When I tell folks that I am a triathlete, they usually think that a triathlon is an extreme and unattainable goal for the average athlete. But I think that triathlon has saved me! I have been a runner since middle school. I ran the distance events in track and field and ran many road races. As the years went on, I was strictly a summer athlete. My children’s activities kept me so busy! And being a school teacher, I felt like June, July, and August were the only months I could run. But I also was strictly a runner. How did I train? I just threw on my running shoes and ran. No strength training. No cross training. Just running. In my early 40’s I decided to train for my first half marathon. I didn’t follow a training plan. I didn’t ask for advice. I just kept doing the same thing I had always done. I just ran! Different distances on different days. Maybe a little speed work. Rest days? Not if I could help it! I’m sure you can guess what happened…by the time the half marathon arrived I was really hurting. Foot, knee, hip. Injured. So I vowed never to run a half marathon again.
A few years after that, my sister convinced me to try triathlon. I borrowed a road bike. I took swim lessons. I joined a gym. And that’s when my body came to realize the importance of strength training and cross training! I started taking regular TRX classes and boot camp classes. I participated in an Athletic Mentors tri camp and came away with an actual training plan! I started training with the plan, adding in strength training. What a difference it made!
I’ve been competing in triathlons for 9 years now. I wish I could say it was without injury, but I can’t. The pandemic came at a good time for me! I would not have been able to compete to the level I would have wanted to this summer due to a lingering hip injury. As I have made my way to several different doctors over the last 2 years I hear much of the same. My injury is caused by arthritis but is worsened by pounding the pavement. As one doctor put it, “Your hips are like a tires. The tread will wear down eventually. And you have a lot more miles on your tires than most people!” Each doctor though has encouraged me to continue cycling, swimming and strength training. These activities have kept me strong and have actually helped me!
In hindsight, I wish I would have started doing triathlons sooner! By adding cycling and swimming to my workouts, I believe that I have helped my body and helped extend my active time. I do love running, and I always will, but I think that triathlons have helped my body by working different muscle groups and making me an overall stronger athlete. So I encourage everyone to expand your variety of exercise to keep you motivated and to help your body parts from wearing out!