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  • What Is a Triathlon?

    A triathlon is a sporting event that combines running, biking and swimming into a single competition. Unlike marathons, which have a set distance, the distance varies for each part of a triathlon. The Olympic triathlon consists of a 1.5 km swim, 40 km cycle and 10 km run. Transition between the elements is usually included in race time.
    What Is a Triathlon?

    International Organization

    The International Triathlon Union (ITU) is the international governing body for triathlon and other multi-sport events. The ITU is associated with more than 120 national federations.

    Race Distances

    Triathlon events may vary in distance ranging from the Super Sprint--440 m swim, 10 km bike and a 2.5 km run--to the Ironman--3.8 km swim, 180 km bike and 42 km run. The Olympic distance is considered the standard.


    The ITU recommends athletes train at a minimum once per week in running, once per week in biking and one to two times per week in swimming. Improvement in the sport requires more frequent training sessions while maintaining a rest period between training days.

    Running is a lower-body impact sport. To prepare for the running portion of a triathlon, focus your running workouts on specific tasks, such as hill climbs or distance running.

    Swimming is a non-impact full body sport. According to, the focus during swim training should be efficiency. Triathletes often try to be as effective as possible with each stroke as they swim.

    Biking is a non-impact lower body sport. Like running workouts, bike workouts have a focus, such as hill climbing or distance workouts. Similar to their swim training, triathletes focus on efficiency by working on pedal technique. Efficient bicyclists learn to push pedals forward during the first half of the stroke and pull pedals back on the second half of the stroke to maintain an easy, consistent cadence.

    Because each event in a triathlon is focused on cardiovascular exercise, most triathletes use additional cardiovascular exercises to supplement their training, such as deep water running or stair climbing. Many triathletes use weights and other equipment during strength training sessions to work on weak areas and improve specific muscles for swimming, biking and running.

    Triathlon in the Olympics

    The triathlon was incorporated into the Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, during the 2000 Summer Olympic Games. The Olympics holds separate men's and women's events.

    Article Written By David Chandler

    David Chandler has been a freelance writer since 2006 whose work has appeared in various print and online publications. A former reconnaissance Marine, he is an active hiker, diver, kayaker, sailor and angler. He has traveled extensively and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida where he was educated in international studies and microbiology.

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