Thursday, February 20, 2014

Runners vs. Swimmers vs. Cyclists vs. Triathletes

Ahh, running, swimming, & cycling!  I've been fortunate enough to partake in all of these sports both separately and collectively.  I love all three and have met great people across all disciplines.  When you spend enough time with any one group you start noticing similar personality traits among the athletes of each sport.  I've been thinking lately about some of these characteristics and wanted to write a comparison of breeds.  Admittedly this is highly stereotypical, but is only intended for fun, so here goes...

Everyone knows that runners have type A personalities.  They are the highly-organized, goal-oriented, ambitious, fast-paced, achievers in life.  They have a tendency to get stressed easily, take things too seriously, and may even be workaholics.  However, runners have really good hearts.  They genuinely care about other runners and are always super friendly to other runners.  Exchanging a wave or a short pleasantry as you pass another runner is like a right of being part of the club.  Runners love to encourage people to get into their sport and will gladly help when it comes to developing training plans, planning a race schedule, or helping with pace work.  Runners love to run with other runners.  They have a pack mentality and like to push each others' limits in training.  They don't like to do pace work or threshold sets alone.  Runners are morning people who like to get up at the crack of dawn to run.  I think this is because they have so much other stuff to do that they feel the burning need to get that run out of the way asap.  Runners are obsessed with splits.  They can tell you 200, 400, 600, 800, & 1200 splits for any mile pace.  Runners are also obsessed with PRs.  They can tell you every PR they've ever had in every distance (and they can probably do this for at least a dozen other runners as well).  Runners like to make lists of races that they want to do and they like to collect medals.  Post-race festivities are a big part of running culture.  Runners love posting on Facebook because they get to relive the thrill of the latest run or race and they can also use it as a tool to encourage one another.  Runners are interested in nutrition and genuinely want to eat healthy.  Runners will never cut a run short (i.e. they can't finish at 5.9 miles if a 6 mile run was planned) and they will try to run through anything because they hate taking time off.  The biggest enemy of a runner is getting an injury.  When this happens it feels like the world is literally coming to an end and they can become uncharacteristically cranky and even go into depressed mode.  Runners tend to like older music, that which what they call "classic."  I would probably call it rock.  They also idolize Prefontaine, though note that this is not a criticism b/c he was pretty bad a$$.  Runners own countless pairs of running shoes and it's often hard for them to throw old pairs of shoes away.  Finally, and I'm only saying this because I've heard it directly out the mouths of multiple runners, runners often choose running because they are too uncoordinated for other sports. 

Though swimmers are the group that I have the least amount of experience with, I have found that they usually have a type B personality.  They are easy-going, have much lower stress levels than runners, are more patient, less rigid, and more likely to be reflective/explorative thinkers.  Like runners, swimmers are also morning people, although in this case it is by force not by choice, since practices start at 5 am.  Swimmers may be in a fog during the day due to chronic sleep deprivation.  When swimmers get the chance they love to have fun and are crazy partiers.  I think this stems from needing to let loose after countless hours of staring at a black line at the bottom of a pool!  They are not generally geared towards social media, unless it is for posting pictures of those wild nights on Facebook.  Swimmers are good at math because they can break down splits into 25s, 50s, 75s, & 100s easily without calculators.  Swimmers develop a high tolerance to cold after building up a sort of natural wetsuit to chilly pool water.  No matter what they always smell like chlorine - but this means they are always clean and they don't have to take real showers, right?  Despite wearing next to nothing, swimmers do not seem to care too much about body shape or worry about what they look like in a swimsuit.  When it comes to nutrition, they are usually terrible eaters, consuming whatever they can get their hands on.  They are not really concerned about nutrition and they really love pizza.  Because of the horrendous workouts that swimmers are forced to do, they have a misery loves company, warrior-like, no-excuses attitude about practices.  It's hard to make a swimmer mad, but some things that will really irritate them include hanging on the wall too long, taking extra rest in between sets, and not knowing the unwritten rules of sharing a lane.  Male swimmers shave their legs reluctantly; some females take pride in not shaving.  Swimmers are often terrible runners due to not using their legs for most of their lives (i.e. a youth swimmer might swim 2 hrs in a pool in the morning, sit at school all day, 2 hrs in the pool at night, and then lay down and go to sleep at night).  Finally, it's certain that swimmers may be further broken down by stroke, but I'm not experienced enough for that.  All I can tell you about this is that the breastsrokers are the real oddballs. 

