January 22nd, 2010
01:48 PM ET

Top ten things you need to know when considering your first triathlon

By Laura Cozik
Athletic Director, CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge
CEO, Team Lipstick Triathlon

Yes, anyone can do it. Take it from me! I was a competitive dancer, who didn’t own a bike, had no idea how to put my face in the water, and hated running. One finish line changed my life. You just need the desire.

No, it does not have to be an enormous commitment. For a sprint distance race, you can train an average of 3 to 5 hours per week.
It’s a safe, supportive environment. Not competitive, not intimidating. People actually stop to help one another, they shout words of encouragement, and they smile a lot. You’ll have about 50 new friends by the time you cross that finish line.

All ages participate. The youngest competitors are just 7 years old. However, some of the fastest triathletes are in the older age groups. This sport rewards experience! The oldest woman I ever met at a triathlon was 85. She came to my attention because she was arguing with the race director about how 70+ was not a fair age group. How was she supposed to race against a 70-year-old?! This woman actually wanted to win. I’ll never forget that moment.

All shapes and sizes participate. Triathletes are the most diversified group – tall, short, large, small. And looks can be deceiving in this sport! While it’s beneficial to be small when attempting a big hill climb, size is not an indicator of sheer strength and power - and that other little asset known as determination.

Cross training is healthy. Some sports have injury statistics that are staggering. With triathlons, you swim one day, bike the next, and run the next. The body does not experience the same type of over-use injuries it does if you only run everyday. Its variety is also a plus for those who have A.D.D. (either clinical or imagined).

You can eat a lot. And you can eat plenty of carbs! You’ll burn an average of 2,000 kcals every Saturday during your long bike ride. There’s a lot of replenishing that goes along with that!

Your first year is pricey. You’ll need a road bike, plus lots of gear, and someone to train you properly for that first race. If you enjoy shopping, this is more of a perk than a negative! After the first year, the costs are reduced to race fees and club dues.

There are sooo many benefits. Besides being fit and healthy, triathletes tend to be happy, confident, successful people. You cannot imagine what that finish line feels like until you actually cross it. Improved self confidence, increased energy and drive, feelings of satisfaction and achievement...all accompanied by significant cardiovascular and muscular conditioning.

And finally…triathlon is FUN. Race in St. Croix. Choose a course that has you running through the woods, biking through farm country or swimming in the Hudson River. Form a team and relay with friends/family. Have lots of fun adventures.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. fromontario

    There are now 13,121 US troops in Haiti. Dr. Gupta from CNN today walked to the airport picked up a bag of medication and delivered it to a hospital.

    Why can't 40 soldiers with 50lbs backpacks deliver a ton of medication on foot to the hospitals if they can't use trucks?

    January 22, 2010 at 18:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. linda

    Thanks for the information on Triathlon. I will be doing my first triathlon this years. I will start training this coming week. I am looking forward to it. I will be learning to swim. This should be a lot of fun. I will let you know which event I will be doing after we start training. I am not sure at this time.. The Triathlon will also help me with my exercise program. I am sure that I will be doing a different exercise each night. Linda

    January 24, 2010 at 18:56 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.