Kris Gethin isn’t your typical triathlon contender. Actually, Gethin is a natural pro bodybuilder, former editor-in-chief of Bodybuilding.com, and CEO of KAGED MUSCLE Supplements. He’s devoted decades of his life to bodybuilding, and bodybuilders tend to be characterized as “static ornaments,” as Gethin puts it. He doesn’t look like the typical lithe, lean, cardio-loving triathlete, but that gives him a good reason to become one.
Gethin wants to show bodybuilders -– and others who wouldn’t typically aim for a triathlon –- that they can and should take the swim-bike-run challenge. As he says, “I wanted to go to the actual extreme – to do something that I should ‘suck at.’”
Earlier this year, Gethin did an Olympic-distance triathlon. Last month, he did a half Ironman. He plans to do a full Ironman triathlon next month. That’s a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a full marathon of 26.22 miles. If you're looking for inspiration, you can follow his journey to Man of Iron week by week here.
One of Gethin’s primary goals with Man of Iron is to show that you can “actually increase your fitness without having to increase the time taken out of a busy day.”
Gethin believes a triathlon is something you can fit into your schedule. Here’s why you should make room for it.
Why a Triathlon Should Be On Your Bucket List
1. You feel better.
The most remarkable benefit Gethin has noticed since beginning to train for triathlons is how great his joints feel. He can also feel how his focus and alertness have improved. When you’re using your body in so many ways and getting regular sunshine and time outdoors, you’re going to start feeling better.
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2. You get out into the real world.
When you train for a triathlon, you’re not in an air-conditioned gym. Because you’re swimming in open water and running and biking such large distances, you can really use your training as an opportunity for exploration. Gethin, a frequent traveler, has seen far more of the cities he visits now that his training paves the way for it.
3. You can reach an active meditative state.
Gethin says he’s “absolutely enjoying these adventures,” and he’s not even bringing his headphones with him anymore. “To think that only six months ago I’d be in a huge panic if I forgot my headphones … It’s night and day because now I leave my headphones at home on purpose.” Gethin enjoys his “active meditation” so much that he doesn’t need or want distractions. If you're not the type to sit and meditate, you may be able to tap into flow through triathlon training.
4. You learn success is a process – and a wildly rewarding one.
Because triathlons require so much training and care, actually finishing one carries the weight of that moment, along with all of the hours of sweat and hard work dedicated to training for it. As Gethin says, when you finish, “You have to acknowledge that it’s the mornings that you didn’t hit the snooze button, that you got up on weekends even when you didn’t want to.”
5. You learn to take control of your environment.
Gethin warns that when you’re first getting into triathlon training, it’s easy to let your environment control you. You can fall prey to excuses, social networking, and partying because it beats the grind of training. But once you rise above those distractions, you realize just how much control you do have. Then, you learn to use the same discipline to reach other goals in your life.
6. You develop skills that stretch far past the finish line.
To Gethin, it’s no coincidence that many successful people also happen to participate in triathlons. He thinks this is because they are the type of people who “understand you have to do a lot of groundwork, boring stuff you don’t want to do … but they do it anyway because they know it's worth it.” Training for a triathlon teaches you discipline, scheduling, mental toughness, and endurance. All of these tools will serve you in your career and personal life.
7. You've got one life, and a triathlon is one way of enriching it.
For Gethin, a triathlon isn't just a goal to reach -- it's part of a much larger system of effort, growth, and success. Gethin trains for triathlons because “we only have one life.” He views his body and life like “the most unbelievable mansion I could ever wish for.” You wouldn’t pull up the floorboards or destroy a mansion, so why would you harm your body and life, which are far more valuable than any piece of property? A triathlon is one of many ways you can work towards reaching your highest potential physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Training for Your First Triathlon
If you’re feeling inspired and want to train for your own triathlon, Gethin recommends using an activity tracking app like Strava. He also recommends focusing on technique, because “80 percent of your efficiency will come from technique.” No matter how great the program you choose to train with is, though, what gets you there is consistency. To stay consistent, supplement your diet with electrolytes throughout your workout and BCAAs and fermented glutamine for recovery. Lastly, Gethin says not to splurge on any special gear just yet. “Go out and buy everything used,” he says. “A lot of that stuff ends up on Craigslist.”
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