January 15th, 2010
10:23 AM ET

What is a triathlon??

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

For most, triathlon is a lifestyle. And for first-timers, it’s one of the most amazing things you’ll ever accomplish. There are four common race distances known as the “sprint,” the “olympic,” the “half iron,” and the “iron.” Each race includes a swim, a bike, a run, plus two transitions, and each race doubles the distance of the last, but for the swim, which has a smaller increase. See below for distances in MILES (and kilometers)…

• Sprint – .5 swim, 12 bike, 3 run (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run)
• Olympic – 1 swim, 25 bike, 6 run (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run)
• Half Iron – 1.2 swim, 56 bike, 13 run (1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21.09km run)
• Iron – 2.4 swim, 112 bike, 26 run (3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42.2km run)

The most common of these distances are the sprint and the olympic, mostly because they are achievable for all ages and athletic abilities. They don’t require quite the commitment level that training for a half iron or iron distance would. So you can work full time, have a family, AND be a triathlete!! As a matter of fact, your family can do it with you as the youngest age-groupers are just 7-8 years old, and the oldest are 85+. Don’t be surprised when someone twice your age passes you on the run!

Part of living the lifestyle of triathlon is being fit and active, but it doesn’t require hours and hours of training every day. For instance, a person who just purchased a bike and is just learning to swim could complete a sprint distance triathlon with just 12 weeks of training, 4-5 hours per week. With smart and structured training, anyone can do it. And with a fun, positive experience, you will be hooked as triathlon becomes a lifestyle. The training process that is involved with triathlon, along with participation and completion of the race, will be one of the most rewarding things you may ever do in your life, not just physically, but mentally, spiritually and socially. Just ask anyone who has done a triathlon and he or she will tell you the same thing.

They’re like potato chips…I dare you to do just one!!

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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.