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The Thrill of Victory: Becoming a Triathlete in Mid-Life

The Thrill of Victory: Becoming a Triathlete in Mid-Life
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BY ELISABETH DANIELS

Ever yearned to feel the satisfaction of completing three different physical tasks in one afternoon, all under the pressure of the clock counting down? Maybe even taking home a medal?

Good news! Doing a triathlon when you’re over 50 is a distinct advantage. The number of competitors in your age group is probably going to be pretty small, which means your chances of placing are pretty high.

Whether you’re pulled by the call of the podium or just a desire to finish, triathlons come with excitement, friendship and a strong sense of accomplishment. If this sounds appealing to you, read on for tips on how to become an injury-free triathlete in mid-life.

Personal Trainer Stephanie Weigel knows a thing or two about triathlon training. As the owner of the Fitness Source, a private gym in Las Vegas, she’s been offering triathlon prep programs for races like Pumpkinman and Iron Girl for several years.

“Triathlon training and racing can be for all ages,” Weigel says. “Anyone 50 and over should, however, focus on recovery and nutritional support in their training so they can maximize the benefits.”

Weigel continues, “A person’s athletic background is really what comes into play more than age. A life-long participant in sport and exercise will have a broader base going into a Triathlon Training Program than someone who has never exercised, no matter the age.”

A coach can help. In addition, many people are more motivated and confident with a coach. Weigel especially recommends going with a coach if you have never done a triathlon before and have a limited background in endurance sports.  “They can plan everything for you and keep you from doing too much or too little,” she says. Group coaching is also a great way to make new friends and enjoy the camaraderie of tackling a big goal together.

If you’re a self-motivated exerciser and can easily follow a written plan, an online program might be the best option for you. Weigel notes, “It can work well for those who have more experience with exercise and know how to balance a training schedule already with their lives.” Find out if the coaches associated with any online programs are available to answer questions and provide support by phone or email.

For face-to-face coaching, it’s critical to meet your coach in person and talk with them before jumping in. You need to have a good connection with the person helping you through your triathlon journey. The same goes if you choose an online program. Give the coach a call before hitting the buy button.

No matter which way you decide to go, be sure to look for a USAT Certified Coach. They often do both individual and online coaching. Most importantly, they have the education through the sport’s governing body to properly design a program.

Once you’ve got the coaching covered, your focus should be on proper training and recovery.  It’s easy to narrow your focus to swimming, cycling and running every day. But nutrition, recovery, sleep and time management are vital to success, especially for older participants.

Even with all the training and prep beforehand, race day is nerve-wracking for competitors of every age – sometimes more so if you’re older. You might worry about making a fool of yourself and or not finishing.

“Handling nerves in your first triathlon is simply a matter of how you look at it,” says Weigel. “Nerves are forms of energy, and almost any energy can be transformed into a positive thing!”

Chances are, being over 50, you have handled many more stressful situations than a triathlon. Think about how you got through a difficult time or a challenge in earlier years. Practicing visualizations and positive mantras during your training is also a great way to ease the stress on race day.

The bottom line is: With proper preparation and a positive mindset, you can go into the event confidently. Race day stress may not disappear completely, but the whole experience will shift from fear to fun.

“A person over 50 doing a triathlon or big race should know that it is possible,” concludes Weigel. “With the right training and guidance, a triathlon can be a very reachable and enjoyable goal. Age is only a number!”

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