Forget golf. For high-powered modern executives, triathlon is increasingly becoming the sport of choice. Comprised of a run, swim, and bike leg, this multisport combines three different disciplines into a grueling athletic competition—one that appeals to people who’re used to persevering their way to the top.
As patent lawyer Alain Villeneuve says to Financial Times: “It’s the way Type A people like myself relax.”
While any intense physical activity releases stress-relieving endorphins, the appeal of triathlon lies in its three-sports-in-one paradigm, which requires a different level of commitment and training compared to more single-minded athletic pursuits. In addition, the high cost of equipment and the expensive joining fees mean that many contestants are often like-minded high-income earners, which turns post-triathlon meets into instant networking opportunities.
Need to give it a shot? Here are some tips you can try.
Go for sprint distance first. There are four major types of triathlon. The most difficult is the Ironman, which is made up of a 3.8-kilometer swim, a 180-K bike ride, and a 42-K run. The Half Ironman, naturally, cuts the required distance by half. The Olympic is the so-called “standard” triathlon, which consists of a 1.5-K swim, a 40-K bike ride, and a 10-K run.
Beginners, however, should aim to train for a sprint first—a much shorter variant that consists of a 0.75-K swim, a 22-K bike ride, and a 5-K run. There are also duathlons or aquathlons that you can join, which combine two sports instead of three: running and biking for duathlons, and swimming and running for aquathlons.
Find the right gear. Triathlons are very gear intensive. The bike is obviously the biggest investment, with specialized lightweight, aerodynamictriathlon bikes offering superior performance for a significant cost. You’ll also have to factor in a wetsuit for the swim leg, and naturally, running shoes for the run.
Take swim courses. The swim leg is the first part of a triathlon...and for many competitors, it’s also the hardest. In open-water triathlons, you’ll often have to jostle for space with dozens of other competitors as they run to the water.
Once in the water, you’ll need an efficient and powerful stroke to finish strong. Swimming is not about strength, though; much of the effort can be cut down with proper form and breathing. Even if you already know how to swim, consider investing in refresher lessons to unlearn any bad habits you may have picked up. These bad habits can often cost you precious seconds.
Plan your schedule. Remember, you’re not just training for one sport: you’re training for three, and you’ll need to allot time in your week for all of them. Most triathletes go for three training days in a week, with a fourth low-intensity or cross-training (that is; another sport or activity other than swimming, running, or biking) day scheduled on the weekend.
Most executives schedule their training in the very early morning—before the sun rises, in fact. Rich Williams, CEO of GroupOn and an avid Ironman triathlete, sets his clock for 4:30am for training, so he doesn’t sacrifice work or family time.
Train at different intensities. The most inefficient way to train would be the so-called “steady state” session, where you exercise for a long period of time at an unchanging intensity. Remember: It’s not just about the hours you put into training, but also the quality. Allocating days for long, low-intensity training and shorter, but high-intensity bouts helps promote recovery, increases your endurance, and builds up your power.
Be warned: Once you get into the triathlon groove, it may be hard to kick the habit. The challenge, proponents say, is just too addicting. What other sports or hobbies do you do to relax? Tell us all about it in the comments below!