Even though triathlon is one of the fastest growing sports around, many people have never been exposed to it, or have only been seen big adult races like Ironman. This often leads to people asking how in the world their kid could do a triathlon, and why they would want to.
Youth triathlon is still the same three disciplines (swimming, biking, and running), plus transitions between the two. Kids (youth and junior) races are designed with distances much shorter than adult races, and usually 10 year olds & under will race about half the distance of the 11+ athletes. The swim portion is often in a pool, but may be in other protected bodies of water (closed lake, protected beach area, and even the lazy river of a waterpark), while the bike rides and runs are safest on closed roads. If closed roads aren't possible, the lanes will be blocked off to avoid problems with traffic. The run portion may even take place on sidewalks or along protected paths. The athletes must "transition" from swim to bike and from bike to run. These are referred to as T1 and T2. Certain rules apply to transitioning and racing, and the rules and tips will be covered in an upcoming blog post.
With so many sports around, why triathlon?
The wonderful thing about triathlon is that it is made up of the things we spent our childhood doing. If you lived anywhere it was warm, you probably spent hours swimming every summer, and may have even ridden your bike to the pool. Do you remember the hours spent running around playing tag, hide and go seek, and football in the street? By nature, once kids learn the skills, they tend to enjoy all three activities. Triathlon just puts them in a sequence and allows the athletes to folllow a route. The fantastic thing about all three activities is that they can be done together or independently, competitively or just for fun, and they can be done for life. Look in any YMCA or community pool and you are likley to see patrons in their 70's and 80's swimming laps. You may not be able to play football at 70, but there a lot of people still cycling and jogging at that age. Triathlon provides a base for health and fitness throughout life. It is also a great confidence builder. In many sports, you either win or lose. In triathlon, crossing the finish line is the initial accomplishment, and the kids usually get a medal to reward their finish. As they progress, they can set more specific goals to work toward.
Ok, so it looks kind of fun... how do I start?
If you or your athlete think it would be something fun to try, search the web for youth triathlon your city or closest big city. See if there is any local race to try. Here in the greater Houston area, we have LOTS of opportunities. Check out our race calendar to see where we will be!.
When registering for a race, look at a few key factors: Open water or pool swim? What time of year is it? Do we have time to train around that time?
You may have to travel a bit if there is nothing local, but they can great family fun trips. Make sure the emphasis stays on fun!
Once you commit to a race and set the goal to complete it, you'll need to make sure your athlete is ready and confident for the race. Follow us on Facebook, and subscribe to the newsletter to keep posted with tips and information on youth triathlon.
In the next part of this 4 part blog series, Coach Meagan will walk you through the tri terms you need to know, equipment information, and other tips to get you started in your journey. Later posts will get you trained and prepped for race day! If you have questions, feel free to post them and we'll try to get them answered for you!