How To Build Confidence For Triathlon

Triathlon is much more enjoyable when we approach it mentally prepared and with confidence.

I’m sure that New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra would agree. Undoubtedly, had he been a triathlete, Yogi would have confidently said, “Triathlon is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”

Confidence is Part of Mental Toughness

In multi-sport endurance competition, confidence is an athlete’s belief in their ability to perform well and successfully complete the physical and mental challenges of the sport. Confidence includes the self-assurance and positive mindset that carries an athlete into and through the event.

An athlete’s confidence not only affects their performance but also their overall experience. Athletes who approach a race with confidence are more likely to perform at their best. They are ones who push through challenges and derive more satisfaction from their efforts, regardless of the outcome.

In short, confident athletes perform better and have more fun.

Assessing Your Confidence

In The Champion Mindset: An Athlete’s Guide to Mental Toughness, Dr. Joanna Zeiger shares personal lessons about the mental component of sports competition. Beginning from her rocky start as a seven-year-old swimmer, she describes how mental toughness has been key to her experience as an amateur, later professional triathlete who finished fourth in the triathlon at the 2000 Olympic Games.

If you are interested in getting an assessment of your confidence today, take Dr. Zeiger’s free Sisu Survey. Your answers to the questionnaire will be used to measure your confidence and seven more components of mental toughness.

How Can Senior Multi-Sport Endurance Athletes Increase Confidence?

If you want to improve your confidence, here are several ways to accomplish it. Some ways may apply to you, while others may not.

Prepare Physically

This is the belief in one’s physical fitness and training preparation. Athletes who are confident in their physical abilities are more likely to believe they have the stamina, strength, and conditioning to endure the demands of the event. From my experience, consistent, structured training leading up to a race is a real confidence builder.

If, like many triathletes, you have a weaker leg that causes some anxiety before a race, make sure you train to improve it. For example, my weakest leg has always been the run. For this reason, I have spent more time reading about run training and training for the run than on training for the swim and bike. Of course, I regularly swim and bike. However, the time spent running, including after a bike workout, is about twice that spent on the others.

Two keys to getting the most from your physical training are:

  1. Train wisely to avoid injury. Set realistic expectations, increase training stress gradually, get enough quality rest, and eat well.
  2. Keep a training diary or log. Documenting your training progress will build confidence. It may also show when you need to rest or when other things in your life are affecting your training. Remember, your body treats all stress the same. Your total stress on any day is the sum of stress from physical activity, mental tasks, and emotional challenges.

Related Post: Becoming a Confident Open Water Swimmer

Have the Right Attitude

How do you feel about being able to handle the psychological challenges that come with multi-sport endurance events? You can feel more confident when you have set and managed your expectations for the race and learned to manage discomfort, fatigue, and self-doubt.

Thoughts are the most effective weapon in the human arsenal. . . [I]t is powerful to realize that goals are reached primarily by establishing the proper state of mind.


For every one of the community of triathletes over age 50 who train for winning in triathlon, many more train to complete their triathlon. Sure, we all like to win. However, our greater desire is to remain physically active, benefit from the social aspect of the sport, and grow mentally as we learn something new.

According to Experiences of Older Adults Preparing for Their First Triathlon: “A Qualitative Study of the Participation in an Endurance Training Intervention”:

In Scandinavia, there is a general tendency for . . . older adults today to exercise and compete in sports including triathlon. [F]or most active people today, endurance exercising is more about ‘completing’ than ‘competing’.

Weekend-warrior athletes can feel perfectly comfortable setting their primary goal to complete the triathlon.

Plan Your Race

You will be more confident entering a race if you have a clear plan for pacing, nutrition, and hydration. You will also be more confident if you are sure that the gear you will use is in good condition and comfortable. The adage ‘Never use something for the first time on race day’ is solid advice.

Familiarity with the course and its conditions will also boost your confidence. My typical pre-race ritual is to drive the bike course, or better yet have my wife drive, to observe the road conditions (e.g. potholes) and its turns. Then, during the race, I will be more relaxed during the ride.

