Triathlon Training After Joint Replacement

Based on the advice my wife Joy’s orthopedic doctor gave her after her first knee replacement, I believed that joint replacement meant the end of running.

However, when I spoke with Nikki Austin, I learned that joint replacement need not end your racing career.

Nikki’s orthopedic surgeon had encouraged her to continue swimming, biking, and even running after hip replacement. She followed the doctor’s advice. Nine months after hip replacement surgery, Nikki completed the 2021 Lititz recCenter Triathlon (Lititz, Pennsylvania).

A Triathlon Coach’s Perspective

Last month, a reader of asked that we provide more information about training after hip replacement. She is eager to get back to racing, but also wants her new hips to last.

Jenn Reinhart, one of the Senior Triathletes coaches, and I spoke about triathlon after joint replacement. As you will hear in the recording of our conversation, Jenn speaks from experience. She is a senior triathlete and certified triathlon coach who has trained and raced after having both knees replaced.

Listen to what Jenn has learned and to her advice.

Recording of my conversation with triathlon coach and senior triathlete Jenn Reinhart

Additional Information from Jenn Reinhart

Here are links to the additional resources and products Jenn mentioned during our conversation:

What I Read About Triathlon Training After Joint Replacement

In preparing for our conversation, both Jenn and I did research to learn what medical professionals think about a return to triathlon training after joint replacement surgery. Following is a summary of information I found. You may want to review these as part of your own research.

Concerns About Running After Hip or Knee Replacement

Majority of Replacement Specialists Support a Return to Running . . . After Some Time

A survey of orthopedic surgeons from 31 countries shows that 68% of knee replacement specialists support their patients going back to running following a knee replacement after six months. 

One of these is Stone Clinic in San Francisco, California. A post on their website titled Running After Knee Replacement includes the following statement:

“By advising patients to return gradually to running, we build bone density and muscle strength—thereby decreasing the risk of joint loosening. The plastic inserts now used are so durable that there is a very low likelihood of them wearing out. And if they do, they can be relatively easily replaced.”

Reducing the Risk of Running After Joint Replacement

Part of the reason there is controversy is that we are all different. There are things we can do that are risky and things which will reduce the risks. According to sports medicine specialist, Dr. John Hill (age 61),

“You can also take steps post-surgery to reduce the risks associated with running. Keep your weight in check, consider a gait analysis to identify and correct issues with your biomechanics, and ask your surgeon about regular X-rays to monitor the wear rate and positioning of your implant.”

My Conclusion – Joint Replacement Need Not Be The End

Assuming that your orthopedic doctor allows you to return to training, a professional triathlon coach will help you navigate your return to triathlon or other multi-sport endurance racing. This is true whether your next race is your first or a continuation of your multi-sport career.

It’s Time for Your Questions and Comments

What questions and comments do you have about training for triathlon or other multi-sport endurance sports after a joint replacement? Leave this in the Comments section below.

I would also appreciate hearing what you think about the audio-only format for the interview with Jenn Reinhart. Do you prefer audio or text?

Comments: Please note that I review all comments before they are posted. You will be notified by email when your comment is approved. Even if you do not submit a comment, you may subscribe to be notified when a comment is published.


Triathlon Is Life Changing – Johny Dignam’s Story

For Johny Dignam and his wife, Tracey, triathlon has been life-changing.

“My wife Tracey says she waited 30 years for this version of me! I have always had this stored energy in me. The only way I could relax [before triathlon] was with the consumption of large volumes of alcohol.”

Johny’s passion and love for Ironman training has become a new, healthy, life-changing outlet for this energy.

“Triathlon training and the inspirational people we have met have had a profound positive effect on my general well being. It has also shown that there are some amazing people in this world from all different walks of life.”

Introducing Johny Dignam

Johny Dignam, age 57, has been married to Tracey for 33 years. He has always been an active, high energy guy with hobbies that include surfing, swimming, and mountain biking.

