The conversation has changed. The cool kids aren’t running marathons anymore. If you thought running 21km was the new fitness fad last week, we have news for you, it’s not anymore. Triathlons are a growing trend in India today, they’re beginning to crop up in conversation more often now, and have replaced the previous trend of marathons. A full marathon is just one step in the ladder for those who love participating in fitness competitions. The triathlon comes as a multiple stage challenge, involving three continuous and sequential events, which are designed to test and push the boundaries of endurance levels. Triathlons vary in distances and components but the most popular form involves swimming, cycling, and running. Triathletes basically compete in the overall time to complete the challenges as well as transition time between each component.

There are stations set up where athletes can change attire and gear up, which is also usually where they store the gear (bikes, etc.). The transition between swimming and biking is referred to as T1 and from biking to running is called T2 – and the overall race time of each athlete is inclusive of T1 and T2.

The basic stage of a triathlon involves a 750 meter swim course, 20 km bike race, and a 5 km run. However, there are increasing levels of the same, which are designed specifically for the supremely fit! The ultra-mega-extreme challenge, the Zeus of triathlons, the ultimate fitness competition is aptly called, The Ironman. This Triathlon consists of a 3.9 km swim, a 180 km bike ride, and a 42.1 km run. Phew! We don’t blame you if you want to take a sip of water before continuing from here.

Quite understandably, just finishing the Ironman is enough of a victory! The term 'Ironman' was actually coined back in the 70s from a dispute between Navy SEALS over which athlete—the swimmer, biker, or runner—was toughest. The first Ironman was born in Hawaii in Feb. 18, 1978, when California triathletes John and Judy Collins organized the first endurance triathlon. The Hawaiian Iron Triathlon was a swim-bike-run event around the island of Oahu. Since then, it has grown into a regular series of events organized by the World Triathlon Corporation held around the world throughout the year. However, not only is the distance grueling, there's a time limit for each segment. Most Ironman events allow participants 17 hours to complete all three legs of the race. The event begins at 7 a.m. The swim must be complete in 2 hours and 20 minutes; the bike ride must be done by 5:30 p.m.; and the marathon must be finished by midnight. And of course, the one who finishes this herculean triathlon first is “The Ironman”!

Training for an Ironman Triathlon is practically the equivalent of a part-time job. For an event that lasts the almost a whole day, the training process requires a balance of a strict regimen and serious time commitment. It’s very much an endurance sport, and when you choose it, there really isn’t an offseason – the average triathlete trains for 18-30 hours a week. Most people who do more than one event are training year round.

While a majority of training should be focused on biking, as that it is the longest running component of the triathlon, it is extremely important to create a schedule that gives ample to focus to each section – swimming, biking, and running. The swimming needs attention in that it sets you up for the rest of the race, while the running component is important because that’s when the muscles have already been through the grind and are secreting lactic acid which would tire the body down – one must learn to keep going at that stage. It’s key to build on your weaknesses, to improve performance in problem areas so that when the time comes and your body is put to test, it’s not something that holds you back but helps you pull through. Circuit training is the recommended course of action while preparing for the Ironman. The resistance training and explosive aerobics that a circuit provides is a good place to start, and moving quickly and seamlessly from exercise to exercise will accustomise you to transitioning through the stages of the Ironman — which all require you to use different muscle groups.

The first phase of prep should ideally be 30 to 40 minutes of circuit training, two to three times a week with a rapid succession of muscle building exercises in pre-exhausting cycles to keep your muscles sharp. However, it is important to not overdo the workouts. One must treat fitness as a lifestyle, to maintain a reasonable level throughout the year. Let it become a part of you and it’ll help you get there. Remember, the Ironman isn’t an impossible challenge, all you need to do is stay focused on your goal and keep your head in the game!

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