Confident triathletes are also adaptable. It helps to believe you can handle unexpected challenges that might arise during the race. Training in less-than-ideal weather conditions, which could be present on race day, is one way to increase adaptability. Practice changing a bike tire with a race mindset. You will ride with more confidence.

Related Post: Pros and Cons of Running in the Heat

Raining before a triathlon. Training in inclement conditions, at least ocassionally, can build confidence for completing a triathlon in less-than-ideal weather.
Training in inclement conditions, at least occasionally, can build confidence for completing a triathlon in less-than-ideal weather.

Build on Previous Success

Success breeds success. Past successes in training and in previous races build a foundation of confidence. If you are training for your first triathlon, consider setting up a mock course representing the distance and topography. Complete this course one to two weeks before your first race.

Think hard before signing up for a race on a course with conditions that will work against you being successful. For example, is the course especially hilly but you have trained on flat terrain? Is it at a higher altitude than you live and have trained? Is the weather where the race is being held typically hotter or colder than you are comfortable?

Give yourself an opportunity to be successful under the known or most likely conditions for a race before ‘diving in’.

Related Post: Planning for a Triathlon at Higher Altitude

Within a day or two of completing a race, review its results and your experience, preferably with a friend or coach. Make note of things you did well and those for which you will better prepare for your next race.

Leverage Your Support

Having a strong support network can also enhance a triathlete’s confidence. Knowing you have family, coaches, teammates, and friends who believe in you and are cheering you on adds to one’s confidence.

What Do You Think?

Are you a confident triathlete? If so, what have you learned about confidence in your triathlon journey? What helps you be more confident on race day?

Share your thoughts and comments below.

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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Restarting To Bike After A Crash

A bike crash, whether it involves another vehicle or not, can be traumatizing, It can end one’s triathlon career even if the physical wounds heal.

This post is meant to answer a question from a member of the Senior Triathletes community about restarting to bike after an accident with injury.

Restarting to Bike After a Crash Can Be Physical and Emotional

One of Our Community members, Marty Hunter, knows too well how devastating a bike crash can be. She wrote the following when I asked our readers to share topics about which they would like to learn:

“[I am e]xperiencing difficulties recovering from a bike accident. Wondering what other athletes did to cope.”

Here is the background.

Training for Ironman Arizona in 2021, Marty fell on her bike while clipped into the pedals. A femur was broken in the fall, After surgery to repair it, she went through a period of walking with a cane and through many physical therapy appointments.

Even after healing physically, Marty has not recovered emotionally. She has ridden on a trainer but struggled to ride her bike outdoors on roads or trails. She told me “mentally, I’m mush”.

I am rooting for Marty to realize her dream of completing Ironman Arizona. So, I tapped into the experiences of others in our community who have been through this process of recovering from a bike crash. I am hoping their advice will help Marty return to training and racing.

Advice from Coach Jenn Reinhart

The first one to offer help was Senior Triathletes coach Jenn Reinhart. She is familiar with recovering from a bike crash having experienced a few, including being hit by a car, during her triathlon career.

Jenn and Marty spoke, after which Marty shared what she had learned from Jenn.

“Jenn found the right words to cut through my anxiety, especially my fear of being too old [to pursue my Ironman goal]. I tend to look way-way too far ahead instead of celebrating smaller but no less significant triumphs. 140.6 miles [of the Ironman] is huge. However, an 800 yard swim, 25 mile ride, and three to six mile run are totally doable. Each of these is great on it’s own. Being able to thread them together will be a mental podium finish for me.

“The basics are what I need to return to. Just get on the bike without any pressure for distance or pace at this time. Get confidence back for clipping [biking shoes] in and out. Eventually get the legs ready for power drills on the trainer.”

Advice from Other Senior Triathletes

I also spoke with two senior triathletes, Donna Maquire and Gene Peters. Both are Ironman finishers and have been injured in a bike crash.