He works as Refractory Installer for Pyrotek, a company that produces high temperature materials used in handling molten aluminium (or aluminum if you are from the USA). His typical work day begins with an hour long commute to be onsite at 4:30 am for a 10-hour workday. At the end of his workday, there is another one hour drive to return home. Considering other family commitments, this does not leave much time for training and sleeping.

However, as you will see, that hasn’t stopped Johny from pursuing aggressive goals along his triathlon journey.

Johny’s Path to Triathlon

The journey which has led to triathlon for Johny Dignam began around six years ago. It was a sunny Sunday morning in Sydney, Australia’s Central Business District.

Johny was sporting a massive hangover after a late night on the town. Meanwhile, over three thousands runners gathered for the Sydney Marathon.

Seeing the excitement around the race and realizing that he wanted to make a change in his life, Johny decided he would complete the next year’s half marathon in Sydney.

Fast forward one year. Johny had just completed the Sydney half marathon when he met an old friend. They talked about running and eventually triathlon. A few months passed and the two of them met again, this time at a dinner party with mutual friends. The conversation again drifted to running and triathlon.

The next day, Johny registered for Ironman 70.3 Port Maquarie along with a friend and his nephew.

Johny Dignam began his life changing triathlon journey by registering for Ironman 70.3 Port Maquarie.
Johny Dignam completed his first long course triathlon, Ironman 70.3 Port Maquarie, with his nephew in May 2019.

Triathlon History

Johny’s first triathlon was actually an international (Olympic) distance race in Wollongong, Australia in March 2019. He planned this event as a lead up to the Port Maquarie 70.3 two months later.

“My first triathlon was fun but underwhelming. However, since I had already signed up for the 70.3 in May, I continued training” said Johny.

Before the Port Maquarie race, he completed a 70.3 practice triathlon as part of his training. Then, in May, he successfully completed his first 70.3 and promptly vowed to never do one again.

However, before leaving the race venue, Johny wandered over to the finish line,

“I watched the final people complete the full Ironman. That night, I saw several athletes, some over 70 years old, complete the hardest Ironman race in Australia. The atmosphere and sheer determination of some of the athletes stirred something in me I had never experienced before. I was completely mesmerised and overwhelmed by the whole event.

“The next day, I signed up for my first Ironman, Ironman Australia.”

Then There Was Covid

The scenes in Port Maquarie on that May 2019 evening had truly impacted Johny. He continued to train for his next race as most of the world locked down in early 2020.

With his sights still set on Ironman Australia sometime in the future, Johny completed a virtual Ironman of his own design. He swam 4 km (2.5 miles) in the local pool. Next, he cycled for eight hours on his bike trainer. He finished it with a 26.2 mile marathon around his local neighborhood.

“I finished about 11 pm that night. I think this set me up mentally for Ironman Australia.”

In 2022, Johny was able to finally reach his goal of completing Ironman Australia. Once again, he took time to watch and be inspired by the final competitors completing the course.

Johny Dignam’s first long course triathlon was Ironman 70.3 Port Maquarie in May 2019.

Not Stopping Here

With Ironman Australia behind him, Johny set a new goal, to complete one full Ironman and one half distance triathlon each year.

“The people I have met have helped push me to places I would’ve thought were unachievable several years ago. Sure, age, sickness, and injury are all significate barriers for maturing athletes. However, if we push ourselves out of our comfort zones while listening to our bodies, we continue to grow.”

Training for Triathlon Has Been Life Changing

To reach his new goal, Johny decided to develop a training plan that fits his long workdays and family commitments yet provides enough rest to prevent illness and injury.

Johny has taken this approach in part because of the difficulty getting age specific training information. Like many, he found the available print and on-line training resources to be aimed at the younger generation. One approach that could have worked is joining a triathlon club. However, this option didn’t work for him.

Next best for Johny has been to subscribe to two triathlon training plans which he considers “great value for the money”:

  • Phil Mosley Intermediate Masters 140.6 plan on TrainingPeaks. This plan provides a schedule of swim, bike, run, and some strength and conditioning workouts to be completed each week. It also provides the number of hours for training and the intensity target for each week for the months leading up to the triathlon.
  • Low Volume Triathlon Plan from TrainerRoad. Most of his bike workouts follow the TrainerRoad schedule.

