03/02/2012 01:33 pm ET Updated May 02, 2012

Fitness After 50: Executing My New Goal

In my last post I mentioned that I my new goal was to do a triathlon. Is this goal different from any fitness goals I have ever set for myself? Is this goal really just a bunch of fitness goals combined together? No, this goal was far out of my comfort zone. The bigger question became, "How can I motivate myself to train for a triathlon?" I know of two things that motivate me: sharing my goals with a friend (besides Hermes) and paying for the race. Once you share a goal, you will only embarrass yourself if you don't follow through. Also, for me, spending money is always a great motivator because my money is hard-earned and I don't want to waste it.

There are four distances in triathlon: Sprint Distance is 0.5 mile swim / 15.7 mile bike / 3.1 mile run; Olympic Distance is 0.9 mile swim / 24.8 mile bike / 6.2 mile run; Half Iron Man is 1.2 mile swim / 56 mile bike / 13.1 mile run; and Iron Man is 2.4 mile swim / 112 mile bike / 26.2 mile run. I settled on and paid for a sprint distance race in Philadelphia called the PHLY Tri. Next I told friends and posted on Facebook, which meant there was no turning back.

Next step was figuring out how to train. I did some research and found a book by Joe Friel, the Triathlete's Training Bible. In order to train properly for a sprint distance race, I had to swim three times a week, bike three times a week, and run three times a week for at least an hour each time for each sport. Once I did the research, I recalled why I had only toyed with the thought of doing a triathlon -- the time commitment. In order to train, I had to get up at 4:30 a.m. (I was already getting up at 5:15 a.m., so what is 45 minutes?) to walk the dog before starting training. I had a place to swim, since the gym I belong to has a pool. Bike training in the winter would be indoors at spin classes. I could borrow a road bike from someone when it came time to train outside. I would have to start running again... I hadn't run consistently in a couple of years because of injuries.

I like to swim -- really I do -- but trying to motivate myself to get into a pool at 5:00 a.m. was hard. On cold winter mornings, the pool water feels much colder than it really is. So my motivation became, "You have to go to the pool, otherwise you will embarrass yourself come race day." I didn't want to be "that" person. On days that I really didn't want to get out of my warm bed, I used the same motivation for running and biking.

I discovered the meaning of a brick workout. A brick is when you run immediately after you bike in order to train your legs to adapt to running off the bike. The word "brick" is very apropos in this case because bricks are exactly what your legs feel like. Or, as I like to say, "I have to be wearing the legs of another person." What I didn't know during my training is that a triathlon is all about the run! (More on running in my next post).

Three years ago when I started triathlon training, I discovered some terrific benefits, and these benefits continue to motivate me today. One benefit is that I fell in love with biking. There is something powerful and satisfying about taking a long a bike on a beautiful day. Another benefit is the social aspect of triathlon. You make new friends in the triathlon community. Endurance sports tend to bring people together because you can relate to the "war" stories. The triathlon community even has its own language: bricks, 70.3, 140.6, bonking; burning your matches, blowing up on the run, T1, T2, OWS, to name a few.

Another bonus is how my diet has changed. I now have to consider carefully what I eat because what I put in my mouth becomes fuel for my training. Additionally, the proper foods help with recovery after each workout. When I did some research, I found that the body recovers better when you have protein and carbohydrates (fruits and veggies, not pasta and bread) within 30 minutes of completing a training session (see recipe below).

But the most satisfying benefit of all was the race! All the training paid off and I finished with a great sense of accomplishment. I also discovered that I am good at triathlons. I placed second in my age group, in my first race, with a pretty decent time. These are the things that motivate me! Hermes had a pretty good race too, but he only beat me by three minutes.

In my next post I will talk about "The run."

Recovery Smoothie -- in a blender
¼ cup plain greek yogurt
Handful each of blueberries and strawberries
1 scoop of whey protein isolate (I buy online at Amazon)
¼ teaspoon of raw cacao
Tbs of chia seeds (sold at Whole Foods)
Tbs of flax (grind in a coffee grinder, much cheaper this way)
Handful of Goji Berries (you can buy online)
6 oz of orange juice