Exercise is a key part of living a healthy life, but like all things, balance is key. Pushing yourself too hard, for too long, can cause serious injury – or even death. That’s why it’s important to train smart and understand your limits so you don’t take things too far.
- Are Triathlons Bad for You?
- Why Is Triathlon so Addictive? (When To Take a Break!)
- Is Being a Triathlete Healthy?
- Do Triathletes Get Better with Age?
- What Is the Best Age to Start Triathlon?
- Are Ironmans Healthy? When You Should Not Do an Ironman?
- Things to Keep in Mind
Are Triathlons Bad for You?
Triathlons aren’t inherently bad for you, but anything taken to the extreme can be dangerous. If you’re consistently pushing your body past its limits, you could be causing damage to key organs like the heart and large arteries. This is not likely a risk for those who compete recreationally in triathlon, but if people start to get really serious about training, then they should probably keep an eye out for potential complications. (Source)
The Mayo Clinic released a meta-analysis looking at risk factors for endurance athletes and found that “long-term, excessive, sustained exercise may be associated with coronary artery calcification” and other dysfunction in the heart (Source).
However, they conclude that lifelong exercises have low mortality rates compared to the general population and further study would need to be done to examine what (if any) the true risk factors are.
There isn’t currently a great way to screen for these issues, though they appear to be most common in athletes over the age of 50 who have been competing in ultra-endurance events for multiple years.
That being said, there is always the general risk of injury associated with any sport. It’s always important to incorporate enough rest and recovery into your routine and see a physical therapist as necessary. Following a pre-made training routine can help prevent possible overtraining and injury. We also highly recommend that you check out our post “Why Do Marathon Runners & Triathletes Collapse? (Risks & Prevention Tips)“
Why Is Triathlon so Addictive? (When To Take a Break!)
The endorphins released during exercise are no joke, and chasing that high can become addictive for triathletes. While a lot of triathletes joke about the addictiveness of the sport, there can also be an underlying truth to it. Meeting the challenges of three disciplines – not to mention fitting it all into your calendar – can take a major commitment. It’s natural to feel a sense of accomplishment after successfully completing a challenge, or to feel pride when you do what you thought was impossible.
Here are some signs that it may be time to take a break:
Find yourself always needing to buy the newest, lightest, most advanced equipment. Is it eating into your normal budget? Then you may need to take a step back from the sport and look at your life more holistically. If the costs of the sport are impeding your ability to save, pay for bills, or otherwise support yourself, it may be best to put things on pause.
Prolonged fatigue, poor-quality sleep, inability to relax and an increase in depression are all signs of overtraining. Another sign is persistent injury. For those who menstruate, losing a period can be a major sign of overtraining. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should take some time off.
Skipping Social Time
If you feel anxious, irritable, or depressed if you have to miss a single training day, it might be time to examine those feelings. Or if you skip important life events (birthdays, weddings) or general quality time with friends and family in order to train, it’s probably a sign that your healthy habit is verging into unhealthy territory.
Also, check out our post on “Do Antidepressants Affect Swimming, Cycling, Or Running Performance?“
Is Being a Triathlete Healthy?
You need a general level of health and fitness to complete a triathlon. According to Team USA Triathlon, there are three primary health benefits to training for triathlon (Source):
Building up an endurance base typically translates to a better cardiovascular system. Regular aerobic and anaerobic exercise helps keep the heart and it’s arteries healthy.
The same aerobic training triathletes do to prepare for a race can lead to increased brain cells. This, in turn, means overall greater brain health, which is important for functioning well into old age.
Adding a strength training element to triathlon training helps promote bone health. This is because load bearing exercises prevent low bone density, which becomes especially important as we age.
Do Triathletes Get Better with Age?
Speaking of aging, do triathletes get better as they get older? In some races, it seems they do. Longer distances, like Ironmans, tend to see older athletes taking the top prize. The peak age for men competing in Ironman triathlons was roughly 35 years old (give or take 3.6 years). On the other hand, the peak age for Olympic-distance triathlons for men was 27 years (give or take 5 years).
For more on this, we highly recommend that you check out our ” Triathlon Distances & Average Timings Analysis (Infographic); Pick Your Right Fight !“
The same general trend can also be seen for women. This may partially be due to the amount of time it takes to train our bodies to be able to handle such long endurance events. It seems that in the case of 70.3 miles and above, time may be on our side.
What Is the Best Age to Start Triathlon?
Any age is a great age to start training for triathlon, but some athletes will begin as early as 6 years old. This is the youngest age the World Triathlon (ITU) will allow athletes to compete.
Because of the nature of the sport, it can be dangerous for athletes to start training too young (leading to injury or burnout). Athletes tend to peak around age 25-30, so starting at age 8 allows for a long time to build a great endurance base.
Young athletes tend to start by learning swimming and bike skills. Running is added later, and they generally only train a couple of days a week. It’s very important that they know how to safely swim before they join any triathlon club or race.
For more on this, check out our post What Is The Minimum Age To Race Triathlons? Distances, Risks, and Tips For Parents
Are Ironmans Healthy? When You Should Not Do an Ironman?
Ironman races are one of the hardest endurance events on the planet and require a high level of physical health. Not anyone can just decide to complete an Ironman race – it requires a lot of time and dedicated training.
It also requires a certain level of nutrition in order for the body to function and recover properly, both during and after the race. But being generally “fit” usually isn’t enough to complete an Ironman event.
Here are some times when you shouldn’t do an Ironman (Source):
You should have at least two years of endurance experience under your belt before beginning triathlon. This can be in any of the disciplines, but you should have enough fitness to hold a sustained effort.
You don’t have to dedicate your every waking moment to training, but you should have enough time to complete a solid training plan. This generally means more than two or three months of training without disruption.
It’s important to take the time to get comfortable – and safe – doing all three disciplines. The training period is not the time to learn swimming, for example. You should already have the basics down so that you can focus on building your endurance.
Are you just getting swept up by what other people are doing? Do you feel like you “should” do an Ironman just to prove something? Make sure the reason you want to do the race is because it’s what you really want to do, otherwise it’s unlikely to be a good experience.
Things to Keep in Mind
While training for triathlons can lead to a strong body and mind, it’s important to understand your limits. Be aware of signs that you’re overtraining or getting too obsessive about the sport. Maintaining a balance between training and life will allow you to continue pursuing triathlon in a healthy way.