He has compared these two plans and selected the portions from each that work best for him.

One limitation is that even the ‘masters’ plans seem designed for a large age group – age 40 and over. And, many feel they are tailored to the younger end of this age range.

Combining Indoor and Outdoor Training

During the main part of the training period, Johny trains 7 to 10 hours per week. Given his work schedule, family commitments, and priority for rest and recovery, Johny completes most of his long training blocks on the weekends.

For the rest of the schedule, Johny has developed an innovative approach that combines training within his house or near it and longer weekend sessions outdoors.

Riding Indoors Builds Fitness and Mental Toughness

As already noted, Johny usually follows bike workouts from TrainerRoad. Each week, he completes one threshold workout, one VO2max workout, and one long ride of three to fours hours.

Interestingly, over 90% of his bike training is indoors on a trainer. This is because he does not feel safe riding on the road. However, he does some workouts on his mountain bike on a short hilly track outdoors near his home.

Is indoor training for the bike effective? This was a question Johny was asking going into last year’s Ironman triathlon.

“I wasn’t sure how I would do on the bike. My training included weekly, long indoor rides on the trainer for three hours or more. I did one or two rides of nearly seven hours outside before the event. As it turned out, I felt more confident on the bike leg of the race as the day went on.

“Having said that, it was still a slow time of 7 hours, 30 minutes, but I got off the bike and could run, and that’s all that mattered.

“I think the long indoor sessions prepared me mentally for the day.”

Johny pointed out that several professional triathletes, including Jan Frodeno and Lionel Sanders, also rely on indoor training for the triathlon bike leg.

Cross Training for the Triathlon Run

Johny also cross trains for running to avoid overuse injuries. He has found water running using the Fluid Running system to be effective for building running fitness and preventing injury. “Running in deep water is harder than people think.” You can read the story of the company’s founder, Jennifer Conroyds, here.

Typical Training Schedule

The table below summarizes a typical week’s training while preparing for an Ironman triathlon. It also highlights some of the other tools Johny has identified for training at home.

Swim1x – Swim simulation using ZEN8 bands
2x – Pool swims (weekend)
Bike1x – Threshold workout using trainer
1x – VO2max workout using trainer
1x – Long ride either using the trainer or riding outdoors
Run1x – 5 km run using Zwift mid-week
2x – 30-40 minutes water running after a pool swim using H2Go app from Fluid Running
* beginning 3 months before an Ironman triathlon, he will start doing longer runs outside
Mobility & Strength3x – 20 minute using Calimove mobility app, Skill Yoga app, or Sean Vigue Pilates book/video
* one mobility workout is done on Monday afternoon as part of his recovery day

Final Preparations for a Race

In the final weeks leading up to a full or half distance Ironman triathlon, Johny focuses on the “little things” that left unprepared can change the complexion of one’s race.

“Try to have all the little things in place that may impact your day. Come race day, you want to be comfortable and able to enjoy the moment.”

He also completes some long swims and long rides, focusing on completing them without worrying about his time. The main goal is to build confidence for race day.

For example, these last weeks typically include a 4 km (2.5 mile) pool swim and at least one longer open water swim. He will also complete at least one long bike ride to become comfortable being on the bike for several hours. Before last year’s triathlon, he rode seven hours along the bike track on a freeway. This ride “definitely helped on race day”.

During this period, he will practice changing a flat tire. He also uses this time to test hydration, nutrition, and any new shoes or clothing he may wear on race day. He doesn’t want any unexpected ‘tummy problems’ or body chafing during the race.

If the next race is a short (sprint or international) distance race, he may simulate the race on a course near his home. This was helpful for Johny before his first triathlon and can be for first-time triathletes.

However, for long course triathlons, he does not do a complete simulated race. He wants to arrive at the race fully rested and recovered.

