Triathlon, the sport that triumphs among professionals
Triathlons, which encompass cycling, swimming and running, seduce all kinds of professionals, often encouraged by their companies. To triumph in this sport you need sacrifice, discipline and team spirit, the same values that are crucial for success in the world of work.
More and more people are choosing triathlons to get fit, rather than the until now all-powerful running. Although part of its success is due to the fact that it is all-over exercise and less monotonous because it integrates different disciplines – swimming, cycling and running – its origins were not exactly to do with finding a balance between these three sports. It was the result of a bet between American marines who were stranded on the island of Hawaii (USA) in the 1970s. They challenged one-another to see which sport was the most difficult, and as the results were inconclusive, they joined them all in one competition, where its difficulty would be assured. Little by little it gained popularity, until it has its official debut in the Sydney Olympic Games in the year 2000.
Despite the fact that it is a practice that, in its Olympic format, includes 1,500 metres of swimming, 40 kilometres of cycling and 10 kilometres of running, there are competitions for all tastes and levels of fitness. From the Super Sprint that beginners choose - 400 metres of swimming, 10 kilometres on a bike and 2.5km of running, which can be done in under two hours – to the extremely tough Ultraman, which covers 515 kilometres over three days. In the middle is the fashionable trial that many people dream of: the Ironman, in which you have a maximum of 17 hours to complete a four kilometre swim, a 180km cycle and a 42 kilometre marathon.
One group that seems to have embraced this tendency with the most verve is companies. Large corporations are driven to sponsor triathletes with the aim of linking their image to the values of endeavour, overcoming and struggle that the athletes require. Furthermore, their top management have incorporated them into their busy agendas instead of the reviled golf. Their HR departments have also started to use the triathlon as an innovative alternative to team building, to foster a sense of belonging and team values between their employees, as against activities such as paint balling and scavenger hunts. Moreover, many other companies are including it in their health programmes for employees, thus improving working efficiency.
In the opinion of Rodrigo Miranda, managing director of the Higher Institute for Internet Development (ISDI), this success resides in the aptitudes that a triathlete develops: “a great deal of effort, determination, perseverance, discipline, sacrifice, knowing how to organise yourself and to adapt to unknowns”. These are the same as those that are needed to succeed in business. Furthermore, to reach the target it is not enough to be good at one of the disciplines, “it is necessary to work on all three to achieve it”. Yet another parallel with responsible roles in a company, which require people to carry out several functions at the same time and to be versatile. Miranda knows what he is talking about, having completed four Ironman competitions since 2011.
“The triathlon can be done by anyone who is healthy"
Benefits for your professional career
- You learn to organise yourself. Triathlon requires very different types of training, which takes up a lot of time. Miranda believes that the key is to be organised. For example, if you have a flexible start time at work, you can make the most of first thing in the morning to train instead of putting up with the big city’s traffic jams. You’ll undoubtedly arrive at the office more clear-headed and with energy.
- Knowledge and self-control. “These are very hard and long tests that you experience alone; all the time managing your own fears and limitations, and overcoming them. You surprise yourself with how strong your body and mind are”, explains the director. In his opinion, learning to set real targets for yourself and fighting to meet them, without getting obsessed, is a value brought by resistance sports like the triathlon.
- Commitment, discipline and sacrifice. To complete an Ironman you need to do 15 hours of training per week for months, which does not leave any margin for laziness or procrastination. Respecting this routine, without skipping any of it, requires discipline and sacrifice.
- The dynamics of achievement. “When you manage to become a finisher (as triathletes call reaching the finish line), you no longer remember all the suffering that you have gone through; it brings you a determination and a sureness in yourself that runs through into your personal and professional life, and it motivates you to want to find and fight for new challenges”, recounts Miranda.
- It differentiates you from your competitors. In new company models it is increasingly the case that companies look for committed and resilient professionals. “I always ask the candidates who I interview whether they practice sport, because it gives me clues as to how their head works, what their values are and whether they are competitive”, recognises Miranda.
“When you become a finisher, you have forgotten all the suffering that you have gone through"
Has your curiosity been piqued?
“The triathlon can be done by anyone who is healthy, you just have to find the competition that best suits your physical fitness, your availability and your ambition”, explains Vicente Bayón, head of Gestrión, a consultancy dedicated to fostering the triathlon in companies. Then all that remains is to train hard, either individually or in a team, in a gym or outdoors. What is important is that “a professional – either a specialised physical trainer or a trainer from one of the many triathlon clubs – supervises you, because this is a demanding sport that involves real health risks if it is not done properly”, warns Bayón.
- Assess yourself. “Carrying out a basic check on the state of your health is important in order to set realistic targets that will avoid injuries and frustrations”, explains Bayón, who has five Ironman competitions under his belt. In his opinion, people with severe cardiac abnormalities and those who don’t have the ability to sacrifice should abstain. “And those who never have enough and don’t know how to apply limits for themselves”, adds Miranda.
- Plan your time. The key to not abandoning your training routine is marking a competition on the calendar that is achievable. “When there is a challenge involved, the possibility of not getting there in good physical condition gives you the strength to continue”, says Bayón. Furthermore, he believes it is important to be disciplined and prioritize: “if you don’t waste your time and are efficient at work, you can find gaps to mark out a training plan that fits with your needs and with being with your family and friends”.
- Eat healthily and rest. “Equally as important as dedicating time to training is resting enough and eating properly, if you fail in one aspect it will impact on the rest and you won’t be able to reach your goal”, he explains.
- Save money. “In the beginning it is an affordable sport, but when a person starts to compete more seriously, they need to invest heavily in getting properly equipped, the gym, physiotherapy, food supplements, entry prices (which range from €40 to €500 for big competitions)”, recounts Bayón. A triathlon bike, for example, costs €3,000 on average, however to get started it is enough to have a €100 second-hand bike (check out the triathlete’s Wallapop, Tuvalum). But, as Bayón reminds us, it is all a question of priorities and of going step by step.
By Elvira del Pozo