Triathlon For Weight Loss

Since starting GI Tri in 2009, initially as a triathlon club, with an inclusive ethos that provided a safe environment for people of all fitness levels, to train and improve, I have worked with a great many athletes who were training to lose weight.

As I discussed in my blog Diet and Exercise, Who’s the Daddy? exercise isn’t the best way to transform your body, unless of course, you have already made the required modifications to your diet.

That being said, triathlon is a great way to improve fitness for anyone who spent a little too long without any real physical exercise.

The sequence of triathlons being swim – bike – run, lend themselves perfectly to the progressive increase in impact on the lower body and gradual increase in intensity on the cardio vascular system, as the returning athlete extends their training to include all three main disciplines.

The usual thing to do for anyone with initial determination to lose weight by, or in parallel to taking up more physical exercise is to run.

A word of caution here.  If you’re significantly overweight, running hurts!

If you haven’t run for years, chances are your technique may be less than ideal, putting strain on your feet, ankles, knees and hips that will make you sore tomorrow and present a heightened risk of injury.  There’s also the psychological impact of returning to running – it’s hard!  As you head out of the door, you may have planned to gently trot around your neighborhood, light and easy, nodding to the occasional passer-by.  The reality of being red-faced, breathless, hands on knees by the time you reach the second street corner, may be somewhat disheartening and put you off repeating that for the foreseeable future.

If you have come to triathlon in the hope of transforming your body, my advice is this:

Be kind to yourself and be patient.

Start in the pool, progress to riding your bike regularly and only when you can comfortably ride for an hour, or more, consider pulling on your running shoes.  Start slowly, perhaps structure some run-walk intervals to introduce the effort gradually. Over time, reduce the walk intervals and increase the running efforts, until you’re able to run continuously.

In summary – never forget who the daddy of body mass is – avoid a post work-out rewards that are going to wipe-out the energy deficit you just created. To give some indication of this, here are some approximate comparisons:

1 hour of moderate swimming = approximately 500kCal = a plain bagel with cream cheese
1 hour of moderate cycling = approximately 400kCal = a can of tomato soup and two slices of bread
1 hour of easy running = approximately 600kCal =    2 roast chicken and avocado sandwiches

As you can see, exercise doesn’t give you a huge bang for your buck in terms of energy demand, when it’s translated into food equivalents. Compensatory eating or eating as a reward can quickly wipe out the hard work you have put in, when it comes to weight loss.

Of course, your cardiovascular system will still benefit, so you will become fitter but not necessarily lose weight by training, without modifying your diet.


What are your thoughts? Leave comments below.


GI Tri Coach


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