Triathlon Over 40

Two athletes flexing off their bicepts
May 24, 2024

Susan Williams


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Triathlete with her Age Group Award

They say 40 is the new 30, 50 is the new 40, etc. and in some ways that is very true. In fact, many adults find they are still getting faster as they move up to the next age group. And though some of us may not get faster, we keep going as best we can. The oldest female to complete and Ironman distance even is Sister Madonna Buder at age 82. The oldest male is Hiromu Inada who completed the 2018 Hawaii Ironman at the age of 85 with over 8 minutes to spare under the 16-hr cut-off. Truly incredible and inspiring!

Even though some may still race hard as they age, it is a fact that our bodies undergo changes not always conducive to being in top ace shape. So first the bad news:  as we age our bones tend to shrink in size and density, muscles lose strength, endurance and flexibility and it is harder to raise our heart rate due to stiffening of the blood vessels and arteries. Male and females alike also experience a decline in testosterone which will also affect our athletic performance. But before you throw away your tri kit, there is good news as well, things you can do to slow this process, which many of you are likely already doing.

One of the best ways to combat the aging process is to add resistance training. Adding regular strength training to your weekly training plan will help preserve muscles, which in turn also supports joint health. Hitting the weights will also promote bone health which can decrease the incidence of osteoporosis as well as keep us more durable both on the racecourse and in training.  Resistance training also boosts your metabolism to help manage weight as well as maintain adequate energy levels for the challenging training sessions and in competition.

Perhaps this information is not new to you, but you just can’t seem to fit in the strength training with your swimming, biking, running, job and family. That is where I was back in my early 30’s and at the time seemed to manage OK. Decades later, though, when my body started to rebel, I realized that strength training needs to be a priority! So instead of fitting in some strength training around your other training if you happen to have some extra time one day, why not add the resistance training as the fourth discipline (if you are training for triathlon) and make it a regular part of your weekly routine?

Triathlete in the weight room

There are several types of strength training, it is important to find what works best for your body and what you enjoy.  We do not need barbells and fancy machines; in fact, a lot can be accomplished with bodyweight exercises. Spending hours in the gym is not necessary either, with minimal equipment you can make your own home gym which is more convenient for many. For others, you may prefer accountability and sign up for classes at your local gym or put together a workout group with some of your training buddies. The key is to find something you enjoy so that you are more likely to be consistent.

One last note, if you have never done strength training before, please work with your coach or a personal training to make sure that you have a safe and effective plan to help you reach your goals and fight Father Time!

Coach Susan Williams knows that every athlete is endowed with different abilities and skills, and every athlete will have unique goals. She was inspired by the coach she had as she trained for the Olympics and transformed that experience into her coaching philosophy.  Set goals, plan steps on how to reach this goal, give your best effort with every opportunity you have (keeping in mind that this doesn’t mean you have to kill it every day at every practice!), and find success in knowing you gave it your all.

Coach Susan is an Olympic Bronze Medalist, USA Triathlon Level II Certified Coach and an ACE Certified Personal Trainer.

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