The Average Triathlete

Every year the USA Triathlon Association releases the demographics of the average triathlete. Since I like data and such I thought it would be interesting to share the results. The sport of triathlon has become immensely popular in the last decade. Between 1993 and 2000, the annual membership of the USAT was between 15,000-21,000 people. In 2011 the membership numbers surpassed 150,000! Now, not everyone who does triathlons is a member of USAT, but does have to buy a one-day membership to compete in any USA Triathlon sanctioned events. In 2010, 326,732 one-day passes were purchased! There are many factors that come into play that have led to a major growth in the sport. The USAT lists the following as a few reasons:

1.      Society’s interest in fitness and living a healthy lifestyle (hopefully this will continued to increase so the number of people who are obese or overweight will decrease!)

2.      The growth in number of races in the country (and worldwide)

3.      Media attention to the sport (I’m sure Lance is going to help with that now)

4.      The ego reward of saying you “are a triathlete” (this was my favorite!)

5.      Increase in clubs, which create a community concept for men and especially women who enjoy the group training and support atmosphere (we are lucky to have many good ones in Southern Maine)

6.      Growth in the number of USAT certified coaches who are able to provide training plans and individual attention for athletes who need guidance and motivation (the best decision I made was to hire a coach and someday I hope to be one too!)

The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) has included triathlon in its participation studies since 2006. The 2011 SGMA study estimated that almost 2.3 million unique Americans participated in at least one triathlon in 2010, which represented a total of 55% growth in just one year! That is incredible and speaks volumes about the popularity of the sport.

Now let’s break down some numbers for fun facts:

·         On average, triathletes are from high socioeconomic backgrounds with a median income of $126,000.

·         The popularity of each distance is broken down as: Sprint (78%), Olympic (58%), Half Ironman (39%), and Ironman (17%).

·         The average age is 38. Forty-nine percent of people fall in the 35-49 age groups.

·         The sport is still very male dominant (Male – 59.6%; Female – 39.5%)

·         Discretionary income is spent as:

·         50% of dollars on bikes and bike equipment

·         17% of dollars spent on race entry fees

·         8% of dollars on fitness clothes

·         11% of dollars on athletic shoes

·            Triathlons are still dominated by Caucasian/White (88.2%).

There is a 70 page report on the USAT website that contains all this data. I found a lot of it very interesting. Some of it was quite surprising, like the average income. I definitely fall out of the norm on many of the measured variables.

I think the most interesting part of the report was on coaching. One third of triathletes use some kind of coaching. I guessing this includes: a personal coach, group training, or purchasing a training plan from a book or online. Twelve percent use a live coach either regularly or ten percent use one infrequently. About 69% do not use a coach, but at least 42% of those people expressed an interest in working with one in the future. Those who plan on doing five or more triathlons during a year are more likely to use a coach regularly via in person, by telephone, or over the Internet. Apparently, there is a strong demand for coaching. Hmm… good to know for the future!

Another interesting aspect I found was in the nutrition and diet of the average triathlete. Triathlete’s tend to focus on making smart choices in managing food intake. The study found that triathletes eat out less at restaurants and most say they either follow strict diet plans or carefully watch what they eat on a regular basis. Ten percent of triathletes say they always buy organic foods while another 46% say they buy organic foods at least some of the time. Forty nine percent of triathletes say they always read food labels (I wish more people in general would!) and 36% say they do sometimes.

You can find all the above data and facts HERE.

Happy Training!