Lessons from Beginners

A smile at the triathlon finish is as good as a medal.

My almost 8-year-old daughters finished their first triathlon yesterday. My husband and I thought we knew all there was to know about triathlon. As it turned out we learned a few things from the beginners:

1) Swimming is more difficult when you can’t touch the bottom. For those logical types, this won’t make any sense. This makes PERFECT sense to me.

2) For some a race is not a competition but a journey. The girls swam in the same lane and one sister edged out the other by the end of the 50 meters. She didn’t rush off to the transition. She waited for her sister. Some people race for the experience and sometimes the experience includes finishing with a special friend.

3) Safety comes first. It’s just a race. Be careful out there. If you need to walk your bike down a steep hill, as one of my daughters did, there’s no shame in that.

4) If you walk and no one sees, does it matter? A lot of the participants, including my daughters, walked some of the 1/2 mile run. Once the finish line (and the crowds) were visible, those kids made an enthusiastic charge. No matter how your race goes, a strong finish can leave you with a positive outcome.

5) Don’t project your feelings on someone else’s experience. I had to keep my fear and nerves to myself before the race, but it was important after the race too. This became especially apparent to me at the end of our long day when I asked my daughter, “Are you exhausted?” And she answered, “Am I supposed to be?”

6) The magic of the triathlon lingers as long as the numbers on your arms and legs stay on. As I tucked the girls into bed I saw one daughter still wearing her swimsuit (a brand new orange and pink suit from blueseventy) under her race t-shirt. More than 24 hours later you can still see her race number on her arms. I’m afraid I’m going to have to insist on a bath now. Like the clock turning midnight, her coach will turn back into a pumpkin. Until the next race.

What have you learned about fitness from your kids? Share it with us and enter to win a pair of goggles and swim cap from blueseventy. –Kara



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7 responses to “Lessons from Beginners

  1. Time to giveaway that blueseventy gear! Tori Kirkpatrick, the random number generator picked #2 and that’s you! Please send an email to kara_thom@yahoo.com with your email address! Thanks, Kara

  2. Holly S.

    My kids have taught me that a little deviation from the workout plan isn’t the end of the world. My 1st-grader and kindergartner ran in a fun run to raise money for their school’s new playground. Before the big day I took them out to “practice” and show them how far their respective distances were. I thought I’d talk a little about pacing, or at least not starting out at a sprint. Shortly after we started, one was distracted by a puddle. Predictably, our run turned into a rather extreme fartlek, with a side trip to the beach along the way. It took me a moment to let myself go with the flow, but it ended up being fun, and I did some sprinting I hadn’t planned on.

  3. Tory Kirkpatrick

    I loved reading about your daughters first Tri!!! I can’t wait until my daughter does one. She is only 3 and she did her first mud run with me a few months ago and she had so much fun. What a proud moment for being mothers 🙂

  4. I loved reading about your daughters’ experiences! I’ve also been careful not to project feelings onto our sons’ experiences – excellent point.

    Our oldest son is nine. He did his first youth triathlon when he was five. This summer he’s talking about doing our local youth tri as a relay instead. He’s excited!

    Lessons learned:
    – It feels good to be invited.
    – Friends = fun.

  5. I announced to my children I was going for a run one day and my 5 year insisted he was coming. So I loaded him up in the double stroller and off we went. I always stop and stretch after a 1/2 mile and while doing this he got out of the stroller and started doing push ups. He asked me if this would make his bones stronger. At the end of the run I let him run home. I asked him why he wanted to come and he said because it’s fun to ride in the stroller. He continually asks me what will make his bones stronger!

    I felt like we were both teaching each other during this run. He taught me exercise is supposed to be fun, and I think I taught him it’s important to have a strong body. He keeps me in check and asks me when I’m going to get one of those medals again for running. I hope one day we will run together.

  6. Jessica

    My kids remind me that exercise is all about having fun. I try to put a smile on my face during the hardest parts of my run or while doing a triathlon. I imagine what it feels like to be a 3 year old, running through the grass, just for the sheer fun of it. I want all my races to feel that way. I can’t wait until my twins can do their first triathlon. My daughter already asks when it’s her turn!

  7. Adrian Hasenbauer

    I won’t be able to write this as eloquently as you did, but since having kids my whole outlook on “competing” has changed. It’s really no longer about winning – but more about finishing what we start.

    Watching my son play soccer is a great example – he doesn’t really care if they win or lose the game. He is proud of his own personal accomplishments during the game (“Mom, did you see that one time I blocked the ball?”). The same goes for me, it’s not about the final result, it’s about the journey.

    It’s also so much about setting the example in whatever it is we parents do. Not complaining about a slower 5K – but celebrating the victory in starting and finishing. According to my kids, if I came home with a medal, “I won”!!

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