USA TRIATHLON, THE SPORT'S GOVERNING BODY, estimates that more than 200,000 people competed in their first triathlon in 2001, a recruitment rate that might have to do with the sport's inherent cross-training benefits. Triathletes face a lower risk of activity-induced injuryand sheer boredomthan those single-sport-obsessed folks. To help you test your own limits, Eric Harr, pro racer and author of Triathlon Training for the Rest of Us, designed a program for Olympic-distance triathlons that involve a 1.5k swim, a 40k bike ride, and a 10k run. The best part, according to Harr? "We'll get you to the finish without drooling on yourself."
The not so secret weapon Harr employs in his eight-week program to help you go the distance is, of all things, weight lifting. "Triathlon is a strength sport," he says. "Going from the bike to the run requires a strong back and legs." So, on weight-training days complete the following lifts: squats, hamstring curls, calf raises, lat pull-downs, back extensions, chest presses, and abdominal crunches. Do one set of 12 to fatigue, followed by one set of ten to fatigue. Your cardio work should be completed at a notch above tortoise pace so you can, in Harr's words, "build aerobic fitness without fatigue." The designated Level 2 workouts (see chart) are done at your predicted race pacethat is, "working hard but not out of control," says Harr.
(Olympic Three-Ways )
CHICAGO TRIATHLON Joining 26,000 flailing arms and legs in Lake Michigan seems like a daunting way to start your first triathlonuntil that frenzied momentum carries you to the finish of this easy urban course. (August 24, 2003; www.chicagotriathlon.com)
THE MONSTER CHALLENGE It might take some gumption to plunge into Boston Harbor for the swim, but smoking past scullers on the scenic Charles River on your bike is incentive enough to tackle Boston's biggest triathlon. (August 31, 2003; www.monsterchallenge.org)
SEAGATE TRIATHLON AT PACIFIC GROVE This neophyte-friendly course in California has you swimming among sea otters and sea lions, then biking and running along Monterey Peninsula's breathtaking coastline. (September 13, 2003; www.tricalifornia.com)