USA Triathlon News Blogs Ordinary Mortals® Why Try the Tri?

Why Try the Tri?

By Steve Jonas | Jan. 14, 2015, 12 a.m. (ET)

Talking Tri-/Duathlon for Ordinary Mortals®: A Series, (No. 18, 2015, 1/14) by Dr. Steve Jonas

This column, starting off the new year, is for those folks who might be thinking about getting into the sport. It’s also for those triathletes who would like some organized thinking about the subject to present to friends and family members who might be thinking about doing so too. To begin with, let’s go over some definitions.

Triathlons are distance races with three separate legs. The usual combination is swimming, road cycling and running — in that order. However, there are some other combinations that you may find in your neck of the woods. Some years back, at Ski Windham in New York State, I did a couple of races that combined downhill skiing, cycling and running — great fun. You may find a race that combines running, cycling and canoeing or kayaking. Then there are the increasing popular XTERRA triathlons, which combine swimming, off-road cycling and trail running. But by far the most common combination is swim-bike-run, with the latter two done on the road.

Triathlons come in a variety of lengths from short — 500-meter swim, 10-mile bike, 2-mile run — to very, very long — a double IRONMAN: 4.8-mile swim, 224-mile bike, 52.4-mile run. In that regard, by the way, do you know what, for a triathlete, is a crazy triathlete? Why one who has done a longer race than the longest one she or he has done.

So why might you try the tri? Let us count the ways. If you already engage in a distance sport, you may feel that the time has come for a new challenge — adding two more sports to your repertoire and getting into racing as well. If you are a swimmer, cyclist or runner and already race, the idea of combining your sport with two others in a race may intrigue you. Or you may want to try it because it looks like fun (and, done right, it is). Or let’s say you are interested in getting into what's called cross-training; that is training in more than one distance sport at the same time. Among other things, cross-training reduces your risk of sport-specific injury in any one of the sports because you are spending less time in each one and allows you to develop different muscle groups as a part of the same overall training program. Cross-training can reduce the boredom that can come with doing just one distance sport, too. And so, if you are cross-training, why not do the racing event it was originally designed for? Triathlon also provides a great excuse to buy some new toys — like a bike and a wetsuit.

Yes indeed, you can try the tri for whatever reason or reasons pull your chain. If you are like many of us who tried it for the first time, you will find that that time won’t be your last. For those of you who balk at the idea of swimming, next month we’ll take a look at the run-bike, called duathlon.


N.B.: This column is based in part on one of a similar name that appeared in this space on April 25, 2013:


This series of thoughts and recommendations about multisport racing by Dr. Steve Jonas is, over time, drawn in part from his book, “101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes” (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), from which text is used with permission. The book can be purchased here and is available at and

Steve’s most recent multisport book is “Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It” (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012), available at and

His first book on multisport racing, “Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®,” 2nd Ed. (New York: WW Norton, 2006) also can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.