Why Tri?


Sorry for the title—I couldn’t resist!  But seriously—why do we swim, bike, and run during the event, and in the weeks and months leading up?  And what does all of that training do to our bodies and minds (both good and bad)?  I know amateur triathletes are a savvy group so some of this may not be new to some readers, but what’s going on  inside when we are pushing our outsides?

I’ve been a sports doc for 25 years.  I enjoy running and biking and swimming in that order (sorta phobic of the swim I must admit), and have taken care of runners and cyclists and swimmers as well.  The one obvious benefit that duathletes and triathletes have is the built-in cross training.  If a runner has an injury that keeps them from running we often turn to swimming or biking as an alternate training method—for triathletes an injury in one area just leads to improvement in others.  But what else is good for your body when you are a triathlete?  Here are a few (courtesy of Jon Fecik and USA Triathlon):

  1. Tri training promotes cardiovascular health.  All of the training helps keep our arteries pliable and clear of atherosclerosis (clogging) or at least reduces it substantially.  It also increases our good cholesterol (HDL) to help clear away the bad (LDL).  
  2. Tri training promotes brain health.  Multiple studies have shown that endurance training increases blood flow to the brain improving the hippocampal area (associated with improved memory and higher-level thinking), improving white matter (responsible for the speed, coordination and connections between parts of the brain and the body), and maintaining cognitive skills as we age (the more fit we are at a younger age, the better our brains perform when we get older).
  3. Tri training promotes bone health.  Bone remodels (breaks down and builds up), and weight bearing exercises (running and strength training—this really is the fourth triathlon discipline—help create denser bones).  As noted above the weight bearing exercises are balanced by non-weight bearing exercises (swimming and biking) which often allows less interruption of the weight bearing part.

These are a few of the good things that can happen while training for triathlons.  Next time we will look at some triathlon pitfalls.  Thankfully there are not many, but they are important nonetheless!

If you hit a bump along the way, come and see the team that covers the tri’s!  In the office or on the course we will be there to help you get to the finish line.  Call 616-252-7778 or go to www.uofmhealthwest.org for more information or to make an appointment.

Be active!