TRIATHLON. LOVING IT IS EASY is the definitive starter's book for the aspiring triathlete.
Author: Christos Christou more info
Translator: Ine De Baerdemaeker more info
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Swim, Bike, Run. The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
In the quest for understanding this beautiful and increasingly popular sport, “Triathlon. Loving it is easy” is the definitive starter’s book for the aspiring triathlete.
This comprehensive, easy to follow guide is packed with practical ways that will help you:
• Understand the sport of triathlon
• Understand how you fit into this discipline, regardless of your physical condition
• Comprehend how each discipline functions and learn how to properly run, swim, bike and transition
• Understand how you can improve your performance
• Train properly, train prudently, train efficiently
• Develop a training plan best suited to your needs, goals and capabilities
• Prepare for your first race
• Help you avoid common mistakes that are both costly and time consuming,
and last but not least,
• Realize your full potential and enjoy yourself in the process!
“Triathlon. Loving it is easy” was written by a man who has lived and breathed sports all his life and triathlon for the last 15 years. As a member of his country’s national team he has competed in numerous triathlon events throughout Europe. Christos’s book was the first of its kind written in Greek. Now in its revised 3rd edition, it has created a craze for triathlon throughout the Greek world.
“Triathlon. Loving it is easy” covers all areas of the sport including:
• Principles of Athletic training as well as the mission of every physical education teacher
• A short history of the sport; formats and distances
• SWIMMING; Basics of the freestyle technique, swimming exercises, proper kit
• CYCLING; Techniques, styles, exercises, kit
• RUNNING; Run more efficiently and avoid injuries
• Three in one
• Training program
• Basic parameters for a training schedule
• Training technique
• Examples of training programs
• Strength training for Triathlon
• Do pre-race jitters help performance?
• Transition, the fourth discipline
• Common gastrointestinal issues
• Missed workout guilt
• Your first race
Apart from a wealth of athletic and scientific information, Christos shares his personal experiences with a sense of humor and honesty rarely seen in sports books.
Christos is not only an accomplished author; he is a physical education professional but above all else, he is a triathlete.
Who better to guide you in your exciting journey than a fellow sports enthusiast?
Many congratulations for your amazing book. I particularly enjoyed your style, as well as the way you present various issues and topics. I am very glad to see just how many people have benefited from this book and to see how successful it has been in bringing so many new people closer to our favorite sport. Well done!
Vassilis Krommidas | • Top Greek triathlete • World youth Ironman record holder • Competitor in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games • Head Coach of the Greek Triathlon Federation (2005 -2009) • Head Coach of the Cyprus Triathlon National Team (2011-2013)
——-Read an Excerpt
CHAPTER 3 – WHY TRIATHLON?
What is it exactly that makes triathlon different from any other sport?
First of all, triathlon comprises three sports, each of which is entirely different from the other two, and each of which requires specific knowledge. This simple fact implies a learning process that is not only interesting and challenging, but essentially never-ending; there is always more to be learned.
The same holds true for the training involved. The constant changes in the training method result in a process that is very appealing and never repetitive or boring. Boredom is one of the features experienced by those who practice the same sport for years. That was what I experienced with running, which is one of the reasons I started to train for triathlon, as a different type of training. Very quickly, I became hooked.
Another advantage that triathlon offers, compared to other sports, is a lower risk of injuries. For example, runners constantly wear down their knees, hip joints, ankles, calves etc. The constant, repetitive motions of running may cause inflammation, tendonitis etc. in the muscles and joints that are used intensively. Expressions such as “a tennis elbow”, “a swimmer’s shoulder”, “a jumper’s knee”, and others indicate precisely to what extent certain injuries caused by overuse are connected to specific sports.
With regards to triathlon, these kinds of risks are minimal, for amateurs at least, exactly because there is a constant change in the movements, and hence the muscles and joints that are being used. And even in the case of an injury, triathlon always offers an alternative. For example, when someone has a foot injury, they can swim with the appropriate aid, such as a “pull buoy”, or by using only their arms. If someone has a hand injury, they can attach their bike to a turbo trainer and cycle safely at home.
Finally, triathlon and marathon are the only sports that offer distinctive categories (age groups) and mass participation for people of all ages. The structure of international triathlon competitions encourages participation and competition between people of similar ages. Every time a certain competition for the Global, European and other Championships takes place, the event begins with a competition between the best fifty to sixty athletes, the elite category. The main contest is usually followed the next day by events for the athletes of all age groups. There, athletes are segmented in five-year categories, e.g. 20-25 years old, 25-30 years old, 30-35 years old etc. I will never forget the first time I took part in such a competition, only to discover there was an age category for 80-85 year-olds, with very remarkable performances indeed. In many countries, there is intense rivalry amongst athletes of all age categories for participation in triathlon events with the national colors, and there are qualification competitions and strict registration criteria.
This smart age group ranking system was devised by the International Triathlon Union to encourage the participation of people of all ages in triathlon events. This is another reason why triathlon can be a sport for anyone to occupy themselves with and compete in for the rest of their lives.
With regards to elderly triathletes, recent research published in the journal Physician and Sportsmedicine (39.3) is very revealing (see pictures below). The pictures depict MRIs of the femurs of a 40-year-old triathlete, an elderly man of 74 years old, who has never done any sports, and a 70-year-old triathlete.
It is striking to see how much more fat (adipose tissue) is present in the femur of the 74-year-old compared to the fat in the other two, while the amount of fat in the femur of the 40-year-old triathlete is almost identical to that of the 70-year-old triathlete!
As the results of the MRIs are clear, I will not comment any further on this research, but I cite the website link in the bibliography, for those who would like to look further into the data. I would, however, like to comment on how natural it seems to these researchers that someone is a “70-year-old triathlete”. I am positive that the researchers had no problem whatsoever finding people of that age who systematically practice triathlon. In many other sports, nevertheless, they would not have found a 70-year-old, or even a 40-year-old (who is considered a youngster in the case of triathlon – at least this is what I like to think).
