Having been involved with triathlon for the past 5 years as both a coach and a top age group finisher I have come to realize that the sport of triathlon has a great many rewards to offer. It can be a very intoxicating sport and really boost one’s self-esteem. Pushing new limits and realizing what your body is actually capable of doing when appropriate training techniques/coaching and some discipline in both training and nutrition are put in place. However, there is a dark side to this sport and I intend on providing what I consider to be the 5 most common pitfalls TO IRONMAN DISTANCE training I have experienced and witnessed in my time in this sport. I specifically single out the full Ironman distance mainly because of its excessiveness. These 5 dangers I am about to list do not really pertain to the shorter distance events in my opinion.
5 Pitfalls to Ironman Distance Triathlon:
1) Over-Training: This is a no brainer but it has to be #1 since this is where most other problems stem from. However, even if one is not over-trained there are still issues that will cause one to question the training commitment required in time to properly prepare for an Ironman event.
2) The “Dehumanization” factor that has been written about previously and can be elaborated upon in this 1989 Sports Illustrated Vault article (Please see link below to article.). To sum Nicholas Dawidoff’s article up: Even if you are not over-trained, the time spent away from family and friends can create a situation in which one loses the feeling that they even belong to a family/community. The extreme narcissism of focusing one’s attention so deeply on their training/diet/recovery begins to negatively impact their relationships with family, friends and co-workers.
3) Divorce. Again, this can be a by product of over-training or just the fact that you are never around your significant other. Relationships require time as well. If you are out biking, running and swimming during all your free time then you are not at home spending quality time with your spouse. This puts excessive strain on any relationship.
4) Cost. Triathlon is not a cheap sport by any means. Once you decide you want to be an “Ironman” the costs can sky rocket. The registration fee alone is upwards of $400-$500 for an Ironman Event. Not to mention the cost of traveling to the event with yourself and your bike. Speaking of bike,,, the wheels alone can set you back a significant amount of money before you even have a bike. Then there is the power meter, the GPS device, the wet suit, the shoes, and yes….the coaching.
5) Suppressed immune system, injury, and osteoporosis ( http://www.usatriathlon.org/resources/multisport-zone/fuel-station/the-endurance-athlete-and-osteoporosis ). Most individuals who compete in endurance sports are at risk of all of the above. Osteoporosis, especially due to poor nutrition, but also due to the fact that very few endurance athletes lift weights. Swimming and cycling are non-weight bearing activities. Ah! but running is? Running is, but only for the lower legs. Running does nothing for the upper body in terms of building bone density.
There you have it. The 5 pitfalls to Ironman racing and training. This is not meant to be an all inclusive list but is a list of what I have both personally experienced and witnessed in the sport of triathlon. This does not mean one should not attempt to race an Ironman event either. However, those participants should realize the pitfalls and the possible shortcomings of this race. There seems to be this collective acceptance that you are in excellent shape when training/competing at the Ironman distance. However, how one defines “shape” or “fitness” is usually in there place in the final age group results. This is all well and good. However, don’t confuse fitness with health. Being incredibly fit does not necessarily mean one is in good health. Like your grandmother always said….”Everything in moderation.”
Sport’s Illustrated Article Link: