They say variety is the spice of life. And variety is exactly what you’ll inject into your training regime when you take up a multisport…
But what is it? In short, multisport is the umbrella term used for a family of endurance races consisting of two or more sports. In multisport competition, entrants compete in a continuous series of stages or ‘legs’, quickly switching from one aerobic discipline to the next during rapid transitions to achieve the fastest overall time.
No doubt you’ll already be familiar with the more traditional and hugely popular forms of multisport, such as triathlon – made up of a swim, cycle and run – and duathlon, which follows a running/cycling/running formula.
Indeed, various forms of running, cycling and swimming feature heavily in the multisport line up – just think trail running and mountain biking alongside running and cycling on the flat. But delve a little deeper, and you’ll also find other types of races incorporating activities such as rowing, cross-country skiing, and even kayaking.
Aquathlon, biathle and swimrun are just a few lesser-known examples of multisport, but these events are becoming increasingly attractive to fitness fans looking to learn a new skill, take their training to the next level, or find their next exciting challenge.
In the coming months, we’ll be examining various multisports individually and explaining how you can give them a try. But for now, here’s a simple rundown of some of the most common disciplines and what they entail:
Swimming, cycling, running
Swimming, mountain biking, trail running
Running, cycling, cross-country skiing
Running, cycling, running
Mountain biking, trail running
Multiple swims and runs without transitions
Running, swimming, running
Why should I try a multisport?
Many fitness enthusiasts tend to find one activity they’re naturally good at and then stick with it. Perhaps you cycle to and from work every day. Maybe you hit the pool every morning. Or, you love pounding the pavements to set a new PB. It’s great to excel at one thing and see gains in your speed and stamina over time. But always staying within your comfort zone can cause you to hit a plateau in your training both physically and mentally.
When boredom sets in from doing the same thing over and over again - or you’ve reached the top of your game and feel there’s nothing else left to achieve - it can be hard to find the motivation to maintain regular training. Physiologically, doing the same activity repetitively can also put a strain on certain joints, muscles, and ligaments of the body, causing imbalances that can lead to potential injury from overuse.
However, training across multiple sporting disciplines will help you to keep your mind and training plans fresh - and your body always guessing. Exercising in various movement patterns will help to strengthen your body as a whole: a keen runner with strong legs and hips will also develop great core and upper body strength when they add swimming into the equation. Equally, balancing out runs with a non-impact sport such as cycling or swimming can give your body the break it needs to rest, recuperate, and ultimately boost overall athletic growth.
And that’s to say nothing of the amazing community you’ll discover – all ready to share their knowledge, enthusiasm and encouragement – when you become a part of the multisport family.
How can I try it?
Whether you’re a keen amateur athlete or new to exercise, the idea of training across three separate sports might seem overwhelming in terms of the time and money you’d need to invest.
Ease yourself in by choosing a multisport that involves only two disciplines, such as aquabike (swimming and cycling) or duathlon (running and cycling). Play to your strengths, and include one activity you already do, making sure the other sport is something you can take up easily – trainers (and a sports bra for the ladies) are all you need to get running, but a bike can be an expensive investment, and equally, if you don’t have access to a local pool, you could soon tire of swimming. When you’re ready for the next challenge, you can then look to extending your repertoire to three events.
Next up, join a club. You might find it hard to find a specific club for your chosen multisport locally, but there should be clubs near you that cater for individual sports such as mountain biking, trail running or open water swimming. Just join up, absorb everything you can and start putting it into practice – you can learn how to string everything together later with dedicated training days or weekends away, and even holiday camps.
Finally, finding and signing up for an event is essential if you want to get out of the starting blocks and fuel your motivation to train. Be realistic in your goal setting by allowing yourself enough time to get race ready (it could take months, even a year to prepare, but remember that it’s all about the journey, not the destination).
Keep in mind that the world of multisport is constantly adapting to make it more accessible to the masses, with shorter races being created for novices, plus the introduction of triathlons that feature indoor pool swims for those who are nervous about swimming in open water.
Do your research, and you’re bound to find the perfect multisport suitable for you to reinvigorate your training, learn a new skill, and reach new heights!
Joanna Ebsworth is a qualified Level 3 PT and fitness instructor. She has been writing about fitness for many of the UK's top publications for 15 years and is the author of two fitness guides.