Donna Maquire

During a triathlon in 2022, an impatient driver decided to turn when he should have waited. Because the bike course made a left turn, Donna was slowing down. These two factors – the car moving at a still low speed while accelerating from a stop and bikers slowing down for the turn – led to Donna ‘bouncing off’ the car’s side.

While her bike was undamaged, her back was fractured in three places. This was the beginning of nearly a year of back-pain as the back bones mended and aggravated discs were treated.

Within a couple of weeks of the accident, Donna was able to ride inside on the trainer. Four months after the crash, she did her first ride outside. This ride was not long and in her neighborhood where traffic is light and slow. She has continued to ride longer as time went by.

Given her experience following the crash, she does most of her training rides on a relatively flat trail near her home. She still struggles with pain when riding on hills.

Donna’s advice for Marty is to get back on a bike or trainer. When outside, never ride alone and always stay alert for cars. She uses a rear view mirror mounted on her glasses and a Garmin Varia radar that detects traffic from behind her.

She added, “Go slow. Increase the distance you ride a little at a time. And, be patient. As you ride more, you can expect your fitness and confidence to improve.”

Gene Peters

Gene Peters (look for his story here soon) told me of his experience while on his first ride after moving to Park City, Utah. During this ride, he collided with a car. In the accident, his back was broken in two places.

How did he get back to riding after healing?

The first time out after recovering, Gene rode less than six miles, enough to get comfortable riding.

Gene says that he is always concerned about cars, but realizes that there are some times when you can’t avoid riding with them around. This is another reason he does a lot of this bike training on the Computrainer his wife bought for him.

My Experience With Clip-In Shoes

I have not been in a serious accident with my bike. However, I have fallen twice during races, once because I was clipped in the pedals and unable to unclip quickly enough.

My first fall, at my Rhode Island triathlon, occurred because of a flat front tire.

I fell a second time, at a triathlon in Arkansas. This time, the fall was because I was not able to unclip my shoes quickly enough after the chain came off and jammed between the wheel and sprocket.

Interestingly, upon returning to the transition area after the bike leg of this triathlon, I saw another racer use traditional pedals with a toe cage (not clip-in) with his triathlon bike. I followed this example for the next several triathlons.

Besides making it easier to get in and out of the pedals, this configuration eliminates time in T2 to put on running shoes.

One qualifier: I am not sure this is valid for longer distance races. However, it can be helpful for restarting to bike after a crash.


A bike crash, especially one with an injury, can produce a major setback in one’s triathlon training. However, in most cases, it need not be career ending.

The concensus among other senior triathletes for restarting biking after a crash is to begin by getting on the bike for short rides. Ride in a safe area. And, if appropriate, use equipment that makes you feel safe, such as pedals and normal running shoes instead of clip-in shoes and pedals.

While you are regaining confidence riding outdoors, build your biking endurance using a bike trainer or stationary bike. Eventually, you will be able to put the bike handling and bike fitness pieces together.


What advice do you have for restarting to bike after a crash? Share your comment below.

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.

How To Make Triathlon Training Senior-Specific

Triathletes over age 50 struggle to find senior specific triathlon training plans. This is the major reason for partnering with Our Coaches, each who are also senior triathletes.

The genesis of this post and my conversation with Senior Triathletes coach Kurt Madden was a question from one of our readers. Linda, a new female triathlete over age 60 wrote:

“How do you change a triathlon training program that is meant for everyone, to one that works for a female over 60?”

The Senior Triathletes’ Challenge – Finding An Age-Specific Training Program

Looking back over my time in triathlon, I appreciate the challenge of finding the right training plan. What part of a training plan found in a book or online is appropriate for an older athlete, or specifically for me? Or for us as we age from 50 to 60 and beyond?

This is especially true when the mainstream endurance sports writers consider a man or woman age 40 to be an ‘older athlete’.

