Last week, one of my friends told me he was gearing up for a local triathlon.
That came as a surprise, to say the least. March might not be Maryland's worst month, weather-wise, but it certainly is one of the least predictable. There are sunny days with 70-degree highs, and there are discouragingly cold days with snow, or at least the threat of it. There are also days that start out like the former and turn into the latter, and how cruel is that?
I was trying to wrap my head around the concept of swimming outside anywhere when my friend informed me it was the Tri2BeMore Indoor Triathlon, which is hosted by (and occurs inside) one of our local fitness clubs. The user-friendly course includes a 10-mile spin on one of the studio cycles, a 1/4-mile swim and a three-mile run on the facility's indoor track. There is also a sprint course with a 10-minute swim, 25-minute cycle and 15-minute run. Both are non-competitive and untimed. They even include post-race refreshments, just like a regular triathlon.
"It's a great jump-start for the season," my friend told me, "because triathlons around here don't start for a few months. It's also the day after St. Patrick's Day, so people have a reason not to stay out late partying."
A quick search around the Internet showed me there are plenty of indoor triathlons taking place in the cold and transitional months, so obviously, clubs are responding to demand.
According to statistics compiled by USA Triathlon, participation in multisport events is increasing. Actually, make that explosively increasing - between 1993 and 2000, USA Triathlon's membership numbers hovered between 15,000 and 21,000. By the close of 2010, membership stood at 133,810, and it continues to grow. USA Triathlon cites various factors that contribute to the increased popularity, including media attention, growing public awareness of multisport events, more triathlons and duathlons being offered nationwide (and being offered in various distances), increasing numbers of individuals looking for new fitness outlets and, yes, the ego and bucket list factors.
The indoor tri at our club is open to anyone age 11 and up, which dovetails with another phenomenon - youth multisport events. In speaking with an official at USA Triathlon recently, I learned these are on the rise and that the organization is dedicating resources to growing this aspect of its business. It even offers youth and junior coaching certification.
But at the end of the day, the indoor triathlon is just a fantastic promotion. It brings potential members into the gym at a point when the energy level and positive vibe are incredibly strong. It encourages current members to keep working out, and maybe even to schedule appointments with a personal trainer for the sports they aren't strong in yet. And best of all, it can get kids off the couch and into fitness. Win-win.