Triathlon Changed My Life.

author : jsanko
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Like many of you, my knowledge of triathlon at that time was restricted to the Hawaii Ironman and when my friend put this idea forward I shrugged it off as being absurd.

This is probably true for many of you reading this article and my story is probably similar to many of yours’. In fact, one of the only differences between you and me is that I am writing this article while you are reading it. Beginning this month, I will be contributing a monthly column to beginnertriathlete.com relating to health issues for the triathlete. I will address many different topics including but not limited to injury management and prevention, nutritional and environmental concerns as well as the means to maintain your healthy lifestyle and have it spread to other aspects of your life and to others. But first, I thought that you might like to know who I am because in so many ways I am certain that we are very similar.

I grew up in Montreal, Canada. In Montreal ice hockey was pretty much a mandatory activity and I was no exception. I began playing when I was five and continue to do so to this day. In fact, it was hockey that led me to triathlon. When I finally finished medical school and residency I was overweight and out of shape. I realized that I was at a crossroads. My choices were to descend into older age and leave behind the active lifestyle of my youth or to make the necessary changes in order to rekindle my enthusiasm and ability.

Mostly, I just wanted to keep playing competitive hockey. And so I began to workout and changed the way I ate. I spent many hours in the gym and started to eat in a much healthier way. Four months after making the commitment to myself I had lost 25 pounds and was feeling fitter than I had in years.

It was at this point that a friend casually suggested that I try triathlon. Like many of you, my knowledge of triathlon at that time was restricted to the Hawaii Ironman and when my friend put this idea forward I shrugged it off as being absurd. But when she enlightened me as to the reality of the sprint and Olympic distances I began to pay attention. Of course, the fact that I didn’t know how to swim was also a minor obstacle. She quickly dismissed that issue as well stating that anyone could learn how to swim!

Perhaps she was right? After all, I had gone from being a total couch potato to an athlete in four months, would it be that much more of a stretch to become a triathlete? I decided to give it a try. I hired a swim coach, bought a bike and began to run.

Fall became winter and then turned to spring and triathlon season rapidly approached. I decided to race three tris that first year with my goal race an Olympic distance. The first triathlon I ever participated in was an unmitigated disaster. I hated every minute of it. I remember thinking how much I hated the swim only to find that I wasn’t nearly the cyclist I thought I was and then when I finally got to the run, spending the whole time mentally composing the classified ad to sell everything triathlon related. That all changed when I crossed the finish line. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I was hooked. Not that she didn’t support me and become my biggest fan. She just never did understand why there always seemed to be one more thing to buy for my bike!

In any case, after I completed my Olympic distance race and my first season ended I began to plan for the next year. When I began this whole undertaking my attitude had been that triathlon was a great idea but Ironman seemed completely ridiculous. Now, as I planned my second season I actually contemplated a half Ironman! As you can imagine, a half suddenly progressed to a full and in 2004 I participated in and finished Ironman Canada.

In June 2005 I did Ironman Coeur d’Alene taking almost one and a half hours off of my previous time. Now, I find myself yearning to compete in Kona at the big one, the Ironman World Championship.

Two years ago I began to look for a way that I could give back to the sport and the community that had given me so much. I began to write a bimonthly column in Inside Triathlon called ‘Ask the Tri Doc’ in which I answered triathlete’s health related questions. I continue to write that column though now for Triathlete Magazine.

I jumped at the opportunity to write for beginnertriathlete.com as it gives me a chance to encourage people new to the sport in a way that so many did for me. My hope is that this column will help you become a healthier, more injury-savvy triathlete and that you will benefit from my knowledge and experience.

My article next month will be on health related issues for the new triathlete; should you see a doctor prior to embarking on your training program? Is a triathlon realistic for anyone regardless of health status? Future articles are planned but I am always open to specific questions on issues that might be of interest to all triathletes. So if you have such a question, please e-mail me.

I look forward to this dialogue!

Train hard, train healthy.

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date: October 30, 2005

jsanko

Began triathlon in 2001 and have now completed two IMs, (Canada, 2004 & Coeur d'Alene 2005) as well as many halfs and even more olys and sprints.
Written for first Inside Triathlon and now Triathlete Magazine since 2003. Mostly a web based column called 'Ask the Tri Doc' but also now have two print articles as well.
Member of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team Medical Group 2001-2003

avatarjsanko

Began triathlon in 2001 and have now completed two IMs, (Canada, 2004 & Coeur d'Alene 2005) as well as many halfs and even more olys and sprints.
Written for first Inside Triathlon and now Triathlete Magazine since 2003. Mostly a web based column called 'Ask the Tri Doc' but also now have two print articles as well.
Member of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team Medical Group 2001-2003

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