Triathlons help South athletes crosstrain

Srija Chatterjea-Sen, Staff Writer

“I love triathlons because beyond the awesome training you get, you make friends and I can’t find any cons with that!” said sophomore Katie Mae Kaelin, eager to promote triathlons at South.

Triathlons are more than just an excellent way to stay in shape. Broken down, triathlons are a combination of long-distance running, swimming and biking in quick succession. These three physical activities involve different muscle groups, helping athletes to strengthen and train during their off-season. Together, these events test the endurance of participants of all ages.

“I was curious, and it sounded like a lot of fun. I’m pretty decent at running, swimming and biking, and I thought it would be good cross training for cross-country skiing.” senior Sam Coady stated. He participated in his first triathlon in the summer of 2013.

Triathlons themselves are divided into 5 different types based on length: Sprint, Olympic, ITU Long, Half and Full. These are to accommodate the many different skill levels that are presented in triathlons.

While participants are divided by age and sex, the more serious competitors refer to themselves as “elites” and the less serious as “age groupers.” Recently the popularity and diversity of participants has increased, from stay at home moms, to high school athletes, and even the elderly.

A study done by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association reports that from 2007 to 2009, the number of Americans participating in triathlons has increased by 51.4%. This growth has been steady among all age groups, toddler to grandparent.

Junior Seamus Hawley explained that he had made friends throughout his time participating in triathlons.“Triathloning with other kids your age is really nice because there’s always someone at your skill level, and no matter what, someone will run with you. It’s good for your self esteem.”

   “It’s a really great way to stay in shape over the summer and test yourself. Besides you don’t really need much more [equipment] than what most people already have lying around,” Coady mentioned.

The most basic elements needed to participate in a triathlon boil down to good running shoes, a sturdy bike, a helmet, goggles and swimwear. However, to add to the experience, a watch, a triathlon bike, and specialized triathlon wetsuit/swimsuits could certainly help. These items help to make the participant move more smoothly and feel lighter.

Overall, the experience is about personal goals and improvement, making it fun for anyone. However often these events are held to benefit or sponsor a cause. Many of the triathlons held go beyond just helping athletes to find new ways to exercise and push themselves. Some raise money to find cures for diseases, or help to raise money for other sorts of foundations.

“It’s a great way to give back to the community,” added Hawley as he talked about why participating in triathlons felt good.

Miracles of Mitch, a Minnesota based foundation, holds a few triathlons throughout the outdoor triathlon season from May through late September and the indoor season beginning in February. The proceeds from this foundation help children with cancer through family programs. It was started by the parents of nine-year-old Mitch Chepokos who, before losing his battle to cancer, made a pinky promise with his father to help other children who struggle with his condition.

This was the way that Hawley became involved with triathlons. “It felt really good to know that I was helping out just by exercising. It was for a great cause, and that was really appealing to me,” he stated. He expressed that it was also an excellent way to stay in shape and get ready for frisbee, the sport he is engages in at South.

Like Coady, he stated the main reason he would recommend the experience to other athletes was because of the excellent cross training it provided.

Senior Byron Gildon said he saw improvements directly correlating from his triathlon experience to his performance in basketball. “It was beyond a physical experience; it’s a mental challenge. Knowing you just accomplished something so great, it motivates you to do better in your sports activities.” Gildon also stated that it’s something he thinks all athletes should try at least once to help push their training forward, no matter the sport.

“It just feels so good to know that it really improves you so much!” Kaelin stated enthusiastically. Her participation in sports, mainly cross country running was enhanced by her triathlon experience, something she hopes to see more athletes her age participating in. “I noticed that I got injured a lot more after taking a break from triathloning and just running too. I just really overused the same muscles.”

Kaelin also added that finishing was an amazing feeling: “Crossing the finish line felt so amazing, like ‘yes, I did it!’ And you just feel so good about yourself.”