Johny Dignam achieved his goal of finishing Ironman Australia in May 2022.

Refining the Training Plan Based on Experience

Johny has made note of the workouts that have helped him most and is using this experience to develop his own basic training plan. He has offered to provide a copy of the current working version of his plan. “This is only a draft. I will probably update it after this year’s events.”

You can request a copy of Johny’s plan using the Comments section below.


What are the main lessons Johny has taken from his time training for and competing in triathlon? Here are his top four.

  1. We are all different. Therefore, our triathlon training will reflect our differences in fitness and in the time we can devote to training. On the other hand, find a plan that works for you and try to stay with it.
  2. Nutrition is the one of the unwritten disciplines of triathlon. Eat healthy, basic food with a good source of protein and fresh vegetables. Alcohol and sweets are not our friends. Have a tested nutrition plan for the race in place weeks before race day.
  3. Rest and recovery are essential. Listen to your body. If you are constantly struggling to hit target heart rate zones or complete workouts, you may need a recovery week.
  4. Come race day, just enjoy the experience. There’s no point worrying about the weather or if you have done enough training. Make the most of the conditions and be thankful that you have made it this far. Also, be thankful for your loved ones and others who have helped you get to this place.
“Don’t argue with the coach!” Johny is pictured here with wife Tracey, his “unofficial coach and biggest supporter” following the 2021 Husky long course triathlon at Jervis Bay in Huskisson, NSW, Australia.

Advice for Those Who Want to Take Advantage of the Life Changing Benefits of Triathlon

Here is what Johny told me when I asked what advice he would give to an older person thinking about doing a triathlon:

  • ​”Don’t believe that you’re too old. The over-50 age groups in triathlon events have some of the largest numbers of participants.
  • “In this sport, there are people from all different backgrounds – gifted athletes, everyday mums and dads, people with disabilities, and others just like you – all doing amazing things. You can do this!
  • “Don’t think too much about it. Sign up for an event and give yourself 12 months to build. Find a coach, join a club, or get some sort of plan.”

Want a Copy of Johny’s Training Plan? Have Questions for Him?

Want a copy of Johny Dignam’s Ironman triathlon training plan? Let us know by posting a Comment below.

Do you have other questions for Johny? You can also ask these in the Comments section.

Comments: Please note that I review all comments before they are posted. You will be notified by email when your comment is approved. Even if you do not submit a comment, you may subscribe to be notified when a comment is published.

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At What Age Do Senior Triathletes Start Triathlon?

At what age did you start to compete in triathlon? What was the reason?

I started wondering when I read an article, which is sad in many ways, titled “Fast Cars, Nips & Tucks, Swim, Bike, and Run? Is The “Midlife Crisis Tri” A Thing?“.

Furthermore, was it reasonable to consider getting into triathlon later in life? I have had so many wrong impressions of age throughout my life. And, some were held not that long ago.

I decided to develop a one-question survey asking those of the Senior Triathletes community to give the age of their first triathlon. I promised to share the results this month.

Median Age is 50

The results show that the median age for a first triathlon among those in our community is 50. And, as the graph below shows, the distribution of starting age is relatively uniform from the 30s through the 60s.

Distribution of age of first triathlon for quick survey respondents. Sample size: 18.

Related post: The Road to Ironman Triathlon – Laurent Labbe’s Story

What Can We Learn?

Admittedly, the sample size for this analysis is small. However, based on these results, I don’t see starting in triathlon as indicative of a mid-life crisis. If it were, the distribution should have been more concentrated in the 40s and 50s.

In our survey, these two age blocks represented only 44% of the responses.

Besides the results of this survey, I have spoken or corresponded by email with many of you. I have heard various reasons and motivations for doing a first triathlon. Many of these have involved younger family members whom you have inspired or who have inspired you. I do not recall any related to finding meaning for their life.

Take a look at some stories published in Our Stories. You will find many reasons and motivations for starting in the sport of triathlon.

