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If you’ve ever been around a triathlete, then you’ve most likely heard that “triathlon is life-changing.” And if you’ve never done a triathlon, then you might be skeptical or, most likely, have no idea what all these triathletes mean by that.
What they mean is that racing adds so much more value to your life than just finish lines and medals. And you don’t have to be fast, young, or a certain demographic to get all those amazing benefits. We asked some triathletes who found the sport later in life what it did for them.
Triathlon Teaches You Self-Awareness
Self-awareness, understanding your worth, and practicing mindfulness are pinnacles of a healthy lifestyle. Training and racing triathlon gives you daily opportunities to tap into your mental and emotional barometer. The more you understand yourself, the more content you will be in the rest of your life—and you’ll be a better athlete too.
Brandy, who did her first sprint at age 39, decided she didn’t want to be afraid to learn how to swim. With practice, she not only eventually picked up a new physical skill, but was then motivated to look deeper inside herself to learn more about why she was afraid of learning to swim in the first place. This started a self-awareness journey that ended up benefitting her as an athlete and in her whole life.
“I love the connection I feel between my mind and body and emotions all working together to accomplish a goal. It allows me to tap into me in a profound, raw way,” she said.
Brandy offers this advice to triathlete wannabes and new racers: “You belong here. You don’t have to earn your way. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. You don’t need the best gear. You don’t have to know everything to be a triathlete. You are here because something in you is drawing you toward the sport and you are capable. And when you get to the pool, lace up your shoes, climb on whatever bike you have, or toe your first starting line, remind yourself you belong here.”
Training and Racing Allows for Important “Me” Time
It’s easy for us to get so caught up in the daily bustle of work and family needs that we lose our sense of self. Triathlon can help you find that again. Setting race goals and training for them gives athletes individuality and a sense of personal accomplishment outside of a job or other people.
Mike, a 49-year-old restaurant owner and father, started training in order to race with his teenage daughter. As he dove deeper into the process, though, he learned that he enjoyed his solo training time too—his “me” time. It became a time to focus on self-discovery and in those times he could fully be himself, while also reaping the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of training. He now feels more empowered as an individual, and not solely defined as dad or as “Pizza Mike.”
Mike said that his alone training time clears his head and, “makes me think before I make decisions in life. I feel like I am a better person when I train.”
Training Creates Opportunities to Inspire
Many believe that the essence of life is found in helping others. Racing can allow for this fulfillment, whether through amazing organizations that give opportunities to marginalized or disabled athletes or through various fundraising efforts. Often athletes find the most reward through working with or inspiring others to find new and exciting ways to set big goals and create a healthy lifestyle.
Jane is a runner and duathlete, who raced her first 10K at age 57 after losing over 100 pounds. She has since competed in several races and inspired many others to get into racing and to work harder when faced with the challenge.
Racing, she said, changed her life by “giving me so much confidence, energy, and a sense of accomplishment. I’ve learned it doesn’t matter at what age you start. It is never too late.”
Jane continues to inspire others in her community by never settling and continually pushing herself. “I enjoy making goals and trying to achieve them. I no longer am happy to just finish.” This year Jane is learning to swim in order to compete in her first triathlon in August—at age 69!
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Triathlon is Fun!
For many athletes just starting out, triathlon can seem so scary or intimidating that it’s hard to imagine it as fun. But with a supportive community, the experience of trying new and hard things can add so much value and truly become fun. It’s the challenge that makes it rewarding.
Jamie is a triathlete who started racing for the fun and camaraderie and eventually finished his first triathlon at age 45. If it isn’t fun, he said he “takes a break,” but he also finds enjoyment in the mental tests that training and racing present. This was proven when he finished his first Ironman after a bike accident that left him with a fractured pelvis. He is all healed and plans to take on Ironman Wisconsin again this fall.
Jamie’s advice for new triathletes: “If you are a beginner, you are trying something new and that’s great! You do not have to be the fastest or the best to enjoy a triathlon. You will not be judged by the triathlon community and the support you will get from people you know, other triathletes, and spectators is amazing. Everyone wants you to do well.”
You belong as a triathlete. It’s time to believe that anything is possible. At any age.
Miranda Bush is a USAT Level I coach and ACE certified Health Coach. She is the owner and head coach of MB Coaching and the Zone Racing Team. You can follow Coach Miranda on Facebook and @zonecoachm on Instagram.