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I Raced an Indoor Tri (and I Totally WON)

Okay, so maybe I didn’t win the Indoor Triathlon.  But I was winning in my head.  And sometimes? That’s all that matters!

An indoor triathlon is a not-your-typical-variation of the triathlon. It has three “events” – the swim, bike and run – but it’s usually held in a fitness club or gym for a few reasons:

  1. Ease of access to equipment
  2. Non-intimidation factor
  3. Cost of the event for the racers AND the sponsors
  4. Comfort of the event (usually in your “local” club)
  5. Easy access to “transition” rooms for changing
  6. Volunteers who you probably know
  7. Finally… in an environment that doesn’t quite make you want to toss your cookies.

Well, that is until you are racing the person on the treadmill next to you…  but more on that later.

What an Indoor Tri IS:

An indoor tri is a great place to:

  1. Get a hard workout (if you push it properly, this is a gut-buster!)
  2. Learn the ins and outs about a triathlon order, style and feel
  3. Do some “embarrassing” things in a contained, supportive environment
  4. Feel “safe” in the swim and bike and run
  5. Take it easy OR race
  6. See how hard you can push yourself (and reveal what you need to work on)
  7. Feel like a superhero in a little over an hour

What an Indoor Tri is NOT:

While an indoor tri is a great starting place for triathlon, it is not the same as an outdoor event.

Therefore, while you may want to start here at an indoor event, a little more practice and outdoor-acclimation is recommended before heading to an outdoor, typical triathlon.

Generally, an outdoor triathlon is in a body of water (lake, river, ocean, bay), so you will want to do some “open water swimming” before tackling the outdoor race. Additionally, there may be some wetsuit considerations, and cold water issues, swim practice to have, and skills to learn.  You want to be a decent swimmer before tackling the outdoor race; whereas in the indoor tri, you can stand up at any moment and be fine.

Same for the bike and the run–the triathlon outside will require a moving bicycle (moving legs) on a course with other racers and sometimes traffic.  There is little chance for a low-speed tipover or fall on an indoor bike or treadmill.. but we need to know about these hazards and practice riding and running outdoors.

*Please note that none of this is to discourage you! Just want to delineate the differences before you jump into the lake and head out on your first outdoor tri–for safety and more.

Example Indoor Tri

I attended the LifeTime Fitness Indoor Tri this past weekend, and they historically put on great events.

I heart most things about LifeTime, so I expected to also heart this.  (And I did).

Here’s what their tri looked like:

10 minute swim  (as far as you can go back and forth, in 10 minutes)
10 minute transition to bike (dry off and get ready to bike)
30 minute bike  (pedal, pedal, pedal – go as far and as fast as you can in 30 minutes)
5 minute transition to run (head to the treadmill)
+ 20 minute run (and done!)
= Triathlete

See?  You can totally do that!

That’s another great thing about indoor races… as a beginner, we can really wrap our heads around this being possible. That’s huge!

The Swim

The swim in an indoor tri is held in a pool – usually indoors.  You can wear your swimsuit as you normally would in a pool; no need to wear a traditional tri kit or tri wear at these events.

You can share a lane with another swimmer and circle swim (usually counter-clockwise), or choose to each stick to “your side” of the lane.

Your goal is to swim as many lengths as possible in the time period; that is your score.

Once the time is up, then you head to the locker room and get ready to ride the bike.

Transition One (T1)

There is only one difficult part about an indoor triathlon… and that is putting on your dry sports bra on your wet body.  🙂

Here you’ll likely change from the swimsuit into cycling or tri shorts (or regular shorts are fine too), and a tank top or t-shirt to ride the bike portion of the “race.”

You have about 10 minutes – which is plenty of time, but also not that much time to socialize. You’ll want to move forward with a purpose and get to the stationary bike so you have time to adjust the bike to your liking.

The Bike

The cycling takes place on stationary bikes or indoor cycling set-ups.  You are measured by your distance/power output during the 30 minutes.  A good rule of thumb is to treat this leg as something of urgency – but a pace that you can keep up and sustain for 30 minutes. You can use cycling shoes, but sneakers are just fine as well.

I used my sneakers even though I have cycling shoes, because of the time constraint – easier to just use the cages on the bikes than mess with the cycling clips and uncertainty of knowing what kinds were available.

Transition Two (T2)

Nothing much to do here except get ready to RUN!  If you have cycling shoes, you’ll change into your sneakers, but otherwise, head to the treadmill or track and get ready to run.

The Run

All of the run takes place on an indoor track or treadmill.  The volunteers will shout “go” and you are off for your run on the treadmill to nowhere.

You can walk or run or go at your own pace–whatever your heart desires. You are completely in control with your speed, which is a great thing!

Oh! You may also compete with your neighbors on their treadmills by looking at their speeds and trying to go faster. I got myself into a world of hurt doing this on Sunday–I was next to a much faster runner and found myself trucking at a much faster pace than my little legs could sustain.

So much fun, though!

What Happens After the Indoor Tri?


(And how amazing is that!?)

Whether you are a seasoned triathlete or a brand new athlete, these indoor tris are a great start to learn where you are in your training, if you can push yourself hard on that short bike and run, and if you might like to take this fun sport outside.

I enjoyed walking out of the locker room on Sunday and hearing the buzz from all the women who just had their first taste of the joy of triathlon. It’s a powerful feeling to do something you’ve never done before. It’s an even more powerful feeling to witness that strength bloom in other women.

I loved being there.

I haven’t raced since Augusta last year and as I finished, I was proud of myself, because I really did give it a great effort.  Knowing that I had really pushed myself for the first race of the season with  21.5 MPH on the bike, a 9:25 pace on the run, well, I guess that I can say I felt like I had WON.

It was a win of a day–to wake up, do something fun, grow a little and have a sense of community. Winning for sure.

Lots to learn and fun to be had… right inside!

Ready to start to tri?
Download the FREE full-length copy of Triathlon for the Every Woman.

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