Making Fitness a Lifestyle – Jeanne Minder’s Story
From her earliest memories of growing up in South St. Paul, Minnesota, Jeanne Minder has been active. Her love for moving, whether through biking, running, swimming, walking, skiing, or you-name-it, has led to impressive accomplishments in triathlon.
Following is Jeanne’s triathlon story and information about triathlon training for seniors that she shared with Joy and me over coffee.
Accomplishments On and Off the Course
I was first introduced to Jeanne through an article in an online newspaper covering the northern suburbs of St. Paul, Minnesota. However, when Joy and I met with Jeanne over coffee and tea at the Caribou Coffee in Arden Hills, Minnesota, we learned a whole lot more about her.
A sampling of her accomplishments tells part of the story:
- Over 400 triathlons including three at the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
- Minnesota Senior Sports Hall of Fame inductee
- Gold medalist in triathlon at the 2015 National Senior Games
- Mother of an active son and daughter
- Leader of the County Cycles Triathlon Club for 24 years
- Personal trainer for 28 years, including 23 years with the New Brighton Community Center
- University of Minnesota graduate
- High school track & field and cross country skiing coach
- And, an on-going participant in endurance events involving running, skiing, and biking.
But that’s not all. In talking with Jeanne, we were able to see her personal side – her passion for endurance sports and her love for helping people, especially seniors, “make fitness a lifestyle”.
“Anybody who does triathlon or any sport is doing good. As a personal trainer, I try to get people to work out three times per week and make it a lifestyle.” Jeanne Minder
Getting Started in Triathlon
Jeanne did her first triathlon, the Turtleman Triathlon in Shoreview, Minnesota, in 1982.
“I had been training with local athletes Mary Lou Schmidt and Roy Carlsted and they encouraged me to do a triathlon.”
Like so many of us, she caught the ‘triathlon bug’ after completing her first. There was no turning back.
A Mother’s Example
But the seed for her triathlon excursion started years earlier. Jeanne credits much of her love for being active to her mother. Growing up in South St. Paul, Minnesota, Jeanne’s mother taught her and her three sisters how to manage without a second car.
“We walked or biked everywhere that we needed to go.”
During the summer, they made the daily bike ride to the pool where they spent their afternoons. Swimming, biking, and running were a natural part of her lifestyle as a child.
“When we were at home, my mom would tell us to ‘Go outside and play’. So we would go outside, ride bike, swim or play kick the can in the summer, and go tobogganing in the winter. We were literally outside whenever possible.”
Even though she did not participate in organized sports in high school, the foundation for future activities had been built.
Triathlon and More
Since 1982, Jeanne has done over 400 triathlons. These have included six Ironman distance races of which three have been at the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Qualifying for Ironman Championships in Hawaii meant that she won her age group at qualifying Ironman triathlons in Lake Placid, New York; Cape Cod, Massachusetts; and Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Along the way, she has amassed a large number of interesting stories. The first one which she shared during our conversation was from the Ironman Cape Cod.
“Cape Cod was tough with 40 miles per hour winds in every direction. Oh, yes, and they forgot to tell us until the next day during the awards ceremony about the sharks that had been around the swim course.”
She has also completed 26 marathons. These have included the iconic Boston Marathon, the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota.
On top of this, she has finished countless long distance bike rides across her home state of Minnesota (TRAM, Bike Across Minnesota, MS150), the Birkebeiner cross-country ski race, and bike rides across long stretches of the USA and Canada.
And then, there was her 2015 first-place finish in women’s triathlon at the National Senior Games.
Minnesota Senior Sports Hall of Fame
Despite this fantastic list of accomplishments, Jeanne told us that she was surprised to receive a call from a representative of the Minnesota Senior Sports Hall of Fame one day in early 2016. The caller informed Jeanne that her accomplishments had been noticed and that she had been nominated to the Hall of Fame.
“When the caller told me that I had been nominated for the Senior Sports Hall of Fame, I asked ‘For what?’. ‘For triathlon’ was his answer.”
On May 13, 2016, Jeanne received the award recognizing her accomplishments in a ceremony at Jimmy’s Food & Drink in Vadnais Heights, Minnesota.
The Minnesota Senior Sports Hall of Fame is sponsored by the Minnesota Senior Sports Association. According to their website, the Association is “dedicated to encouraging and supporting men and women from Minnesota in their pursuit of competitive athletics.”
Triathlon Training for Seniors
There are several approaches to training for a triathlon. These include self-training (developing a training plan on your own), training as part of a triathlon club, and training under either a virtual or live coach.
While I have used self-training based on research and reading from a select group of books and websites, I have never been sure that this is the best approach or that it has helped me to be the most competitive.
Since Jeanne has been a personal trainer for 28 years and is an accomplished triathlete, I decided to get her thoughts.
Frankly, I expected that she would recommend hiring a trainer or triathlon coach. However, this has not been her approach nor one she recommended. In fact, I left feeling hopeful since she has followed a self-training approach with 2-3 group workouts per week.
Group Training Options
“There are plenty of options for group training. Most running stores offer group runs. Masters swimming clubs (such as U.S. Master Swimming) provide group swim training. And many bike shops put together group rides.”
“Or, you can do what I did this morning. When I got to the community center pool at 6 o’clock, there were already eight people in the pool. I asked them if they wanted to do a workout, which they did. So we ended up swimming 3,000 meters using a workout that I quickly put together.”
“As you get to know people in each of these, you will inevitably find those interested in triathlon. You can put together triathlon specific sessions such as brick (e.g. bike followed by a run) workouts with these new found friends.”
“For example, we would bring our bikes to White Bear Beach (in White Bear Lake, Minnesota). After a swim (in White Bear Lake), we would bike from the beach to Somerset, Wisconsin; eat lunch; and return home, having biked roughly 70 miles round trip.”
While triathlon is an individual sport, triathlon training provides plenty of opportunity for being social.
There can be no question that one factor in Jeanne’s success is her love for being with people. She told us repeatedly of the thrills that have come from meeting and spending time with people, whether training together or camping at a multi-day biking event.
“Triathlon has allowed me to meet some really neat people.” Jeanne Minder
It’s Not About the Competition
If we are truthful, we all want to be competitive and even win some races, or at least finish in first place in our age group once in a while.
However, most seniors who do triathlon or are active with other sports – Jeanne Minder included – mostly want to see others share in the benefits of being active. Not just as validation for their sports activities but because they (we) have seen the benefits of it.
“Anybody who does a triathlon or any sport is doing good. As a personal trainer, I try to get people to work out three times per week and make it a lifestyle.
Let’s Not Forget the Volunteers and Race Directors
On several occasions, Jeanne stopped to point out the importance of volunteers and race directors to triathlon.
“Triathlons wouldn’t even be around were it not for the volunteers. And, as for the race directors, most people do not realize the amount of work that goes into a triathlon. There is not only the race but the work to organize the volunteers and all of the pre-race and post-race activities.”
Jeanne singled out Randy Fulton for his support of triathlon:
“For a while, Randy was running every triathlon around here (Minneapolis-St. Paul area). He was really great for promoting the sport and giving us great races to do. He was a great person.”
By the way, next time you are at a triathlon, thank the volunteers.
Jeanne loves being with people. She has high energy and loves to be active.
She also loves her dogs.
“Today, my inspiration for running comes from my three Golden Retrievers. Goldens are runners. They love to run.”
“After coming home from a hard day, these guys give me a look that tells me ‘You need to take me for a run’. How can I say ‘No’?”
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