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How Triathlon Can Change Your Life

By Melissa Mantak, MA | Jan. 22, 2020, 8 a.m. (ET)

happily crossing finish with flag

Triathlon was in its infancy when I did my first race in 1984. Little did I know then what a powerful impact it would have on the rest of my life. My first race, sponsored by a fraternity when I was in college, sparked a dream – a dream to be a professional athlete. At the time, I had no clue what this would look like or how to go about achieving it, but I was able to forge a roadmap to achieve a successful career as a pro triathlete and live my dream. Triathlon has provided me the opportunity to grow and evolve with the sport, creating a successful career as a professional coach. I lived my dream, and now I get to coach and empower others to achieve their dreams and goals.

What is it that makes this sport life changing and powerful?

Challenge of 3 sports

Without a doubt, many are attracted to this sport because of the challenge that competing in three sports at once provides. Plus, the wide variety of distances available on race day fulfills a broad spectrum of goals: from sprint to Ironman, duathlon, aquathon and more. The positive benefits of training consistently to achieve this challenge keep us healthy, happy and motivated for each day’s new challenge and improvements.

Lifelong sport, for everyone

Triathlon is a sport you could start as a young athlete and continue for the rest of your life. It is truly a positive addiction. The sport is open to everyone and empowers athletic ability, confidence and competence along the way. And, once you start, you’ll want more. You may not think of yourself as an athlete, but this is not a sport just for elites. It’s for you, too! You can participate in a local sprint or aspire to competing at a World Championships event – it’s one of the few sports where you have the opportunity to become an age group world champion.  

Overcoming adversity

Training for triathlon is not a means to an end, it’s a process that helps us achieve our goals and greatness. You will push your boundaries and face all of your fears and limitations. There will be challenges along the way; it will get hard. It’s in overcoming adversity that gives us the great sense of victory, and seeing clear to the next hurdle or goal. Discipline and focus become your allies. Triathlon can be the internal challenge of competing with yourself and/or the external challenge of competing against others, your victory is what you choose.

Tremendous sense of accomplishment

There is an overwhelming sense of accomplishment when you train for and complete your triathlon goal. Push a little harder, a little longer, a little faster – one more lap in the pool, one more mile on the bike, one more step on the run – the small steps count! It’s about never giving up and never settling for less than your best. It changes your life in so many different ways. You can only imagine until you slip on your wetsuit, strap on your cleats and lace up your running shoes day in and day out. There won’t be anything you can’t do. And, these are accomplishments you can hold dear and be proud of for the rest of your life.

Get inspiration. Give inspiration.

Inspirational stories, acts and people abound in this sport. Just by planning and working toward a big goal, you will inspire all those around you. There are a multitude of causes you can and will raise money and awareness for each time you race. For 10 years, I worked as the head coach for the Tri for the Cure triathlon in Denver, an all-women’s race featuring cancer survivors and first timers. The sense of excitement and accomplishment was profound. At the end of the swim, most of the competitors looked like they had just won the Olympics, and we were all crying on each other’s shoulders at the finish line.

Supportive community

You will meet supportive, knowledgeable, experienced people all along the way, from training to racing, and through many other community activities. These triathletes you will come to call your friends and competitors come in all different shapes, sizes, abilities and ages. They will help you through the journey to learn and grow. The triathlon community sees your challenges and frustrations and has experienced many of them as well. You are not in this alone.


The opportunity to become a triathlete is here, waiting for you now. It is a life-long journey, a process that can take weeks, months or decades to follow. Along the way, you’ll learn and grow, in ways you might not even be able to imagine, with a great sense of camaraderie. You have an opportunity to turn your weaknesses into strengths. You get to face your training and mental weaknesses and make them your strengths. What is truly life changing is the training and endurance journey. Jump in and change your life for the better today.

Thank you to all those who shared their thoughts and experiences in the process of writing this article. You have left me very inspired.

Melissa Mantak, MA is a USAT Level III and USAC Level I certified coach and has a Masters degree in Sports Science. Melissa presents at USAT Level I, II and III Coaching clinics as well as at the Coach Mentor program at the OTC in Colorado Springs. Coach Mantak is a former overall ITU World Cup winner, USOC Triathlete of the Year and USAT National Development Coach. In 2010, she was voted USAT National Coach of the Year. Coach Mantak is a full-time professional coach currently working with athletes of all levels. You can reach her at: or, a website dedicated to ensuring triathlon is accessible and affordable to all.