Dara Torres is headed to Beijing on the Olympic swim team after winning the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle in the Olympic trials. This will be her 5th time to the Olympics, spanning her teens, 20s, 30s, and now 40s!
Dara is 41 years old, and stood on the medal stand at the trials with her daughter, Tessa, on her hip. She has never tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, and points to her unique training plan as the secret of her success.
Times have changed. It used to be that age 40 meant one foot in the nursing home, and the conventional wisdom was slow down and by careful of over-exerting yourself. That was then, this is now.
These days “old timers,” like Dara Torres, are kicking butt and taking names.
Over 40 Athletes
Dara is not alone!
In 1996, Kent Bostick at age 42, made the Olympic cycling team by beating out 28-year-old Mike McCarthy.
Sister Madonna Buder, a Roman Catholic nun from Spokane, Washington is known as “The Iron Nun” because she has done more than 300 triathlons and is the oldest woman ever to complete an Ironman competition at age 75.
My Over 40 Triathlete Training Plan
I am over 40 myself, and I’m in the best overall fitness I have ever been in my entire life.
Sure, I’m not as strong or as fast as I once was back in the day. This is partly because my goals have shifted from things like how much I can bench press or how fast I can run a 10k, to endurance sports like running marathons, biking centuries, and doing triathlons.
I’m under no illusion. I realize my age has had its effect. In my college years, I could go out and run 17 miles in the morning, take a shower, and be good to go for an afternoon with my friends.
Now, it takes me a bit longer to bounce back or recover, and I feel more aches and pains.
Triathlon Training If You’re Over 40
If you are over 40 and wanting to compete in triathlons, join the crowd.
The fastest growing segment of the sport is triathletes over 40. Information about triathlon training is readily available for the newcomer of any age.
Triathlon competitions normally divide triathletes into several divisions including a Masters division (age 39 and over), Clydesdales (any male athlete over 200 lbs), and Athenas (women athletes over 150 lbs).
Here’s an over 40 soccer mom’s guide to your first triathlon.
And check out these training suggestions for the Novice Masters Triathlete.
If You’re Over 40, Consider Taking The Middle Way
Some people use their age as an excuse.
People like Dara Torres defy this mentality, and consider their age an asset, not a liability.
Others turn a blind eye to their age, as if to be totally irrelevant. This will keep you from making the necessary adjustments for more effective training and performance.
Instead, take the middle way – which is neither acquiescence or denial, but rather wisdom and rebellion. Wisdom says I will factor in my age when it comes to my personal plan to train and compete in triathlons. The rebellion part comes when you are standing on the beach at the swim start in your triathlon, and you glance over at some 20-something dude and say to yourself, “Bring it on!”
A Few Suggestions For The Over 40 Triathlon Crowd
1. People do it everyday; so can you! However, it’s not going to be handed to you on a silver platter, and it’s going to require a solid commitment on your part.
2. If you are currently a couch potato but decided you want to become a triathlete, take the time to visit your doctor and get a complete physical. Share your goals, and explore any red flags or input your doctor may have.
3. Find one or two others over 40 (perhaps talk a couple friends into it) to take the triathlon challenge with you. Encourage each other, hold one another accountable, and do some training together. Agree on a specific triathlon, which will be the first one you are aiming for and doing together.
4. If you get really desperate for motivation, watch this:
I’m over 40 years old, but I don’t give up easily. It wasn’t too long ago that I was exploring the idea of doing my first triathlon. If I can do it, you can too! I'm proof that with a little determination and training, you can get a great deal of fulfillment participating in marathons, triathlons… even ultramarathons.