Indoor Triathlons

The swim leg of an indoor triathlon is safe and warmby Katherine A. Roccasecca

The fun and excitement of a triathlon without as much commitment? That's what makes an indoor triathlon the perfect first triathlon for a newbie and the perfect pre-season pickup for the experienced triathlete.

If you've been trying to convince a friend or relative to give triathlon a try but they've been hesitant, thinking it would be too hard or that they would have to buy a lot of expensive gear, steer them toward an indoor triathlon. They won't need to buy anything other than what they would need for the training anyway. That's the following: swimsuit, goggles, shorts that don't chafe, and running shoes.

If you, the experienced triathlete, have been stuck on the bike trainer in the basement or are feeling the blues of pre-sunrise trips to the pool, use an indoor triathlon as mid-winter pick-me-up. These events have all the fun and excitement of competition without being so long in time or distance to throw off your training plan. You can meet up with friends and rivals to compare times. And you'll probably meet several first-triathlon folks who would really appreciate an encouraging word or two from you.

What Do Indoor Triathlons Look Like?

Indoor triathlons haven in fitness club cycling studiosFitness clubs and YMCAs are common sites for indoor triathlons. Swimming happens in a swimming pool. Biking is typically done on exercise bikes. Running can be done on treadmills or, if the facility has an indoor track, on the track.

Indoor triathlons can be divided into two basic formats: by distance and by time. "By distance" is similar to outdoor races. Simply complete the required distances and the person with the best time wins. "By time" is a little different. Organizers set times for swimming, biking, and running, and the person who covers the most distance wins. The times for each event might be different or the distances for each might be multiplied by a points factor to weight them more evenly.

Transitions at an indoor triathlon are handled very differently from an outdoor race, and policies can vary hugely from race to race. Often facilities don't want participants running through the building and may even require drying off completely between the swim and bike to protect their expensive indoor bikes. You may find that transitions are not timed at all. Or they can be assigned a set time—long enough to give everyone the chance to move safely, but short enough to discourage dawdling. When transitions are timed, they may not be timed separately, but might instead be part of the bike or run times.

What Are the Benefits of Indoor Triathlon?

Several benefits make an indoor triathlon perfect for a first triathlon:

• Pool swim is safe and non-threatening compared to the deep water and crowded start of an an open water swim.

• The distances are usually pretty easy.

• If the race is scored by time, there is no concern about how far you can go. Just ask, "Can I swim, can I bike, can I run for X minutes?" And remember it's okay to stop and catch your breath if you need to.

Experienced triathletes can use an indoor triathlon to give new gear or nutrition products a test under race conditions. And of course it's fun to see how you stand against some of your competition.

For everyone, course reconnaissance is pretty simple. Also, if you are a member of the fitness club or Y where the race is being held, you can train in the actual pool, on the actual bikes, and on the actual track or treadmills.

Indoor triathlons are typically fun events and always a good way to kick off the new year's tri season.


Read the rest of our articles and race reports about indoor triathlons.

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Katherine is our Content Champion. She has done triathlons in the past, and now focuses on mountain biking and long-distance gravel riding. She still has a soft spot in her heart for weird multi-sport events like indoor triathlon and aquabike. She also teaches indoor cycling.

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  • Kyle

    Great story now I want to try one. Sounds like a no training friendly event!