Create your own ‘triathlon’

Since ancient times, multi-sport athletes have always been considered superior in terms of overall fitness. This sentiment has continued to the modern Olympics, where the decathlon champion is considered the world’s greatest athlete. The decathlon consists of 10 track and field events completed over a period of two days.

Cross training brings together a workout where athletes use multiple sports to achieve a higher level of fitness. Many participate in triathlons. Recently made popular by the Hawaiian Ironman event, triathlons consist of various combinations of swimming, cycling and running. The ironman distances include a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run. In an effort to gain more participation, many shorter variations of triathlons have been established.

Swimming is always the first competition since exhaustion during the swim can lead to catastrophe. This event is held in open water where water temperature, waves and limited visibility are obstacles. Wet suits are often used for warmth.

The bike portion can be grueling and is the only event which depends not only on fitness, but the quality of equipment. A mechanical breakdown will really leave a participant behind. The running segment is last and is always the true test of endurance.

Triathlons are a great way to incorporate three cross training sports into anyone’s workout. There are no rules regarding which three sports must be used to create a friendly competition, or to just challenge yourself.

Try choosing three events you most enjoy. These sports may change with the season, using all indoor sports during winter (stationary bike, treadmill, and rower) or a combination of indoor and outdoor events in summer (running or walking, swimming, and rollerblading). The events should use different muscle groups. Work on at least one different segment each day and if possible try two. Allocate enough time to go through all three events during one long workout each week and keep track of time and distance.

Creating your own triathlon will add variation to your exercise routine and help limit overuse of certain muscles, while eliminating potential boredom.

Anthony G. Alessi, MD, is Chief of Neurology at The William W. Backus Hospital with a private practice at NeuroDiagnostics, LLC in Norwich. He can be emailed at You can listen to a podcast of this column at

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