to almost ensures that you never end up in that deep, black hole that is burnout.


5. Meet new peeps!  While this one may not directly affect your physical fitness, it may be one of the best reasons to get involved in triathlon, yet.  There are so many amazing people in this sport – from the pros on down to the amateurs and age groupers; you will no doubt meet friends in this sport that will change your life.  There is a common aurora around the multisport scene that’s just hard to describe until you experience it.  We’re all out there alone and for different reasons, but whether you are a professional triathlete going for the podium or just out there trying to make it to the finish line, we’re somehow all in it together.  You can feel that in this sport.  You can see it in the nod of the head or a smile in the runner that you meet on the course.  You can hear it in the encouraging voice of the cyclist who passes you.  You may even experience it when someone sacrifices their own minutes on the clock to stop and help you change a flat.  I’ve even seen top competitors stop and care for someone who had just crashed a bike.  It’s a great sport, but the people are what really make triathlon unique.


So what are you waiting for?  If you’re looking for the most fun you can have in cross training, this is it.  Jump in the pool, go visit your local bike shop, and pick out a race! 

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