Since its 2000 Olympic debut in Sydney, the triathlon -- which combines swimming, biking and running -- has experienced a surge in interest among casual athletes. There were 1,891 USAT-sanctioned events in the United States in 2009 -- more than twice the amount hosted in 2004 -- with more than 1.2 million Americans participating [source: USAT].
The challenge of doing something as physically demanding as a triathlon is a powerful draw for competitors. According to a Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) study released in May 2010, more than 95 percent of participants do it to test their own endurance [source: The Tribe Group].
It's not hard to see why the sport is so popular. After all, it's much more demanding than your neighborhood fun run, where any couch potato can show up and usually finish. It takes a higher level of commitment to be a triathlete. Just being in decent shape isn't enough. You have to be at least marginally proficient in three different disciplines -- comfortable in the water, in the saddle and on the road. After stacking all three back-to-back-to-back, the sense of accomplishment goes beyond a T-shirt or a finisher's medal. Calling yourself a triathlete is an ego boost you won't get anywhere else.
So how does one prepare to take on a tri? As the popularity of the sport grows, so does the training community expanding around it. Unlike athletes who focus on one area such as running or cycling, triathletes tend to move in groups. Covering miles upon miles on long training rides can be tedious alone, and open-water swimming in a group is much safer than hitting the waves by yourself. Since most people are less likely to flake out on their training routine when there are others around to encourage them onward, the motivation and encouragement from a group can spur better performances and help athletes get to the finish line without burning out.
In this article we are going to take a look at triathlon training clubs, what benefits they offer participants and how to get one started.