As you will hear, Kurt knows firsthand how the needs of a truly older athlete differ from their younger self. In this conversation, he gives us principles to use in adapting generic training information and hints for preventing injury and maintaining an active life for the long term.

Stress plus rest equals growth.

Kurt Madden, “Over 60” triathlete coach and athlete

Coach Kurt Madden’s Advice on Making Triathlon Training Specific to the Older Endurance Athlete

Recording of my conversation with triathlon coach and senior triathlete Kurt Madden about how to adapt general training plans for athletes over age 60.

Milestones in our Conversation

If you don’t have time to listen to the entire conversation now, you can download it for later listening. You can also jump to a specific point within the conversation.

  • 1:02 – Kurt’s answer to Linda’s question begins with three principles for adapting general training and exercise programs.
  • 3:58 – What to look for in generic training and exercise plans.
  • 7:22 – Best ways for those over 60 to prevent injury when training.
  • 10:51 – Nutrition: How to – and how not to – fuel your body during a training program.
  • 15:09 – Alternatives to trial and error in adapting general training plans.
  • 20:29 – How to develop a consistent, sustainable exercise program.
  • 27:17 – Kurt’s tribute to three senior triathletes from age 78 to 92.

Related Links

Atomic Habits – Kurt mentioned this book, one I had previously reviewed from the perspective of a triathlete. – This page shows the training plan options mentioned by Kurt Madden in the recording.

It’s Time for Your Questions and Comments

What questions do you have for Kurt?

Of Kurt’s advice, what did you find most interesting or thought provoking?

Based on his comments, how will your approach to generic training and exercise programs change?

Post your comments below. You may also contact Kurt Madden directly using the email address on his profile page.

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.

Strength Training for Senior Endurance Athletes

I recently spoke with Senior Triathletes coach Tony Washington about strength training and its importance to senior triathletes and other multi-sport endurance athletes. According to Tony, strength training should be looked at as the fourth discipline in triathlon, especially for senior athletes.

Strength Training for Senior Multisport Endurance Athletes

Since publishing my experience with triathlon icon Mark Allen’s strength training program, the post has consistently ranked among the top three most read on

This is not surprising given the intrinsic loss of strength with age, beginning around age 40. There is plenty of evidence to show that we may not stop this decline, but we can absolutely slow it down through consistent strength training. This includes some strength training everyday, according to Tony Washington.

For a sedate person, starting at about age 40, they can lose as much as a percent of strength per year.

Tony Washington

Before you leave thinking you don’t have time to go to the gym seven days a week, listen to Tony’s approach to strength training and how you can supplement visits to the gym or weight room with strength training while going about your day.

My Conversation with Tony Washington

Recording of my conversation with triathlon coach and senior triathlete Tony Washington

Milestones in our Conversation

If you don’t have time to listen to the entire conversation now, you can download it for later listening. You can also jump to a specific point within the conversation. Just remember, points later in the conversation often build on those Tony made earlier in it.

  • 1:11 – Strength training is underappreciated in triathlon
  • 3:07 – Key goal for strength training
  • 5:15 – Ways strength training for seniors differs from that for our younger selves
  • 8:25 – Three targets for strength training
  • 13:37 – Changes in strength training for seniors as we age
  • 18:41 – Differences in strength training between men and women
  • 21:30 – Approaching strength training when transitioning from a single endurance sport to triathlon
  • 24:55 – Influence of race distance on strength training
  • 27:11 – Reader question about preventing injury when strength training for the bike
  • 30:30 – Final advice: “Do some strength training every day.”

My Main Takeaway About Strength Training for Senior Triathletes

Strength training that improves stability, mobility, and strength is key to healthy aging and preventing injuries in triathlon. Fortunately, we can all find ways to include some strength training throughout our day.

Related post: Better Balance Makes A Stronger Triathlete

What Do You Think?

How has your idea of strength training been changed by Tony’s perspective? What did you find most interesting or thought provoking?

Post your comments below. You may also contact Tony Washington directly using the email address on his profile page.

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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