Daring to enter triathlon

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Neera Siva

I turned 18 without knowing how to ride a bike. It was 1997, and I remember spending that summer at a public park swallowing my pride as an uncle pushed me around on a bike until I could ride it on my own.
I also turned 18 barely knowing how to swim. That same summer, I signed myself up for swim lessons and converted my dog paddle to a rough semblance of a front stroke.
A few days ago, at 36, I found myself contemplating an online registration form for a sprint triathlon. I caught myself right before the final button-click, self-doubt nipping away inside my brain. Could I really do this?
I enjoy running enough to have completed a few half-marathons, but swimming and biking? I’m still uncertain with those. I’ve generally avoided them for most of my adult life and have recently only taken them up for my kids’ sake.
Can someone like me really do a tri?
The answer to that question, it turns out, is the same for anyone who’s reaching for a new fitness goal: Yes, if you do it with forethought.
First, I sought out some advice from some great fitness coaches at my local gym. I already exercise five or six hours a week, and with their help, I’ve identified signs of weakness in my performance.
Second, I used that advice. I’m now working with medical professionals to get some underlying issues addressed.
Third, I’m aiming to get better. I’ve signed up for swimming lessons at my local gym … where the coaches are half my age. Thankfully, they know what they’re doing, and we’re slowly turning my “rough semblance of a front stroke” into something that’ll ensure I won’t drown during a tri.
I’ve also bought a bike (my first as an adult) and practicing on some of our beautiful trails.  It took me a while, but I’ve learned to not curse every squirrel that darts in front of my bike.
Fourth, I’ve downloaded a training program that promises to whip me into shape before my tri. This training starts off easy with swimming distances that I can accomplish now. It gets progressively harder with peak performance on race day
All that’s left to do is eat, sleep and hydrate well, and of course, practice, practice, practice.
Hard-core triathletes, beware. Here comes a middle-aged novice.
Neera Siva is a health enthusiast, mom, patent attorney and writer, in no particular order. She and her family live in Santa Clara County. Check out her website at healthierbites.com, or follow her on twitter @neera_avis.

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