Book review: Triathlon Manual by Sean Lerwill

On a weekday evening in September 1974, 46 enthusiastic young men lined up at Mission Bay, a saltwater lagoon near San Diego in California, to test their endurance in a new athletic event.

Friday, 18th January 2013, 9:00 am

The Mission Bay triathlon was a world first and it was well after dark when the last of the exhausted triathletes made their way across the finishing line.

In the great spirit of sport and adventure, they had come along after a day at work to swim, cycle and run until their legs felt like they didn’t belong to their bodies any more.

Since that autumn evening nearly 39 years ago, the triathlon has become a prestigious world and Olympic sport with Britain’s own brilliant sibling team, Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, winning gold and bronze respectively in the London 2012 games.

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The official distances for each element are now a 1,500m swim, a 40km bike ride and a 10km run although other triathlon distances do exist and are used in some races.

The arrival of a whole new breed of professional athletes who have trained specifically for the triathlon has seen the sport’s popularity rocket to new heights and triathlon is now one of the UK’s favourite routes to getting fit.

And there could be no better introduction to the benefits of the sport than Haynes’ new and definitive Triathlon Manual, written by ex-Marine Commando PT instructor Sean Lerwill, who reveals that with its three distinct elements, triathlon training offers more variety and less risk injury.

This accessible and fully illustrated guide is aimed at both newcomers who have decided to give triathlon a go and those who have already taken part and are eager to improve their performance.

As well as information and advice on training and the individual events, Lerwill provides invaluable tips on health, injuries, nutrition, motivation, psychology, supplements, conditioning training and specially focused advice for women and children.

Most people approach the sport with experience of one discipline and then master the other two over time. This superbly produced and easy-to-read manual looks at each sport separately before combining all three in preparation for competitions, such as the gruelling Ironman, considered by many to be the ultimate endurance test.

Ironman was the brainchild of U.S. Navy Commander John Collins who finished a lowly 35th in that original Mission Bay race and involves a much-expanded triathlon consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile run, raced in that order and without a break.

With a Foreword by Jack Johnstone, founder of that first triathlon back in 1974, this comprehensive and fascinating manual will inspire readers to follow a unique training routine, gain a real sense of achievement and maybe even take that first step to becoming a top triathlete!

(Haynes Publishing, hardback, £21.99)