People sometimes ask me, which of the three sports in triathlon is my favorite. Judging by the title of this post you may guess it is cycling. Before I give you reasons for that, let me first elaborate a bit on the other two.
What I like in swimming is submerging myself in an environment in which it is hard to be distracted. To move effectively in water you need to be pretty focused and coordinated. This sport teaches me to be humble and verifies my actual skills.
I remember many years ago during my studies in the US there were a few swimming champions from a number of countries (including Poland) in various strokes. I used to meet them at the university occasionally. One day one of those champions was having a leg-only warm-up session on the lane next to mine. Swimming freestyle with all my abilities at the time I could not keep up with her.
What is interesting is that the best swimmers are only 4% efficient in water. This means that they spend 96% of their energy fighting drag. If you disbelieve this just look around at the people swimming or try yourself to move your limbs in water without any coordination. Chances are, you will not move forward.
Despite many advantages like activation of several muscles, little injury and blissful state you can achieve swimming requires a lot of discipline and self-denial. Entering a pool in an early winter morning is one of my least liked moments during the week. So is doing fast intervals and being out of breath with a strong feeling of heavy legs.
Running is the sport I have done for the longest time. Relative to the other two I am most successful in it too. I can observe that during an Ironman event when the time comes for the marathon part. Overtaking many athletes during the run part gives me an additional boost to push for the finish line. When you are successful in something it is hard not to like it.
Running has been booming in recent years around the world including Poland. When we moved to Wroclaw 13 years ago there was hardly anybody else running on the river dikes. Today, especially on a Sunday morning, you can meet numerous groups of runners.
The beauty of running comes from its simplicity. All you need is just a pair of sneakers. You can run anywhere. Of the less obvious places I had a pleasure to run I can mention a rocking cruise ship, crowded streets of Saigon with thousands of speeding mopeds, in US national parks running away from bears or on a frozen lake.
I like to do long-distance running in company. The time flies then much faster and my head does not tire so much. You heart would go a bit faster as long as you converse during the run. But you can treat it as an additional training burden.
As for drawbacks, running is injury prone. Thank God I have been largely saved from this malady. Besides after long distances you can develop all kinds of callus on your feet including losing your toe nails. This is especially the case when you running shoes are not properly fit.
Running can also be quite monotonous. You can beat that listening to some music, yet the landscape does not move very as quickly as for example on a bike.
Finally, it is time for my favorite sport. Cycling is probably one of the first more difficult and unnatural activites we learn in our life. Many of you may remember that special moment, when you started pedalling on your own. The sense of freedom in biking I could only compare to flying. Covering thousands of kilometres annually I love exploring new places, landscapes and meeting new people. Cycling is also one of the most gregarious sports I know. Going in a peloton I can really have a fun time. If you add the benefit of drafting (going right behind somebody), it makes the whole effort even less strenuous. Travelling like this you can save 30-40% of your energy.
I am not sure if you have noticed that cyclists are one of the best dressed athletes. Those colourful and matching outfits. Everything must go together well, just like with elegantly dressed people.
I should also mention those wonderful bikes. You can spend a fortune on them. State-of-the- art and feather-like construction technologies, streamlines shapes, well-functioning mechanisms are all features that will make your ride even more enjoyable. This is probably why I cover on my bike annually almost as much distance as I drive in my car.
Often times when we go somewhere further with my family I leave our house a few hours earlier and they pick me up after about 150-200 km somewhere along the way to our destination. The same happens at times on the way back. Wherever I can I take my bike with me on vacation just like now. Since the beginning of the year I have already ridden close to 1000 miles. I am in a warmer climate now and I have more free time.
Long bike rides have also a benefit to all those who want to lose some weight. This is the most efficient way to burn excess fat of the three sports.
Obviously road cycling can pose some dangers. I have had a few accidents resulting in broken nose, a few stiches and abrasions here and there. I want to warn you especially during crossing of tramway or railroad tracks, particularly right after or during rain. To accelerate healing of potential wounds or/and improve aerodynamics many male cyclists shave their legs. Somehow I have stayed away from that so far.
As for road traffic encounters you can sometimes bump into some rogue drivers. Every year it gets better though. The best traffic etiquette I have experiences toward bikers is in Italy. Poland does not look that bad either. Much better that the US, where you do not have a lot of bike lanes or road shoulder and the drivers seem a bit oblivious to the bikers while overtaking them.
No matter what your favourite sport is I encourage you all to be active on a regular basis. The benefits are multiple and invaluable.
Currently with my family we are in one of the Club Med villages in Dominican Republic. The beauty of such vacation with CM is that you can spend your days very actively. I start my days with a run around the village. Then comes sailing (Laser boat), breakfast, golf and bocce with Wojtek, swimming in the sea, lunch, minigolf and pool with Ania Jr. and Jas. In the evening there is time for biking and gym. The girls also do yoga and pilates. You have many more sports to choose from.
Sports bring people closer to each other. So stay fit and smile at others more often!