05/08/2012 03:56 pm ET Updated Jul 08, 2012

The Business of the Swim-Bike-Run

After experiencing several injuries over my years of marathon training, my husband convinced me to try a triathlon. Lets be clear: I am not a swimmer, but I also don't back down from a challenge. Thus, I jumped in head first (literally) and trained for my first triathlon (a half ironman, to be precise). From this experience, I learned first-hand the allure of the triathlon, and like many others I was hooked.

Lets look at the facts: Nearly 2.3 million unique Americans participated in a triathlon in 2010; this is an increase of 55 percent from the prior year. And the business behind this sport is also thriving. In fact, the two largest triathlon corporations, World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) and Competitor Group, are both backed by private equity firms, Providence Equity Partners and Falconhead Capital, respectively. As the sport grows in popularity, triathlon race entry fees are also climbing. The NYC Ironman, which sold out in just minutes last summer, had an entry fee of nearly $1,000. A Cervelo tri bike and a set of wheels can cost you north of $5,000. Other models and wheel combinations can cost more than $10,000. The average annual income of a triathlete is $126,000.

But what is really contributing to the increasing popularity of this sport? With more people getting in the water, on their bikes, and hitting the pavement, the triathlon is becoming yet another fitness topic in vogue. Here's why:

The New Marathon: Signing up for a 5K or marathon with your colleagues has always been a great way to create office camaraderie as well as some healthy competition. Triathlons are now becoming the new form of office competition -- it's the new marathon, just easier on the body.

The Ultimate Cross-Training: We all know it: Running marathons consistently for many years is sometimes just not good for your knees and joints. Yet, triathlon training offers the ideal cross training, which is key to injury prevention. Swimming, biking and running are excellent compliments to one another. Layer in some yoga and Pilates and you've got the perfect fitness regimen. Mixing it up not only gives you results, but it also prevents the boredom that one may experience from the monotony of doing the same workout every day.

The Lance Effect: Like many trends, so much of the popularity is fueled by "who" is doing it. Most known for his seven consecutive Tour de France wins, Lance Armstrong actually started out as a triathlete. He has recently returned to the sport, bringing a considerable increase in attention to and participation in triathlons. The WTC is certainly excited by this hype, as it should allow for more TV sponsorship opportunities, endorsements and overall higher participation rates. I can't say that I am not a little more excited to go see my husband participate in his next triathlon, knowing that Lance will be competing in the same race.

It's Addictive: Your first triathlon is most likely not going to be your last. The swim-bike-run events tend to become addictive. There is a community and camaraderie behind this sport that continues to grow stronger. Like all races, triathlons give you a goal to hit, something fun to train for, and some rationalization for splurging on that super high-end bike you've been eying.

As always, I am excited to report on fitness trends on the rise. Now, go sign up for a summer triathlon and see what all the hype is about!

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