The COVID19 crisis has seen an increase in people exercising and hopefully making a comeback to triathlon. Families out together on bike rides with bike shops doing a roaring trade, more people are running and generally it appears as though everyone is more grateful for the benefits of getting outdoors to train and exercise.
My hope is this trend will continue once our lives return to some form of normality. As a professional coach my true passion is seeing people change their lives through triathlon. Adopting new habits, achieving new goals and challenging themselves to be better.
I suspect that through many taking up cycling and running in this period for the first time, there would also be some making a comeback. Whether that is because they have more time, realising what a privilege it was to be able to train before COVID19 or like myself halting the middle aged spread.
I have not trained seriously for almost 3 years. My last triathlon was Ironman Cairns in 2017. Since that period I have continued to train but with no real goals other than for health benefits. The swimming goggles have gathered mould and the bike has very occasionally come out of hibernation.
Running and gym have continued to be a part of my life but not with the intent of doing anything competitive. With the lack of structure to my training and without any definitive competitive goals my weight and waistline have steadily increased. I estimate I would be approximately 8-10kg over my race weight from 2017. Truth be told I am afraid to stand on the scales!
The odd chocolate bar became a daily habit and with big 50 approaching this year for me it is not as easy to maintain or lose weight. Throw in the demands of looking after our two sons, Charlie 21 months and Finn almost 4 and working in a demanding job as head coach for Triathlon Scotland, my own training has been a distant priority.
However now as a family we find ourselves back home in Queensland after the last year abroad in the UK. Our focus will always be Charlie and Finn, living a life of love and purpose but also getting back into some form of race type shape.
My wife Suz is also on the comeback to triathlon trail now that the boys are getting older and together we'll keep each other accountable. What races we will do in the future is yet to be decided. However the main focus is getting back into a regular routine of training, losing some weight and enjoying the process of getting back into race shape.
With that in mind here are my top 5 tips to remember if you're making a comeback to triathlon.
- Don't compare yourself to what you used to be able to do - In 2017 despite being 46 I was in fantastic shape. Lean, fit and aerobically strong. I could do my easy aerobic run sessions of 2hrs and hold a pace of 4.40-4.50 per km at a heart rate of 140 or under (my max heart rate is 200). At the moment I am somewhere between 5.40 and 5.50 per km at the same heart rate. Since 2017 I have really only exercised 3-5 times per week as opposed to train hence the difference. By comparing myself to what I was doing a couple of years ago it would only cause despair. My comparisons are only to who I was yesterday and if I am making progress. I may yet get back to that level again but that is not my goal.
- Be clear on why you are doing it and what your goals are - since 2017 I have made a couple of what I would best describe as feable attempts at getting back into regular training and doing some races. However each time my goals were not clear and I did not have a true understanding of why I wanted to do it. Often it would be seeing something on social media of what others were doing and feeling as though I was missing out. My motivation was extrinisic not intrinsic which means it was never going to last. Now I am clear that I am doing this for me. I want to get back into a regular routine of training and racing and enjoy the process of getting fit again. And what I can achieve in my 50th year and beyond.
- Redefine what success means - many feel success is based on a time or specific place in your age group. My experience is that this will never lead to real success or fulfilment. Times in triathlon are so dependant on factors outside of your control such weather conditons and course profile. Attaining a particular place in your age group is also outside of your control as the reality is some people will more often than not be faster. If you're making a comeback to the sport quite often it means you have been doing the sport for a long time. Getting faster might not be an option anymore. My best years are well behind me but my focus now is seeing what I can achieve as an almost 50 year old and embracing the challenges of getting the best out of my body.
- Be realistic with your training program - your best years might have seen you cranking out great training week upon training week. No injuries, feeling fit and strong and racing to your potential. If you were training 15 hours per week in your hey day, the reality is that probably won't be possible for some time or maybe not at all. You need to accept that your body might not be able to do what it used to. Getting older means not recovering as well from training, injuries will probably be easier to get and things might just move a little slower than they used to. And that is all okay. When you start training again begin with baby steps, almost like you are a beginner triathlete again. If you were training 15 hours per week before aim to start at 5 hours per week. This morning Suz and I did 45 minutes on the turbo trainer and it was a good session. In our best racing years, 45 minutes would have hardly been worth getting the training kit on.
- Be grateful - I first started my triathlon journey some 30+ years ago. In that time there have been many ups and downs. Numerous injuries, surgeries and setbacks mixed with some amazing experiences and adventures. I know people my age that would love to still train but can't due to poor health or chronic injury. Now I am just grateful that I can still train and have the ability to be able to set new goals and challenges. It takes me a while to get going sometimes and I have sore points but I consider myself to be a young 49 year old. I will do everything I can to continue to train for many years to come. And be grateful for my health and the freedoms we all have.