Runners, cyclists or swimmers that are “tri-curious” typically have quite a few questions about how to get started. Even athletes that have done triathlons at the Sprint, Olympic and Half-Ironman and Ironman distances struggle sometimes with what it means to be prepared for a “sport” that demands so much of an athlete going from one event to the next.
It’s Actually Four Sports, Not Just Three
Let’s start with the popular cliche. NUTRITION AND HYDRATION ARE THE FOURTH SPORT. Okay, those are components that must be rehearsed and tested in prep for any multisport event. They support actual performance in important ways.
But the Fourth Sport dimension incorporates more than what you eat and drink because you need to do those things while you keep moving. Which suggests that doing all these things in succession constitutes the “fourth sport” in triathlon. Here is a helpful list of the Fourth Sport Factors that drive the psychology of combining three sports into one:
- GEAR: Quickly changing gear in Transition=SUCCESSion
- CADENCE: Sensing relative cadence helps “brick” psychology and energy conservation
- MOMENTUM is the product of pace and place; adapting to circumstances of the day
- FUSION uses rehearsal to achieve familiarity and avoid “strange” sensations or panic
- ASSOCIATION is reading physical and mental feedback over course of three stages
These “fourth sport” approaches in preparation and performance can help beginners and experts comprehend and manage the successive nature of triathlon. They can even serve as a ‘mental checklist’ throughout training, providing perspective on progression where segmented metrics too often dominate.
The inherently segmented nature of triathlon demands that each athlete develops a sense of fluidity through their approach. Thus the Fourth Sport of triathlon is not just how you think about it, but how you manage SUCCESSion physically and mentally over the course of a whole race.
The subjective takeaways from every performance are just as important as the objective measurements of pace, cadence, distance and time. How did you FUSE these measurements into the whole performance. Where were the comfort levels, and where were there challenges in mental or physical management?
These subjective realities are the true Fourth Sport of triathlon. They are the motivations and inspirations that get you from here to there, and all points in between.