Over the years, many friends, family and acquaintances have marveled at my ability to compete in 3 to 4 triathlons every year, for the past 15 years. They often say “I could never do that!” I would typically nod and change the subject, but now as a triathlon coach, I ask people, why not? Their answers usually revolve around one of five themes – read on for how I now challenge these common assumptions.
Keep in mind that when I talk about triathlon, I’m not referring to Ironman, which is what most people know of the sport. The Ironman (a trademarked name for what’s generally known as a “full” triathlon) is an epic endurance event that starts with a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile (yes, that’s one hundred twelve miles!) bike ride, then wraps up with a marathon run of 26.2 miles. But there’s so much more to triathlon – sprint, olympic, long-course, and half distance races abound, with the sprint and olympic categories being the most popular.
Theme #1: “I’m too old/heavy/slow/short.”
If you ever have the opportunity to watch a triathlon (of any distance) in person or on TV, you’ll witness people of all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities crossing the finish line. Sure they may be exhausted, but the look of triumph and personal pride they display as the finisher’s medals are placed around their necks is truly inspirational.
Triathlon is a gender & age-group categorized sport, so you’re only competing with others in your peer group. My favorite part of every race is the part of the awards ceremony when they hand out first, second, and third place for the men and women in the 70-74 and 75-79 age groups…and sometimes there are even one or two in their eighties!
There are even special categories for larger-bodied men and women, called Clydesdales and Athenas, respectively, and for physically-challenged athletes.
Training for a triathlon is a personal journey, and everyone has a different goal on race day. There really are no physical barriers to triathlon, if you’re willing to work toward that goal.
Theme #2: “I wouldn’t have the first idea how to train for it.”
Have you ever needed to accomplish something, either in your personal or professional life, and you didn’t know how to do it? Most likely you reached out to an expert in that area to guide you.
Approaching the challenge of training for a triathlon is no different. Start a conversation with someone you know who’s completed a tri or two, and ask them how they got started. If they’re like most triathletes, you won’t be able to get a word in edgewise! They’ll eagerly share every aspect of their triathlon journey.
The best way to accomplish any goal is with a good plan. A triathlon coach, especially one who specializes in beginners with the sprint/olympic distances (like me!) can create a plan that’s customized for you, and coach you all along the way.
Theme #3: “But I can’t swim very well.”
If you can actually swim – meaning you can make it from one end of a pool to the other – then it’s not that difficult to improve quickly. A stroke analysis will help you see exactly what you need to work on, and following that up with a few lessons can bring about huge leaps in your swimming ability.
A couple more facts about swimming in triathlon: First, it’s not even close to the same thing as what you see swimmers like Michael Phelps or Missy Franklin doing. Competitive pool swimming is all about blasting as fast as you can for a relatively short distance. However, in triathlon that simply doesn’t work, as you’re typically swimming 500-750 yards (sprint) to one mile (olympic) and you’ll have to follow that up with a bike ride and a run. The key to effective triathlon swimming is learning to do it as effortlessly as possible.
Second, most triathlons in Colorado, where I live, are “wetsuit legal” – meaning the water temperature of the lake or ocean is 78 degrees or lower on race day. Mid-summer water temps for Colorado lakes and reservoirs are usually in the high sixties to low seventies. And a wetsuit is a wonderful thing…it keeps you warm, and most important of all – buoyant!
Theme #4: “I’m a terrible runner.“
Can you run for one minute? Then you can learn to run better, stronger, and faster. (Not quite like Steve Austin though.) I love teaching newbie runners the “run-walk method” pioneered by running master Jeff Galloway. With this method, you run for a specific time, then walk for the same amount of time. Slowly you build up the run time segments and shorten the walk segments. Jeff’s experience over years of teaching this method shows that race finish times for run-walkers is often equivalent to or even better than those who don’t take walk breaks. It’s all about building slowly and training smart.
Theme #5: “I just don’t have the time.”
What TV programs do you watch? How much time do you spend on social media? For many people, these can add up 10 hours a week or more! We all get 24 hours every day – why not spend those 10 hours working towards an epic accomplishment that will improve your health as well?
As with everything in life, it all comes down to priorities.
So in conclusion, if you have ever had an inkling of an idea that you might want to take on the challenge of a triathlon, let’s work together to dismantle those self-imposed barriers. With proper training and preparation, you’ll be amazed at what you can do – especially when your friends and family are cheering you on at the finish line!
I’d love to help you reach your next epic goal – whether that be a triathlon, running race, or simply getting back into those skinny jeans. Contact me and let’s have a conversation!