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Conquering the Indoor Triathlon

Updated on July 5, 2016

The sport of triathlon is picking up speed. Since its Olympic debut in Sydney, Australia back in 2000 people have been giving this exhilarating race a tri. Many who have conquered their first sprint event find themselves upping their training and going the distance with longer races. During the warmer months triathlon competitions are hosted frequently and in a myriad of locations. From June through September there are an abundance of races to choose from whether racing at the sprint or full Ironman level. But during the colder months the average triathlete doesn’t see much opportunity for competition. For one thing, an open water swim in the month of January can be hard to do – literally – as many lakes have turned to solid ice. Similarly, freezing conditions are not ideal for outdoor running or road biking. Rather than simply settling for a bland routine of off-season training, triathletes may want to look into giving an indoor triathlon a try. In addition to providing some competition for the experienced triathlete during the dreary months, this is also a great way for beginners to get introduced to the sport that encompasses swimming, biking and running in a single race.


The Set Up

The logistics of the inside race are pretty different from the outdoor one. In the set-up of the indoor triathlon the participant typically competes for maximum distance in a set amount of time. This varies from the outdoor triathlon where the distances for the swim, bike and run are known from the start, and the racer tries to complete these distances is the shortest amount of time. For example, rather than biking for 15 miles, the indoor triathlon biking portion might be set for 40 minutes, regardless of how much distance is pedaled by the triathlete. Because overall time is of the essence in the outdoor triathlon, racers typically get dressed or prepared for the following event during the transitions as fast as humanly possible. Meanwhile in the indoor race, the transitions are usually set amounts of time in-between each of the events. For the novice racer this should be an adequate amount of time to change and get ready for the next leg of the competition. For the seasoned triathlete, this transition time can seem lengthy enough to allow for a bite to eat, restroom visit, and a leisurely smoke break before strolling to the next event.

Example layout of the Indoor Sprint vs. the Outdoor Sprint

Indoor Sprint
Outdoor Sprint
10 minutes
750 meters
30 minutes
12.4 miles
20 minutes
3.1 miles
10 minutes
self-paced (timed)

The Equipment

Since the indoor triathlon is usually housed in recreation center or workout facility participants have less equipment to bring. Generally speaking, bikes should be provided for the biking portion of the race. While those sponsoring the race might use recumbent bikes, usually most Indoor triathlon sponsors include bikes that are part of a spinning class. If allowed, it may be beneficial to use some of the time during transition to adjust the bike for a proper fit or to give the bike seat a spray down if there are sanitation concerns.

When it comes to the running portion of the event, most indoor triathlon locations will provide a tread mill to each racer. Some venues may use an indoor race track, but because tread mills give a more accurate reading of distance, these are generally preferred.

The swim takes place in a lap pool. Lanes are usually assigned ahead of time, and it may be a good idea to arrive to the race early to find out not only your assigned lane, but if you will be sharing the lap lane. If you have a side of the lane that you like to swim on, these preferences should be communicated up front to help ensure a better swim.

Signing up

To learn about the triathlons in your area it is a good idea to subscribe to sites such as that give information about upcoming races. And while sites such as these try to keep up-to-date with regard to athletic events, sometimes Indoor Triathlon events fly under the radar. This is because it may just be the local gym that holds the event rather than an organized sponsor. Therefore, it might be worthwhile to call various recreation centers and sports clubs (that have a pool) to see if one is hosted.

If a gym does hold an Indoor Triathlon and you are not a member of that gym, they typically will let you sign up anyway. Like any triathlon sponsor, they will profit from the registration fee. Additionally, allowing the public to participate in a race at their venue is an easy way for them to market their facility; if participants have a good race experience, they may be enticed to join. Even if your local athletic facility does not currently host an indoor triathlon, it never hurts to put a bug in their ear!

The last thing to know about signing up for an Indoor triathlon is that there can be several heats of the race. In an outdoor triathlon racers naturally space out over the course of the race, so it’s feasible to accommodate large numbers of participants. This is not possible to do if a gym only owns 25 spinning bikes. Hence, the facility will lay out various heat times throughout the race day. If you are a night owl it may be advantageous to sign up early so you don’t get stuck with a 6am start time.

Keep the expectations in check

Whether you are a seasoned triathlete or a novice, you may have expectations for your first indoor triathlon. It is highly recommended to keep those expectations in check. For experienced triathletes, this race is not going to prepare you for the World Ironman Championship in Kona. But what it can do is give you a workout that uses swimming, biking and running all in one sitting (although really you will be “sitting” just for the bike). And if you could use some practice with pacing this race allows for that.

Novices should keep their expectations in check as well. Even though the three separate time allotments may not seem long, they soon can if you go all-out from the start and don’t have great endurance. Going from event to event can feel strange on the muscles and joints, and many novices feel downright exhausted by the time they get to the last event. Beginners may also find that one of the three events is much more desirable and doable than the others. If this is one of your first triathlons races, don’t feel intimated if those around you seem to be going faster and farther. What matters the most is putting forth the effort and striving for completion at a pace you can feel proud of. And this is applicable whether this is your very first triathlon or your 100th.

Go for the gold....or just completion.
Go for the gold....or just completion. | Source


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