Everyday, we’re rewriting the book on how seniors are supposed to behave. As Americans live longer, healthier and more active lives, the stereotype of the knitting granny in a rocker is becoming less relevant all the time. In fact, for many, retirement offers the freedom to explore new adventures and exhilarating activities for the very first time. Would you have guessed that one of the fastest growing activities among seniors is the triathlon? It’s true. According to the AARP, as baby boomers enter retirement, they bring their competitive edge with them. The AARP says that as many as 50,000 Americans over the age of fifty participated in one ‘sprint triathlon’ last year. This is ten times as many as competed in 2005.
The Sprint Triathlon Also referred to as a mini-triathlon, this race offers a digestible sampling of the three-event competition that comprises a true triathlon. The idea is to create a race that combines Swimming, Cycling and Running—as with a traditional ironman competition—but to make its completion attainable for beginner and intermediate athletes. The AARP notes that the typical mini-tri will include a half-mile swim, a 12-mile bike ride and a 3-mile run. Independent run groups or community organizations that are specifically geared toward seniors may offer races that are scaled back even further. Whatever the length of the race, competing is an inspiring accomplishment at any age.
Reduced Health Risks: Training for the triathlon requires you to engage in a physically active lifestyle. According to Fitness.com, this type of regular activity lowers the likelihood of obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease. In turn, your participation in triathlon preparation will reduce your risk for stroke, diabetes or heart attack.
Improved Mobility: You need to be active in order to stay active. In other words, the more you exercise your muscles and work to maintain your physical ability, the longer you’ll be able to use them. Keeping a healthy, active lifestyle into your senior years improves your mobility, range of motion and self-reliance as you advance in age.
Enhanced mood and mental acuity: Body and mind are deeply dependent upon one another. When your body feels bad, your mood is usually a dead giveaway. The same is true when your body feels good. Physical activity produces endorphins that genuinely enhance your mood and bring clarity to your thinking. It’s not just the sense of accomplishment that makes triathlon competition so uplifting. Evidence suggests that there is also a real chemical reaction taking place.
Doing it Right
Consult a physician: Before you jump into triathlon competition, speak with your doctor. Make sure that you are healthy enough for this type of physical rigor. Check up on old injuries or chronic health conditions to make sure that these won’t represent a heightened health risk once you begin training.
Pace Yourself: WebMD says that one of the biggest advantages that seniors have when competing in the triathlon is their advanced mental reasoning. Completing the triathlon requires a sound strategy and the maturity to establish a manageable pace. While younger runners might be compelled by the competitive aspects of the race, the experienced senior will approach the race as a personal test of fortitude.
Listen to your body: If you are thinking of competing, start at your comfort level. Find a balance between pushing yourself and respecting your own limitations. Be bold but be realistic.