When people hear "triathlon," their mind may automatically conjure images of the granddaddy of them all — IRONMAN — which involves a 2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike ride before culminating in a 26.2 marathon run.
What many don't know is that triathlons come in a variety of sizes, with one of the shortest distances being the sprint. Sprint triathlons can vary in distance, but generally they include a 0.5-mile (750-meter) swim, 12.4-mile (20-kilometer) bike and 3.1-mile (5-kilometer) run. In addition to simply being a great gateway into the sport of triathlon, sprint distances have a lot to offer newcomers and multisport veterans alike.
In fact, it might just be triathlon's best distance.
Not everyone has time to train for an IRONMAN, which requires a great deal of dedication and discipline. A sprint triathlon is short enough to finish without disrupting your life with training, but long enough to give you that swim, bike, run fix.
2. Save Some Coin
The wetsuits, the bike, the shoes and other gear can all add up to a hefty price tag, but the registration costs for a sprint triathlon are considerably cheaper than their long-distance counterparts. That just means more money to blow on your post-race cheat meal.
3. Spectator Power
Need a little extra outside motivation to keep you pushing toward the finish line? A sprint triathlon is usually spectator friendly, enabling you to catch a glimpse of your loved ones cheering you on throughout each leg of the race.
Because a sprint is so short, pacing is less of a necessity. If you like swimming, biking or running near your max effort, a sprint triathlon has your name all over it.
5. You Have Options
Not comfortable in open water? Many sprint triathlons offer a pool swim leg. It's a great way to minimize your weaknesses and enjoy the triathlon experience.
6. Get Your Feet Wet
A sprint triathlon is the perfect starting point for those looking to complete their first triathlon. Crossing the finish line a couple times will increase your confidence and teach you the basics of the sport before you increase the distance.
7. Learn New Skills
Most first-time triathletes are at least competent in one leg of the race, and undertaking a sprint will force yourself to get familiar with the other two weaker legs. Who knows, you may develop a new passion!
8. Stay Injury Free
The low training volume required to get in shape for a sprint triathlon usually comes without the risk of overuse injuries. Like all training plans, ease into it.
9. Non-Athletes Welcome
The triathlon community is extremely inclusive. Doggy paddlers and walkers are all welcome — crossing the finish line is all that matters.
This article originally appeared on Active.com — your source for information, training plans, expert advice and everything you need to connect with the sport you love.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.