Just like the title says, I’m 70 years old and I’ve competed in 42 Ironman races. That’s a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile (42.20 km) run, raced in that order and without a break. You can imagine how people are surprised when they find out that I still like to compete. How do I do it, they want to know. I always tell them the same thing: there’s no secret.
If there was a secret, maybe I could get rich off of it. Unfortunately, I don’t know of one. Instead, I just do the same things that athletes all around the world, of all ages, have been doing for decades. I’ve tapped into the natural potential of the human body. True as it may be, that statement just doesn’t satisfy some of my more curious acquaintances. “But how?” they say. So here’s what I tell them:
It’s all about the foundation
There’s no end to the ways I’ve seen triathletes try and improve their times. From shaving your body hair to finding sponsors with deep pockets, there are so many ways to get a competitive advantage. Here’s the thing: without a solid foundation, those “extras” don’t matter one bit.
In car racing, the biggest engine and the fanciest aerodynamic bodywork only come into play if the basics are covered — the car needs fuel, lubrication, and good tires. Without those, you might as well leave it on the trailer.
The same goes for the human body. There are 4 things that matter most when it comes to competing in a long-distance race: fuel, hydration, rest, and mindset.
Fuel=food. This doesn’t just mean during the race. Going back to the race car analogy, you wouldn’t fill up the tank with old, dirty gasoline for your practice sessions, and save the hi-test for race day. You’d always run the right fuel. It’s the same with eating. Different diets work for different athletes, but the most important thing is consuming healthy, organic foods as often as possible, and an absolute minimum of junk food.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory, right? Drink lots of water, and drink it every day. Proper hydration doesn’t just support you in the race, but through training as well. It’s the basis for everything your body does, from healthy brain function to creating immunity.
Again, it’s pretty obvious. And yet, lack of sleep is being called a public health crisis because so many people are ignoring this fundamental aspect of health and longevity. “But doc,” people sometimes say, “I probably don’t need as much sleep as you since I’m so much younger.” Wrong. The recommendation remains for all ages to get no fewer than 7 hours per night.
Persistence. Patience. Confidence. Determination. All these things matter when you’re training for an endurance race. But the thing I have the hardest time convincing people of is this: age is just a number. In fact, as triathletes go, I’m still young. My fellow Florida resident Madonna Buder turns 89 this year and is still competing in Ironman races. And the craziest part is, she didn’t start racing until she was 52!
Building on the basics
You might think I’m just talking about triathlons here, but starting from the basics is the recipe for success in all arenas, from living longer to starting a business. That’s not to say you should limit your creativity. People don’t go see the Taj Mahal because it’s built on a good slab — and yet, without its foundation, there would be no building to see. Don’t know where to start? Take a look at couch-to-5k — a program specifically designed to get you from ‘the couch’ to running a 5k in 9 weeks.
Want to be a writer? Write a lot, and finish what you start. Want to run a business? Learn accounting. I could go on all day, but here’s the bottom line: if you want more success in your life, and to surprise yourself with what you can achieve, build yourself a solid foundation and go from there.