Swim half a mile, dash out of the water and onto your bicycle, cycle for 24 miles, then jump off and run another 6 miles, sounds like a fantastic way to spend a morning. We’re talking about triathlon, a sport that involves swimming, riding, and running. But, are there triathlons for seniors?
Read along to find out!
Triathlons for Seniors
You’ll undoubtedly notice something if you watch a triathlon. The participants aren’t all thin, buff and hard body typed. You’ll see white-haired grandfathers, middle-aged mums, and a lot of seniors who look like their longest sprint is from the couch to the refrigerator.
According to the national sanctioning organization, USA Triathlon, more than 50,000 elderly athletes compete every year.
What Are The Different Triathlon Distances for Seniors?
A triathlon can be any length, although there are four standard lengths:
- The most popular is the Olympics, which involves a 0.93-mile (1.5-kilometer) swim, a 24.8-mile (40-kilometer) bike ride, and a 6.2-mile (10 kilometers) run.
- The Ironman Triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile (3.9-kilometer) swim, a 112-mile (180-kilometer) bike ride, and a 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometer) marathon.
- Half Ironman has a swim, bike ride, and run distances of 1.2 miles (1.93 kilometers), 56 miles (90 kilometers), and 13 miles (21 kilometers), respectively.
- The sprint triathlon comprises a half-mile (0.8-kilometer) swim, a 15-mile (24-kilometer) cycle ride, and a 3-mile (5-kilometer) run.
Why Does Triathlon Appeal To Seniors?
After living for at least six decades, a senior knows that life is not a sprint. It’s a long-distance race in which each participant sets his own speed.
Triathlon, in this case, is very similar. It’s more of a test of endurance and willpower than a race of speed and muscle. It is a test of one’s endurance and humility, and it is more about the mind than the body.
More seniors than youngsters participate in most big races throughout the world. Furthermore, there are more triathletes in their 50s than in their 20s. But what contributes to this?
Economics is one of the factors. Seniors have more disposable income to spend on training, equipment, registration fees, and travel, in addition to having more time to practice.
The other factor is that it’s less tiring. The three-sport triathlon appeals to seniors because it is less tiring on the legs than plain running. Seniors can combine swimming, biking, and running. Hence, they don’t have to do one sport to exhaustion.
Additionally, the sport depends more on mental strength than physical prowess!
Practical Tips for senior Triathletes
Get a doctor’s approval: Before participating in an intense sport like a triathlon, see your doctor. Have him conduct some tests, and receive his approval. Electrocardiograms and treadmill stress tests will show him how your heart responds to stress, particularly during intense exercise.
On the other hand, keep an eye on your diet. Carbohydrates will fuel your training and races, and protein will help you recover.
Save your legs: Breaststroke’s forceful and powerful kicking is the most relaxing swimming stroke for seniors. Freestyle, on the other hand, is the more efficient stroke and is ideal for senior triathlons.
However, don’t try to flutter kick like Michael Phelps; your aged legs won’t provide you with the propulsion you need. Allow your arms and upper torso to paddle through the water while you balance on your legs.
Keep calm: Triathlon swimming is a contact sport, and the swim start is as packed as a koi pond feeding frenzy.
If you join in the frenzy, you’ll almost certainly be kicked, elbowed, hacked, or forced under, leaving you gasping for air. The majority of triathlon deaths are caused by panic during the swim leg.
Stay in the rear of your swim wave at the start to avoid the rush. Most of the wave’s swimmers will be too far ahead to concern you in 30 seconds, and if you’re faster, you’ll pass a number of them one by one sooner or later.
Avoid breaking your leg or collarbone: Crashing on the bike is the worst thing that can happen to a senior triathlete. As you get older, your bones lose solidity, and by your 60s, they may be as brittle as a biscuit.
Have a good bike fit: Bicycles come in all sizes, and an ill-fitting bike will damage you much like an ill-fitting pair of shoes. Make sure you get a good bike fitting; one that will offer you the specifications (frame size, saddle height, etc.) that are ideal for your body structure.
Triathlon or time trial bikes (those with aero bars) put you in a position where your running leg muscles (particularly the calves) are used less and saved for the running leg.
However, for some arthritic older cyclists, the aero position will be difficult on their backs and hips. In that case, a road bike will serve you better since it demands less body bending. That allows for a more relaxed body position.
Don’t slam the pedals: When climbing hills, maintain a high cadence. On the downhill, take a break and freewheel, but don’t doze off. You’ll take your daily nap after the race!
Monitor your heart rate: A triathlete’s heart rate normally rises during the final leg of the race, the run leg, when the heart is tired and the body’s fuel tank is nearly empty. As a result, heart rate monitoring is essential. Purchase a sports watch that has a heart rate monitor.
Drink plenty of water: Dehydration, or worse, heat stroke, is a major hazard for seniors, even those who are rocking in their recliners.
Electrolytes lost through sweating can be replaced with sports drinks and gels. But be careful with salt tablets. They may interact negatively with your hypertension medication. Consult your physician about it.
Don’t push yourself too far: Younger athletes who are driven by a competitive spirit and a desire to set personal records (PRs) often push themselves to their limits and survive the effort. However, for elderly people, the effort may be life or death, or at the very least, pose a major health risk.
If you have to walk, at least ramp up your pace as you get closer to the finish line. Your finish line photo should show you racing strongly and in full stride, not stumbling or wobbling.
And when you’re done with a race, send this simple text to your worried family and friends: “I’m alive!”
So, are there triathlons for seniors? The answer is YES!