It was once regarded as a multi-sport braved only by the super-humanly fit. But recently, the triathlon has become the consummate "me-too" phenomenon, attracting those who crave extra motivation, new challenges or the breathtaking body-sculpting benefits such a competition gives.
When you engage in a program comprising swimming, cycling and running, you won't just get fit. You'll be rewarded mentally, spiritually and socially, and become more confident than you've ever been in your life, says Julie Moss, age 45, a triathlete in Santa Cruz, Calif.
Plus, it's easier and more fun than you may think. You needn't tackle a hyper-distance "Ironman" (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, 26-mile run); few do. Complete the following program, and in just six weeks you can sail through a "sprint," or short-distance, triathlon -- approximately a 400- to 600-yard swim, 10- to 20-mile bike ride, and two- to four-mile run.
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The swim, which comes first in any triathlon, is the shortest part of the event. Do most of your workouts in a pool, but practice in a lake or ocean at least two times before the triathlon. If you're a poor swimmer, a wet suit can increase your buoyancy and will protect you from the elements.
Swim 1: Drill 50s
What you'll do After a slow 5- to 10-minute warm-up swim, complete 6-12 50-yard swims (50 yards equals 2 laps in a standard Olympic-sized pool) at an easy to moderate pace. Swim with smooth, elongated strokes, rolling side-to-side. Afterward, cool down.
Heart rate 40-50 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR is estimated by subtracting your age from 220.)
RPE 3-4 (Find the RPE here)
Duration 20-30 minutes
Calories burned 120-225 (Calorie estimates are based on a 145-pound woman)
Swim 2: Negative-Splits (Intervals)
What you'll do After a 10- to 15-minute warm-up, complete 2-4 200-yard swims (200 yards equals 8 laps). Within each 200-yard interval, swim the first 100 yards slower than the second: Stop between each 200-yard swim and recover completely by hanging onto the wall (if in a pool) and allowing your breathing to return to a comfortable level. As you gain fitness, mix in easy swimming or treading water as part of your recovery. Afterward, cool down thoroughly.
Heart rate 70-80 percent of your MHR for the work interval; 50 percent during the rest interval.
RPE 6-7 for the work interval; drop down to a very easy 2-3 for the rest interval.
Duration 30-45 minutes
Calories burned 300-450