On September 25, 1974, a small group in San Diego, CA decided to try (pun intended) a ‘strange type of race’ involving running, biking, and swimming. Today, the sport is well organized, international, and includes races for nearly every age and ability.
Triathlon is a sport for all ages. In any triathlon, you will find seniors regularly competing alongside those the ages of their children and, in my case, older grandchildren. Sometimes, seniors even compete alongside their children.
An important benefit of triathlon for seniors comes from the training. Preparing for a triathlon is a great way to develop and maintain whole-body fitness, no matter your age. The three sports of a typical triathlon – swimming, biking, and running – each engage different parts of the body. Plus, cross-training involving other activities to build strength and endurance can not only be part of your triathlon training but help you age gracefully. Training for any marathon is a lot for some people, but the reward of completing the race would hopefully be worth it. For some people, using devices like a Garmin watch to keep track of their progress while training may make it easier. If this is something you own, checking out sites like Mobile Mob could be worth looking at, especially to see if there are any accessories to buy for the watch. Being able to track progress could be motivational for a lot of people.
“There is no sport where being strong does not help our performance.”
Yet another benefit of triathlon for seniors comes from its social aspects. There is an active triathlon community across the world. As a triathlete, you will find others with whom you can compare notes about training and racing and the other, non-triathlon part of our lives. Some studies suggest that the social benefits of triathlon are greater than the physical ones.
Are You Convinced?
If you have not yet decided to get involved in triathlon, check out the 15 reasons I have found. I am sure that more than a few will help change your mind.
1. Triathlon gives a focus for several different kinds of exercise – swim, bike, run and related types such as rowing, kayaking, weight lifting, strength training, and stair climbing to name a few. Complementing these are core exercises, weightlifting, yoga, and stretching. If you tend to become bored doing the same type of routine day after day, triathlon training is perfect for you.
2. Many races double as fundraisers for some very worthy causes. For example, my fourth triathlon, the TDD Triathlon in Douglas, Massachusetts doubled as a memorial race for triplets Tyrus, Dante, and Daniel Vescio who died the same day as their birth. The race raised funds for the UMass Memorial Newborn Intensive Care Unit in Worcester, Massachusetts to help other babies get the chance to live long, healthy lives.
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”Winston Churchill
3. You meet inspiring people – seniors and others. Check out Our Stories on SeniorTriathletes.com.
An Excuse for New Triathlon Gear
4. Race T-shirts and other swag, typically, a bag of nutrition samples, coupons, and other useful items provided to race participants. Every race in which I have participated (44 so far) has included a t-shirt or other clothing item. Most of these are made of high quality, performance (wicking) material. And, there are some creative designers of finisher medals and age group awards – see “5 Unique Triathlon Medals” for my favorite race medals.
5. It provides a credible excuse to buy new clothes, a new bike, or the latest GPS watch, all in the name of helping you become a more fit, competitive triathlete. The list of clothing and equipment (referred to as ‘triathlon gear’) you can justify, at least to yourself, is nearly endless.
Personal Benefits of Triathlon for Seniors
6. Completing a triathlon can give you a sense of accomplishment. And, if you need it, you earn ‘bragging rights’ with your family and friends.
7. At the same time, triathlons keep you humble. I have been soundly beaten by men and women older than me. I have also learned from them the secrets to their success and when and how to apply these. For example, the race day nutrition regimen that I now follow came at the recommendation of Mr. James Chapman following the Rocky Gap Park Triathlon in Maryland.
8. For those who have been immersed in a career up to retirement, triathlon can be a good hobby. Are you, your spouse, or your kids worried about what you are going to do in retirement? Worry no more!
Compete With or Against Family and Friends
9. Triathlon sets an excellent example for children and grandchildren who either are not active or believe that you are ‘over the hill’. Two of my grandchildren and two of my three children have completed triathlons with me. And we have more planned. What a great bonding experience. And, oh the thrill of beating them.
10. Triathlon is a co-ed sport, so you can participate with your spouse, children, grandchildren, and friends.
11. Since many races include team events, you can organize and participate as a team and enjoy the benefits of all of the other reasons. Imagine a team of three (one person for each leg of the triathlon) involving friends and/or family.
12. Depending upon your seriousness about the sport and your ability, there are various race distances and types to challenge and push you to a level you had never before achieved. For example, my first half marathon was done at age 62, something I would never have imagined even in my 50s.
Seeing the World Through Triathlon
13. Triathlon can take you to parts of the USA and other countries that are not typical tourist locations or areas you would have otherwise visited. For example, I am quite certain that I would have never visited Sweet Home, Oregon had it not been the venue of a triathlon. And if I did not visit Sweet Home, I would not have learned that it is the source of most of the golf course grass seed in the USA.
14. During the winter months in Minnesota when lakes are frozen and running paths are icy (and dangerous), you can also justify travel to destinations for proper training in open water swimming and outdoor running.
15. It gives you the opportunity to participate in the Senior Games held in each of the states of the USA and, if you qualify, in the National Senior Games. Senior games also take place in Canada and Mexico.
This post was originally published on February 25, 2016. It was last updated on May 5, 2019.