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Tri Harder, Train Smarter

Adding swim and bike workouts can make you a better, fitter, healthier athlete.

If you're like the author (pictured here), and most runners, you love crossing a finish line.

Adding swim and bike workouts can make you a fitter, healthier runner.

Written by: Linzay Logan

I started running in college about six years ago. After I graduated and my schedule opened up I put running at the forefront of everything. Day after day I trained, trying to get in enough miles for a PR at whatever the next half marathon or marathon I had spontaneously signed up for. My last marathon in June went off without a hitch and yielded a PR, so I was ecstatic that my training had paid off–but at the same time, I was spent. Several 50-mile weeks leading up to the marathon left me physically injured and mentally exhausted. I surprised even myself—I was burnt out on running! Going for a run was no longer something I wanted to do; it was something that my training schedule told me to do.

Then it dawned on me. Why don’t I try something different, like a triathlon? I’d still get to run, but having swimming and biking to distract me would hopefully help me avoid this terrible burnout.

Ten days later I was diving through Southern California’s waves at the Redondo Beach Triathlon. Before the race was even over, I was hooked. Triathlon is like running, but three times as exciting. Not only do you get to do three sports, but there’s are essentially three finish lines—transition one, transition two and the actual finish line—and if you’re a runner like me, you love crossing a finish line.

A more well-rounded training approach can make you a more successful athlete.

Rick Crump, 46, race director for the Redondo Beach Triathlon and triathlete age-grouper, knows firsthand a thing or two about the benefits of being a triathlete. Aside from introducing him to new, exciting forms of exercise, triathlon has allowed Crump to continue running longer in life. “I have a running background; I ran in college at Virginia Tech,” Crumps explains. “But because I became a triathlete, I am able to continue to run.”

Read More: Can’t run? You can still train.

Giving up high-volume run training to fit in swim and cycling workouts, Crump says his body is healthier and the newer, well-rounded training approach has made him a more successful athlete. “With so much less running on my training schedule, I’m training smarter,” Crump says. “My legs aren’t always tired like they were in college because when I do run, I’m running quality miles.”

Running is a high-impact sport that, over time, can wear down your body. For evidence, look no further than the numerous injury prevention tips, books, stories and magazine articles that are read every day. This isn’t to say that triathletes are immune to running injuries; however, your chances of getting some of the most frequent overuse injuries associated with running high mileage are a lot lower.

Crump knows there are the runners out there that will disagree and won’t give up their running shoes for cycling cleats and a speedo any time soon, but he does argue that any athlete can benefit from a training routine that adds some variety to a running-only plan. “Pure runners may argue,” Crump admits. “But I think mixing it up will keep you in the sport, running longer.”

Read More: Why are you still not cross-training?

It’s hard not to agree with Crump as my most recent running-related injury–a persistent case of piriformis syndrome–continues to nag at me every time I go to sit, stand, walk—basically, almost all the time. Interestingly enough, however, swimming and cycling don’t aggravate it. While I won’t be giving up running any time soon, I have a feeling that in the future my 50-mile weeks will be altered to include some alternative forms of impact-free exercise in the form of swimming and biking. It can’t hurt!