Related post: “At Age 70, I Had 19 Days To My First Triathlon” – Pat Johnson’s Story

How Do You Interpret The Results?

If you would like your response to be included in these results, please complete the survey.

Meanwhile, what do you think about the survey results? How do you interpret them? Do you agree or disagree with my conclusion?

Book Review: Triathlon Story of Senior Triathlete Hilary Topper

Senior triathlete Hilary Topper is a cheerleader for everyone who has ever struggled with self doubt about their ability to take on a new challenge, like doing a triathlon. She has dedicated her story to ‘back-of-the-packers’, those who compete for the thrill of setting and completing a challenging goal with no expectation of winning an award.

Hilary’s book, titled From Couch Potato to Endurance Athlete: A Portrait of a Non-Athletic Triathlete, candidly chronicles her journey to becoming an endurance athlete who has completed various distance triathlons and other single and multiple sport endurance events.

About Hilary Topper

Hilary grew up in a challenging home environment. Her mother’s advice was to play it safe and avoid physical activities because of the dangers they presented. Meanwhile, she seldom saw her dad as he was working three jobs.

After attending college, starting a family, and establishing a career, Hilary started a successful public relations firm. At age 48, she realized she needed an outlet for stress that did not involve eating.

Hilary shares the challenges of beginning to exercise at a local gym, something she had never done before. However, before long, she was attending her first spin class and learning the new language associated with spinning.

Then, before she knew it, she was running thanks to the encouragement of a business acquaintance. Running quickly became an integral part of Hilary’s life.

First Triathlon

Hilary’s running partner unexpectedly decided she no longer wanted to do running races. Instead, she suggested that the two of them sign up for a triathlon. So, they registered for the 2014 Captiva Tri, scheduled for five months later.

One small problem. Hilary could not swim.

In her first visit to the pool to train for the swim part of the triathlon, she learned she could not swim a single, 25 yards length of the pool. Thanks to the help of a coach, she quickly learned to swim well enough to finish her first triathlon. In fact, two years later, Hilary completed the New York City one mile swim race.

Ironically, swimming, the sport that was initially her weakest, has become the strongest leg of her triathlon.

In 2015, one year after completing her first triathlon, Hilary competed in several races, including the USAT Age Group Championships. Later that year, while competing in a triathlon in Florida where her father was living, Hilary heard her father say that he was proud of her. This was a first.

Thanks to triathlon, Hilary’s relationship with her father blossomed.

Races aren’t just about the race; it is about the whole experience leading up to and after the actual race.

Hilary Topper, From Couch Potato to Endurance Athlete: A Portrait of a Non-Athletic Triathlete, p. 134.

Audience for the Hilary Topper, Senior Triathlete, Story

As I read the book, I imagined how each of three groups of senior triathletes would benefit from reading Hilary Topper’s story.

First Time Triathletes

To those planning for their first triathlon, she says ‘Go for it’. And, if you have signed up for your first triathlon, her story will help you prepare for it.

One lesson I think she learned from her experience is that you don’t need to spend as much money as she did before your first triathlon.

Before her first, she spent more money and made the preparations more complicated than necessary by having a coach who expected her to buy a new carbon fiber bike with clip-in shoes, before seeing if she liked the sport.

Anyone who has gone from non-athlete or ‘weekend warrior’ will relate to Hilary’s descriptions of her initial training. Her experience brought back memories of learning to ride with clip-in bike shoes. And her account of putting on a wetsuit for the first time had me in tears while laughing.

If someone asked me a year ago, what it takes to be a triathlete, I would have said, “Hmm . . . someone who could swim, bike, and run?” What I didn’t realize is, there are two other disciplines to master—proper nutrition/hydration and transitions. Both seem simple on the surface but are quite complicated.

Hilary Topper, From Couch Potato to Endurance Athlete: A Portrait of a Non-Athletic Triathlete, p. 87.

Those Thinking of Longer Distance Events

To those experienced with sprint distance triathlons who are thinking of going longer distance in triathlon or other single or multi-sport endurance races, Hilary says ‘You can do it. However, plan on training for it’.