It may sound like an exaggeration, but those who simply manage to finish a triathlon event, already feel like winners. If you browse through websites on the Internet, such as YouTube, you will find incredible stories about athletes. For example, you will be able to watch the achievements of Dick Hoyt. This man trains daily and participates in Ironman competitions and marathons with his son Rick Hoyt, who suffers from cerebral palsy. And believe me, this duo is worthy of our admiration, as they represent the true essence of athletics.
As is widely known, the Hoyt group began when the 37-year-old Major Hoyt read an article about athletics and people with special needs. Even though he was not a runner, he participated in a competition of three miles (five km), pushing his son in a wheelchair. It was then that Rick told his father that, for the very first time, he did not feel invalid. Mr Hoyt did not hesitate to build a special bike, with a basket in front, in which he could put his son. Moreover, he got a small boat that he attached to his waist and swam with Rick inside the boat. This way he managed to participate in ultra-distance triathlon races (Ironman), i.e. 2.4 miles (3.8 kilometers) of swimming, 110 miles (180 kilometers) of cycling, and 110 miles (42.2 kilometers) of running (to find out more about this amazing duo, have a look at the video on http://youtu.be/dDnrLv6z-mM).
You will also find heart patients who, by doing triathlon races, want to send a message of their own, and people of over 70 years old who compete hard and place demands on themselves, not just to finish a race, but to finish in what they consider a “respectable” time.
By now you may have gathered that, for most if not all triathletes, triathlon is more than a sport; it’s a way of life.
CHAPTER 4 – TRIATHLON FORMATS AND DISTANCES
Triathlon comes in many different formats and distances, even combinations with other sports, such as the combination of triathlon and rowing. Nevertheless, the classical triathlon begins with swimming, followed by cycling, and ends with running. All the elements are connected, and the time in between each component (the “transition”) should be kept to a minimum.
There are also great variations in terms of distance. The most popular format, known as the “Olympic” triathlon, consists of 0.93 miles (1.5 kilometers) of swimming, 25 miles (40 kilometers) of cycling, and 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) of running. It is also known as the standard distance and it became an Olympic sport at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
A very common triathlon format is the shorter distance of 0.47 miles (750 meters) of swimming, 12 miles (20 kilometers) of cycling, and 3.1 miles (5 kilometers) of running. This ‘short’ distance is referred to as the “sprint triathlon!” I admittedly never understood how a competition that takes over an hour for most athletes to complete can be considered a speed event. There is also a shorter, unofficial distance, which is called the “super sprint triathlon”.
There is a widespread global trend for older athletes (30+, 40+) to compete in increasingly longer triathlon events. There are now various such competitions that test the endurance limits of even the most experienced athletes:
1. The “Half Ironman”, which consists of 1.2 miles (1.9 kilometers) of swimming, 56 miles (90 kilometers) of cycling, and 13.1 miles (21.1 kilometers) of running.
2. The “Ironman”, which consists of 2.4 miles (3.8 kilometers) of swimming, 110 miles (180 kilometers) of cycling, and 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers) of running.
I personally adore the common distance, and I hereby declare that I do not share the urge to try out a longer distance. This is most likely due to a traumatic experience I had during the first and only marathon I ever ran. I remember at the time, I was in top physical condition, and it is probably exactly that factor which played the most important role in my experience. I ran half the marathon in 1 hour and 25 minutes, which was close to my personal best, and I continued running, feeling so much joy and euphoria that it felt like I only started running at that very moment. This is where I made a big mistake: I decided to increase my speed. Up until 19 miles (30 kilometers), I was the happiest man on earth.
And then, suddenly… bam. I suffered what every experienced marathon runner has been through: I hit the wall. My body would no longer obey, and my speed continued to decrease. Eventually, using all my strength, I ran each mile in 13 minutes (or each kilometer in 8 minutes), which is the speed of a fast walker. I was truly suffering, and since I knew that under no circumstances I would allow myself to give up, I got to the point where I asked one of the competition supervisors, who was driving around in a car, to run me over so I would be forced to stop! Obviously, he refused, and I managed to finish, crying, within the time of 3 hours 10 minutes, swearing to myself that I would never run such a distance again. Since then, 19 years have passed, and I am still keeping my promise.
Imagine now to what extent I would break my promise, if I decided to run the distance of an Ironman triathlon, where I would not only have to run a marathon, but before that I would need to cover 2.4 miles (3.8 kilometers) of swimming and 110 miles (180 kilometers) of cycling.
In all honesty, since then not only have my aerobic capacities improved, but I also now have a far better understanding of nutrition, especially right before and during a competition, which is one of the most important factors for success in a race. The torture of marathons that I described above is called “hypoglycemia” and is not at all unusual, especially amongst beginners. Hence, it is something that one can improve through specialized training and nutrition during the race.
——-Here are some more comments:
“Christos knows all the difficulties and technical specifics of running, swimming and cycling, since for him triathlon is a way of life“ Hon. Prof. Ouranios M. Ioannides, President – Cyprus Olympic Committee
“…a committed, pioneering work based on solid scientific knowledge of the subject, enriched by intense personal experiences… this book is an important guide for people who are looking for different sports disciplines and hoping to try something new…” Pambos Stylianou, President – Cyprus Sports Organisation
“I read it in one sitting, hoping it would never end. It filled me with regret, because after my youth I refrained from classic athletics. Thus, I deprived myself from the bittersweet feelings of movement and the beneficial results that lifelong sportsmanship brings along. If I had read this book at the age of 18, then maybe…” Panos Ioannides, Award winning author