Cyclists have the Type C personality, by which I mean they are just flat out crazy.  The most quirky people that I've ever met have been cyclists.  However, they usually have a good sense of humor and like to make people laugh.  They also tend to be good story tellers, with interesting backgrounds and lots of life experience.  Granted, maybe it just seems that way because when you ride with people for 4-5 hours each weekend there's a lot of time to talk (especially in comparison to being at a swim practice).  Cyclists are incessantly obsessed with their bikes.  They usually care more about their bikes than anything else, and this can even include the opposite sex. Cyclists are also obsessed with power:weight ratio and watts per kilogram.  They do not care about how much they can bench press or having a small upper body; rather they live and die by their power meters.  Cyclists are not particularly time-oriented.  They are perfectly fine with spending all day on the bike.  They enjoy getting lost and finding new roads to explore.  Rides are ALWAYS longer than planned.  The only thing that prevents cyclists' from spending more time and money on bikes is usually their spouse.  Cyclists take pride in the fact that they do not race for medals because this makes them feel more hard-core than runners.  Pride also comes from shaving their legs; they simply love this!  They also love getting in verbal arguments with motorists over who owns the road - whether this is fueled by endorphins or artificial testosterone probably depends on the Cat level of the rider.  Cyclists love to show off in the form of becoming KOM, dropping others on a ride, bunny hopping over road kill, or zooming around a turn at 30 mph.  Cyclists have a well-known superiority complex towards triathletes.  They love to criticize triathletes' bike maintenance skills and handling, especially the ability to descend.  In fact, the most shameful thing for a cyclist would be to be dropped by a triathlete.  Cyclists are not social media oriented, other than perhaps Strava (probably because it's another way for them to show off their prowess).  And lastly and very importantly, if you are to ever date a cyclist, know that no matter what you will always be second to Mr. Lance Armstrong.

You didn't think I'd leave out this bunch did you?  If runners have a type A personality, then triathletes have AAA personalities.  Sometimes, with their idiosyncrasies they could be almost considered neurotic.  The general public does not understand a triathlete:  why on Earth would someone want to spend that much time training?  Rather, it takes a triathlete to understand a triathlete and there is an unspoken mutual respect between triathletes for being able to do what they do day in and day out.  Yes, triathletes take great pride in the fact that they can do 3 sports when runners, swimmers, and cyclists can only do 1.  This is also why they have the best bodies of the 3 sports.  A triathlete's biggest concern is figuring out how they are going to fit in all their workouts for the week because the amount of training required to improve at 3 sports at one time is insane.  This makes having any other hobbies, a social life, a job, a family, or finding time to sleep extremely difficult.  A triathlete's life may be summed up by the bumper sticker "Eat, Sleep, Swim, Bike, Run, Repeat."  Triathletes are likely to become VERY stressed by missing even a single workout.  They almost always have a coach and like to be in constant contact with this person, knowing that their coach is scrupulously looking over every workout.  Triathletes are data freaks.  They love expensive, GPS-enabled watches that track every possible metric (strokes per minute, RPM, speed, pace, watts, heart rate, etc...).  Even more than the expensive devices themselves, triathletes love to upload all this data to computers to track every inch of progress.  It's not uncommon for triathletes to keep years of old training logs and to compare how fit they are at this time of season compared to last year.  Unlike cyclists, triathletes are obsessed with gear.  They will buy anything and everything that is supposed to make them faster.  This is especially true when it comes to products that increase aerodynamics.  If there's a new helmet that can shave 0.5 seconds off a 40K bike, triathletes will buy it.  Triathletes are also obsessed with getting to race weight.  Because of this they will often try all sorts of fad diets to drop weight.  Triathletes get huge satisfaction from hitting workout after workout.  They are totally ok with crushing hard workouts alone and do not need others to motivate them to #GTWD.  Spending over 3 hours on the trainer is like earning a new merit badge.  Triathletes are lovers of social media.  They have multiple accounts (Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc).  They love to blog and read blogs.  It is one of the best ways for them to plan next year's race schedule or to do some recon on an upcoming race.  Triathletes also love to stalk times and splits of other triathletes; hence the invention of Athlinks.  Lastly, every triathlete wants to hear the words, "You are an Ironman" and be able to slap a "140.6" sticker on their car.


  1. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post. The sad part is, I feel like at any given time I could be any or all of these. :)

  2. Runners don't understand triathletes - why spend so much time training only to compete a less competitive event?

  3. Aha! Now I know why nobody would socialize with me in a pack ride: I wear my Ironman jersey and drop 'em :-)