Experienced Endurance Racers

Hilary also has advice for those with experience in training for and racing in various endurance events. You will find your head nodding in agreement while remembering your own similar experiences. I lost count of the number of times I recalled an experience similar to one Hilary recounted.

One example that is still vivid is of falling while on the bike leg and finishing the race with a damaged chain and derailleur. And, if you haven’t experienced what she describes about porta potties on page 204, you haven’t been to enough races. My triathlon bag includes several packets of tissues for the latrines void of toilet paper.

It quickly became habit forming and an addiction. . . .All I wanted to talk about was swimming, cycling, and running. I
was driving my family crazy, including my husband who ignored me!

Hilary Topper, From Couch Potato to Endurance Athlete: A Portrait of a Non-Athletic Triathlete, p. 85.

Run-Walk Method

Through Hilary’s story, I also learned about the Galloway run-walk-run method. This approach involves alternating running and walking to complete distances of 5k to a full 26.2 mile marathon. She became acquainted with the method during a triathlon on the Atlantic coast in Florida on an especially hot and humid day.

Since that race, Galloway’s method has become central to her run training, running races, and triathlons.

Mental Component of New Challenges

As with many sports, the mental aspect can be as challenging as the physical. Negative self-talk can derail even the most skilled and trained athlete.

Through her experiences and the lessons she has learned, Hilary shares advice for dealing with negative self-talk.

When you’re learning a new sport, have patience with yourself.

Hilary Topper, From Couch Potato to Endurance Athlete: A Portrait of a Non-Athletic Triathlete, p. 108

Value of Support From Family and Friends

Throughout the book, Hilary recognizes her husband, daughter, son and many friends for the emotional support they have provided throughout her journey. While encouraged by her own progress, it has especially motivated Hilary when her family has recognized it.

I have the feeling that this book would never have been written, or at least been much less inspiring, were it not for supportive family and friends.

When I finished the New York City Triathlon, I went to my social media. My daughter wrote this on her post on Facebook: “So proud of my mom for finishing the NYC triathlon! She is the strongest person I know and will always push herself, despite all obstacles, to achieve her goals. She inspires me every day.

Hilary Topper, From Couch Potato to Endurance Athlete: A Portrait of a Non-Athletic Triathlete, p. 122.

Starting a Triathlon Team

I was also intrigued when reading about Hilary starting a virtual triathlon team. This team comprised people from the New York metropolitan area, where she lives, as well as in other USA states and in Europe.

This team, called WeRTriathletes, could serve as a model for a Senior Triathletes team.

What do you think?

Worth Reading

This book reads like a cross between a diary and autobiography. It’s full of valuable information communicated through real-life examples.

Chapters open with an inspirational quote from an endurance athlete. They end with a lesson Hilary has learned through endurance sports.

Hilary is an open book. She does not whitewash her experiences, sometimes providing more detail than I would comfortably include in a post. One example is her experience with porta potties at triathlons. But I can’t argue with her assessment.

Even if you have never done a triathlon or have completed dozens, you will enjoy reading Hilary’s story about the impact triathlon, running, and swimming have had on her life.

The personal experiences, both tragic and hilarious, which she shares and the lessons she has learned will give would-be triathletes an unvarnished view of the things they should expect with the sport. They also paint a colorful picture of the pleasure triathlon training and racing have given multitudes of older athletes.

Meanwhile, those of us who have taken the plunge into triathlon and other multi-sport endurance events will be reminded why the sport has captured our attention.

Reading the story of senior triathlete Hilary Topper and her triathlon journey is worth the time.

If you want to purchase Hilary’ book, click on this link. Before checking out, use the promo code SNRTRI for a 10% discount.


Share your thoughts and comments below. I will send Hilary any questions and comments you direct toward her.

Comments: Please note that I review all comments before they are posted. You will be notified by email when your comment is approved. Even if you do not submit a comment, you may subscribe to be notified when a comment is published.

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