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15 Reasons for Those 50 and Older to Do Triathlons

15 Reasons for Those 50 and Older to Do Triathlons

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. Training for a triathlon can be a daunting prospect which is why lots of people take supplements such as t booster, before working out. Particularly if you’re over 30, taking some supplements might make your workouts a little easier!

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.

logo for the TDD triathlon and fundraiser
The TDD Triathlon in Douglas, Massachusetts was a fundraiser for newborn babies.

“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. Anything from custom fit shirts, that you can get from places like StringKing, (https://stringking.com/apparel/shirts/) to trainers and shorts, are just some of the many clothing items that you can get your hands on for events like this. If you’re going to take part in a triathlon, you may as well look good doing it, right?

GPS watch and new running shoes
GPS watch and running shoes.

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.

family celebration at the 2014  Maple Grove Triathlon
Post-triathlon celebration with family at the 2014 Maple Grove Triathlon in Maple Grove, Minnesota.

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. If you happen to reside in an assisted living community, you can also ask your friends over there to participate in this event. 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.

Diamondhead for ST website-1
Hawaii – one of our winter ‘training’ get-aways.

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.

Garmin Forerunner 920XT

This post was originally published on February 25, 2016. It was last updated on May 5, 2019.

Masters Running: What Hal Higdon Teaches About ‘Moving Young‘

Masters Running: What Hal Higdon Teaches About ‘Moving Young‘

A review of “Masters Running: a guide to running and staying fit after 40”, Hal Higdon, Rodale Press ©2005.

Staying active as we age is one way to not only live longer but with higher quality.  Of the 500 respondents to a survey of runners, 93% indicated that they ran to stay fit.

In his book “Masters Running”, Hal Higdon shares advice from his life as a runner.  Lessons from his experience will help you become a better runner and decrease the inevitable effects of aging.


A Little Background

Running is my weakest leg of a triathlon.

I could resign myself to the fact that, according to Dr. David L. Costill, I had simply failed to “carefully select my parents”.  However, I don’t just want to participate in triathlon.  I want to compete in the sport.  For this reason, I have read several books on running and am following a run training program from “Run Less, Run Faster” by Bill Pierce et al.

However, I found the advice from Hal Higdon particularly useful when I started running around 10 years ago.  I have also followed his ideas for the times I have restarted running after an injury or extended time away from running.


About the Author of “Masters Running”

Hal Higdon is a competitive runner and has been since he was in college at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.  He continued to run after college and competed internationally at Masters (over age 40) events.

However, despite his own accomplishments, he was struck by 91-year-old Duncan MacClean who he described as ‘moving young’ despite his age.    As Higdon wrote, cosmetic surgery and hair color can change our appearance, but unless we stay active, the first time we move, we will give away our age.  Celebrated USA Triathlete Tony Schiller made a similar comment during our conversation.

In the book, Higdon shares the results of academic research that, in the late 1970’s, documented what we now take for granted, that those who remain active, live longer on average.  The more strenuous the activity the greater the effect.  Swimming, biking, and running are among the activities that have the most impact on longevity.


Sprint to the finish line at the Lake Lanier Islands Triathlon 2018. The picture was taken by Tim Nettleton for TrueSpeedPhoto.com and provided compliments of Georgia Multisports.

Starting to Run

Starting from the proof provided from studies by researchers Ralph S. Paffenberger, Jr., M.D.; Kenneth H. Cooper, M.D.; Michael L. Pollock, Ph.D.; Jack H. Wilmore, Ph.D.; and David L. Costill, Ph.D., Higdon shares ideas on how to become a runner and continue running well into the senior years.

There is no argument that our abilities and needs relative to running and other types of physical exercise change as we age.  Nevertheless, those who commit to running can be successful by:

  • starting to train,
  • training more once started,
  • training smarter, and
  • learning when to rest.

While it is best if we never get out of shape, this news may be too late for some.  We must work with what we have and start from where we are.

If you want to start running, Higdon provides a simple plan that he calls the ’30/30 Plan’.  This approach involves a mix of walking and running for 30 minutes per day for 30 days.


Improving the Run

Having started running, we can adopt Higdon’s ideas for improving our running ability by:

  • gradually, but consistently, increasing the intensity (speed and distance) of running
  • strength training.

Higdon makes a major case for strength training indicating that the number one goal for the book is to convince the reader to include regular strength training in our routines.  The book includes an entire chapter on how to create a personalized strength training program.

Training smarter includes cross training.  This fits the plans of a triathlete who must train in three sports.  Higdon also identifies sports that support running, such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, as well as complementary activities such as stretching.

“Masters Running” includes information about rest and recovery.  Proper rest and recovery helps to prevent injury while maintaining the benefits of previous smart training.


Order “Masters Running”

Through examples and anecdotes from his nearly lifelong experience with running, Higdon not only makes points important to becoming a better runner but also illustrates why these are important, something our inquiring minds appreciate.