Triathlons are often regarded as the ultimate test of endurance. Combining swimming, cycling, and running, a triathlon requires a high level of fitness, endurance, and dedication. This is especially true for the Ironman triathlon, consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run. The best athletes in the world take about eight hours to complete this event!
An Ironman is out of reach for most people, but almost everyone can benefit from training like a triathlete. Incorporating aquatic exercise, cycling, and running (or walking) in an exercise program leads to significant health and fitness benefits, the development and maintenance of important motor skills, and variety that can make exercise more enjoyable.
This is especially true for children. Participating in diverse activities is important for developing strength, endurance, balance, and coordination. Swimming, bicycling, and running are good ways to meet physical activity guidelines and develop a love for exercise. Children can benefit from the fitness and motor skills they develop from these activities when they play sports and adults can maintain fitness, prevent injury, and improve health and wellbeing.
The benefits of training like a triathlete for children and adults is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.
The fitness benefits of swimming are well established. Since swimming is a whole-body exercise, it uses all of your major muscle groups, building strength, endurance, and aerobic fitness. Children who swim for exercise develop a high level of fitness and a level of comfort in the water, something that will be promote participation in water activities later in life.
Depending on the stroke and speed, swimming laps is similar in intensity to walking at 4 mph up to jogging at a 9 minute per mile pace. What if you are just spending time in the pool or lake rather than swimming laps? Swimming leisurely is still a decent workout and can help with weight control. The exact energy expenditure depends on the stroke (butterfly is highest, backstroke is lowest) and the speed, but for most people swimming will burn as many calories as spending the same amount of time exercising on land.
Bicycling is an important skill that involves coordination and balance. For kids, riding a bike is a fun way to be active and teaches important movement skills. For everyone, bicycling can help meet recommendations for moderate-intensity activity. At faster speeds, biking is an excellent exercise to improve fitness. Not only is bicycling a great way to be active, it can be a form of independent transportation for children before they can drive.
Running for exercise is effective and convenient. The fitness benefits of running are well known and since you can do it almost anywhere, there are few barriers to participation. If running is too intense, many of the same benefits can be achieved by walking.
Running itself is a sport, and many kids compete in cross country or run races in the community. Additionally, running is a foundational movement and a key aspect of training and performance for almost all sports. Developing good fitness and a love of running in childhood also makes running and sports participation in adulthood more likely.
Training like a triathlete is a great way for kids to develop motor skills and fitness while having fun. The same is true for adults, too. Competing in a triathlon would be a good goal for kids and adults, and a rewarding way to celebrate the training it entails.
In our area, there is a kid’s triathlon on May 18 at the Aiken County YMCA. This will be an excellent opportunity for kids who like to swim, bike, and run—or who would like to give it a try—to experience the thrill of competition!