So, I’ve got a pretty big birthday coming up this fall – the big 4-0! As it approaches, I’ve wondered what I could do to mark this milestone. Should I take a big trip? (did that this spring), throw a party? (maybe) and then I came across a calendar of summer triathlons & an idea sparked in my head.
Before having children, I completed a handful of sprint distance triathlons & LOVED them! Truth be told, I’m really pretty slow in all areas of the event, but I love the thrill of completing such a goal. I also love the feeling of being fit & strong. Looking back at pictures, I was always the one with a huge goofy grin on my face as I, first and foremost, made it out of the water alive, cruised along on my bike or leisurely brought it home with the run, sprinting a bit at the very end. Slow and steady wins the race is definitely my motto!
My goal this summer, then, was to complete an all women’s, sprint distance triathlon in early August; get fit in time to transition to 40; and have fun doing this with a group of fabulous girl friends.
What a great experience this has been!
In some ways, this training made me feel like a kid again & at the same time reminded me of my age. Floating on my back after a good swim & looking at the clouds go by; jumping on my bike & catching up with a girlfriend while we fly down hills (and creep up them); feeling strong with my 12 minute mile “run” pace (yes, I could probably walk faster). I’m also reminded that I’m getting older with an overuse muscle tear that doesn’t want to go away and how I’m always checking in with my body to make sure I don’t over do it. I gotta tell you, though, I was at a triathlon this summer to cheer on some friends & saw an 84 year old woman out there competing. It reminded me that despite the fact we can’t turn back the clock, we can choose how we take care of ourselves and respond to aging. I want to be that fit 84 year old woman, out there participating fully in life.
Since this is an anxiety blog, I was also curious how the increased exercise would affect my mood & anxiety levels in general. What I noticed was that when I skipped a day or two of workouts, I felt more edgy and irritable. I think regular exercise can be a powerful part of anxiety treatment, but that it needs to be part of a more holistic plan with nutrition, rest, spirituality, healthy relationships and some good cognitive behavioral work. I’ve known people who aren’t doing their exposure work and are avoiding anxiety provoking situations while they pray that their morning yoga will cure them that day. I wish it were that easy, but we all have to do the work.
The triathlon was really a fantastic experience – I highly recommend it to those interested. A sprint distance is just long enough to make it an accomplishment, something you have to work toward, but not so long that it takes over your life. The race was hot & hilly, but manageable & so much fun! As this was an all women’s triathlon, the volunteers were all men along the race course wearing t-shirts that said, “Triathlete chics are hot!” (Now, who wouldn’t want to go a little faster when they were cheered on with that kind of enthusiasm?) And, the camaraderie from all of the amazing women in our group was energizing as well.
Am I happy about turning 40? Sometimes it gives me pause (ok, freaks me out), but other times I realize that slow and steady is a good way to move forward through life. It gives you time to appreciate the accomplishment this life is, connect with those traveling alongside and enjoy the view.