Turning to the triathlon diet


Published Apr 26, 2012 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

A growing number of overweight people are now using triathlons, and the intense training used to prepare for one, as a way to shed pounds.

Two weight classes created in the mid-1980s as a way to attract people to the sport are becoming increasingly prevalent on the circuit, USA Triathlon operating officer Tim Yount said. They are Clydesdales, for 200-plus pound men, and Athenas, for 150-plus pound women.

The two most popular triathlon distances are Olympic — consisting of a 1.5-kilometer swim, 40k bike ride and 10k run — and Sprint, which can vary in length, but the standard is a 750-meter swim, 20k bike and 5k run.

Training for an event is different for each person. But it’s generally a five-day-a-week endeavor of at least two segments in each discipline — swim, bike, run — making it a good way to shed excess weight and become more toned.

Gearing up for triathlons is also an excellent method to get in shape because it’s less stress on a larger body than strictly long-distance running, said Dr. Jordan Metzl. He is an avid triathlete who has participated in nine Ironmans and recently wrote a book on injury prevention for athletes.

Some people say triathlon is a life-saver. In a 1,000-person survey recently conducted by USA Triathlon, nearly 20 people responded they likely would have died from obesity-related complications had they not picked up the sport.

When former high school wrestler Joe Alex, of Bay Shore, N.Y., got up to 240 three summers ago, he decided to start training for triathlons. “I used to run three miles, but running three miles isn’t enough,” the 34-year-old said.

Now about 215, Alex said he’d like to be light enough to get out of the Clydesdale class, but is a proponent of the division because it gives larger men and women a chance to compete against similarly built competitors. “It’s a wrestling mentality because there’s a weight class,” he said. “I actually want to measure up with guys my size.”

— Chris Mascaro,

Columbia News Service