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Rich Allen tells us how age-groupers and pros can learn important lessons from each other.

There are two communities in triathlon: pros and age-groupers. The age-groupers look up to the pros because of what we manage to achieve and the pros respect the age-groupers because they wouldn’t survive without them.

But the interaction between the two communities is often little more than a quick chat in the transition area. Perhaps we could all become better, more-rounded athletes if we put our collective heads together to see what we could learn from each other.


1. A pro gets quality daily rest

This is stating the obvious, but quality rest is essential for recovery. Most age-groupers just don’t have time to put their feet up and sleep for two hours after lunch. But, surely, there’s time to squeeze a 20-minute power nap in on most days.

2. A pro limits their boozing

I’m guilty of having a few too many beers from time to time, but I frequently see age-groupers indulging a bit too often. Too much alcohol not only makes you pile on the pounds, it also dehydrates you for the next day’s training. Limit drinking to either a small amount on a regular basis or cut back to once a week.

3. Pros plan their diets

Most age-groupers’ busy lives means grabbing food on the run, which often leads to bad choices. Try to snack on healthy options such as dried fruit and try to plan your meals to include enough fruit, veg and protein. Snacking 30 minutes before and after exercise is something that many athletes forget and it’s essential to maintain energy levels.

4. A pro embraces pain

Some age-groupers struggle to push themselves hard enough to achieve that elusive PB. The problem is they do most of their training, if not all of it, well within their comfort zone. When they get to a race they naturally slip into this comfortable pace, which isn’t going to lead to their best performance. You have to learn to hurt yourself in training so you know your body won’t falter when it comes to racing.

5. A pro pays attention to detail

Before every race, make sure you have your bike serviced and check the small, but important, items of equipment, like goggles. Attention to detail is key.


From an age-grouper’s point of view I only need to talk to the one age-grouper I know best – my wife Tonya. Here’s what she has to say:

1. Age-groupers have fun

“When you see age-groupers racing an Ironman, they’re all smiling. Some pros take it too seriously and they’re usually the ones who don’t do well or DNF. Race happy as taking things too seriously makes you tense and never yields good results.”

2. An age-grouper has life balance

“A pro’s life of just training, eating and sleeping might not drain your body but it drains your mind. You need to do other things, enjoy the odd piece of chocolate cake or two and yes, have a few too many drinks occasionally. Don’t be a bore and live a little once in a while.”

3. An age-grouper’s income doesn’t depend on racing

“Relying on a pay cheque from race-to-race leads to stress and immense pressure. Why not work part-time or start your own business and lay the foundations for your future after racing? You won’t be a racer forever, despite what Rich believes.”

4. An age-grouper trains less

“More isn’t always better. I know from Rich that when a pro wants to improve they train more. This isn’t always wise and can lead to over training and fatigue. Many age-groupers follow a quality over quantity philosophy, which might be worth a try.”

5. An age-grouper finds races that inspire them

“Choose races that you really want to do and you’ll perform better. I’ve seen pros at races who clearly don’t want to be there and are just chasing a pay cheque. I’m always bursting with excitement on the start line because I’ve chosen to be there.”

Whatever category you’re in there’s something to gain even if you only choose to work on one of these points. One’s thing’s for sure though, both groups have a lot to learn from each other.