Triathlon for Masters Athletes: Establish a Support Network
Finding a new circle of like-minded people can be hard for older athletes. Here are some key considerations and tips.
For those who have been involved in regular athletic activities all their lives, a support network will likely already be in place. However, for many who are entering an athletic lifestyle over the age of 40, the expectations of both the triathlete and their friends and loved ones will be akin to exploring unknown territory.
Triathlon, especially the longer distances, is the epitome (or pinnacle!) of solitary sports: hour after hour of just you and the race course. It is one of the sport’s true ironies, then, that you increase your chances of success by establishing a solid support network foundation in training on which you can build your triathlon dreams.
Such a support network should include resources relating to both the sport—with physical and technical instruction and advice relating to improving performance—and from a personal perspective, in terms of emotional, physical and mental well-being.
Indeed, for many masters triathletes, the prospect of finding a new circle of like-minded friends and fellow athletes becomes a large driving force behind their new-found commitment to the sport.
Key Factors in Establishing a Support Network
Family and friends
The foundation for any triathlete’s support network has to be family and friends. The time and effort commitments to a triathlon lifestyle are so great that immediate family have to be on-board for it to have any chance of lasting success and not be the source of animosity and resentment. Great care must be taken to be flexible and to work around family time and obligations. Family should be the foundation of your support network, and not become something that will ultimately undermine all the hard training that will have taken place.
It is often true that, for most triathletes, the older they get, the greater the family commitments. Masters-age triathletes who have families and children are likely to feel the strain between family commitments and triathlon training the most. This tends to tail off as triathletes reach 50 years of age, and children enter high school and become more independent.
Friends, especially if they are health-conscious, athletically inclined or active in a sport, can be a tremendous source of encouragement and support. Their input and interest is something that can prove invaluable in the long term.
Sometimes, however, friends—especially those who are not health-conscious, and for reasons often unrelated to you at all—will feel the need to show little support or be quick to criticize. Perhaps your proactive move towards a healthy lifestyle shows them up in a bad light or causes them to question their own unhealthy lifestyle. The harsh reality, though, is that unsupportive and negative friends should not, and probably will not, stay in your inner circle for long. A positive environment is essential for the triathlon lifestyle, and friends who do not support it should not be given the opportunity to undermine your personal goals, in triathlon or in life.
Most triathletes could probably go through their entire triathlon lives without their workplace knowing they are involved in triathlon. Often, though, it does no harm to let your workplace know that you are a triathlete, that you are training for races, and that at least a couple of times a year you may be taking time off from work to travel and race away from home.
One major reason is that, in an increasingly health-conscious society, many companies try to offer help to health-conscious employees in the form of in-house facilities and possible financial assistance towards membership of outside facilities, such as a health club, gym or local YMCA facility. Your company may also be open to the idea of official company teams, sponsoring a one-off triathlon team, or an after work physical activity health program.
Additionally, if your company does not offer it already, it may be open to some sort of flex-time. This may allow you to work out on some mornings and not have to rush to get to work by 9 a.m.
Companies are increasingly concerned with employee retention, and recruiting the best employees from the marketplace. As a result, you never know where the agendas between corporate and an increasingly health-conscious workforce will meet.
Triathlon is a very solitary sport in many regards, often with long hours alone with your thoughts in both training and in races. That said, training partners can provide much-needed companionship in the long days and weeks of training.
They can also be a source of motivation just to get out of bed in the early morning to train, never mind keeping you to your schedule or attaining your triathlon goals. Knowing someone else is next to you going through the same experience can be comforting as you start out on a rainy ride when it is barely dawn.
An ideal scenario would be to team up with someone who is planning to do the same upcoming ‘A’ race as you, especially if you share roughly the same level of fitness. Not only can you combine training sessions and resources, but you might even be able to pool travel expenses and share costs for the race itself.
Of course, you can have, and probably will have, multiple training partners for the different disciplines in addition to ones that change from week to week. They may not even be triathletes, but instead focused on a single sport.
A training partner should be low-maintenance and dependable! There is nothing worse than having to brave the early morning winter weather to get to the start of a long ride only to have to wait 20 minutes because your training partner hit the snooze button earlier or had not prepared their equipment or nutrition the night before and had to rush to get it completed the morning of the ride. Someone with considerable commitments outside of training—such as family or work—may also not be the best training partner, except for the occasional session.
In training, you need to eliminate the reasons for not training. Make no mistake, you will come up with plenty of reasons yourself why you should not do tomorrow’s training session, so the last thing you need is a high-maintenance training partner providing you with more.