Olympic Triathlon for working people

Raymond Meester
6 min readApr 5, 2019


It’s for employers important that their employees are healthy. The costs for absenteeism and medical care are gigantic. However, it’s not that most workplaces are equipped with fitness rooms and cafeteria with only healthy food. Preventive measures would make a lot of lives better and the costs for companies lower. Health care in real life is sick care: acute and reactive. To make lifestyle changes you are on your own.

Sometimes we just don’t have the time and energy to exercise. I was in this situation around 10 years ago. A full-time job, a bachelor study in the evening and a baby. This was my recipe of getting fat… When I almost finished my studies I weighed 95 kilos. For someone with a height of 1,73 too much of course. It hit me at that moment that I even had problems with tying my shoelaces. Here is my story from that point on to running an Olympic triathlon.

It wasn’t that bad

Running for one minute

After completing my studies I decided to do something about it. It was of course impossible to go from zero to triathlon. This takes a lot of time and effort, especially for someone who is not athletically build and has a lot of other things he wants to achieve in work and life. The first thing I did (trying doesn’t work in these cases) was not to make every evening a food celebration and to start cycling again. Not very serious sports yet, but after some time I weighed around 85 and I felt better.

Better, but not that good, because I had a lot of back problems. Working in IT I concentrate on some programming issues, cramped behind my screen I totally forget to move. My physiotherapist told that I was still too heavy and exercised too little. He proposed to start running. Firstly four minutes walking and then 1 minute running. What a hell!!!

It was

The beginning was the toughest time, but after a while I could run 4 minutes and walk 1 minute. My back problems weren’t completely over yet, but it became a regular routine to run for a half hour. I also made a decision to ignore weather or season. In Holland, especially in the winter, its cold, dark wet and windy. Enough excuses not to go. Fixed time sporting whatever the weather conditions helped a lot.

In the summers I cycled also with friends, so my weight was going down to around 75 kg, which is considered healthy for my height.

First competition

With some help of my employer I got a better chair, a standing desk and professional help with my posture. My back improved. It was time to set some goals! I started to run some 5 km running competitions. To avoid injuries I trained very light and with interval. Only once a week I pushed myself to the max. I don’t know what my exact time was, but my first run went pretty well.

So running went well and cycling too. I just needed to set myself a new goal to stay on track… I don’t know who said it too me, but somehow it was like “I’m running, I’m cycling, I only need to swim and then I could do a triathlon”.

When there is an idea my head, it’s hard to get out of it. There was only one issue in pursuing this goal: I could hardly swim and didn’t know how to do front crawl at all. I only have a basic swimming diploma and never learned it well. Opposite to running and cycling this was something I couldn’t do on my own. So I did a “beginner course front crawl”. After a while I was able to breathe normally (this took some time…) things were going very well with swimming. But winter was coming.

Of(f) course

The only thing I still needed to do is to combine all the sports. However, it was starting to get cold outside. Fortunately I was lucky there was an offer by the local gym to sport whole winter for just 50 euros. This was practical as I could swim, then ride a bike to the gym and use the treadmill there. In the gym I could also use the bike and treadmill after each other. It was all set. I’ve signed up to do the Olympic triathlon!

Shortly after I signed in I got an injury. I couldn’t run one mile. A big disappointment after such a long run. Literally and figuratively.

I went to a special sport physiotherapist. There I found out that I trained muscles to run, cycle and swim, but as I intensified my training my support muscles weren’t strong enough. Not surprisingly mainly my back muscles… It turned out that for a triathlon, one really has to do four sports. One is fitness focusing on core stability and support muscles. Luckily, I already subscribed to the local fitness center. With the additional exercises I was going uphill again.

In may, I spent some time at my aunts who lived in Bavaria. I completed my first full Olympic triathlon: 1500 meters swimming, 40 km cycling and 10 km running. The terrain was very hilly with some steep climbs (on Google maps it seemed OK), but at the end I finished in 4 and half hour. So I was up to the challenge, but well… a little slow. To my defense I was using a mountain bike, got lost and run a very steep climb.


One month before the competition I started to train six times a week with a lot of mixed training. It’s amazing how well a body can adapt to that. With each increased training intensity the body feels tired, but quickly it’s the new normal. One week before the Olympic triathlon I did a sprint triathlon as final rehearsal. That turned out to be a good thing, as I was cycling with my swim glasses on and at the end was disqualified, because I only did 6, instead of official 7 laps. What I learned was that I need to calm down a little.

The next week it was D-Day: Triathlon Olympic Distance. I felt funny when I hand in my bike together with a guy who finished second place last year. The organization said to him: “please wait for the ceremony tomorrow and don’t drive away because you finished second”. I asked him what his bike cost. Turned out 12000 Euros. My bike stood there in stark contrast. It was the former bike of my father and one that was already 25 years old. My bike shoes had shoelaces which is not practical, but now weighing 67 kilos were at least easy to tie.

My goal for the triathlon was not to worry too much about the change and to finish under 3 hours. This last goal fell apart the next day. The organization needed to change the bike trail from 40 to 45 km from triathlon bond. There was a turn for the Olympic distance earlier than for the half iron man and that may lead to accidents. So three hours would be difficult.

Then the match started. It was great weather, almost no wind (though an Italian athlete next to me disagreed) and around 20 degrees. It was really enjoyable to do this with 1000 others. With swimming, I was in the front, then with cycling I was passed by and with running I was doing well. At the end I was… very tired, but it was good to see my wife, kids, parents and friends at the finish. My time: 2 hours 57.

Own pace

We all have our own goals and our own pace. It was a long way. For me the most important thing was that I found a way to have fun (mostly) to exercise and eat healthy. I improved my overall health and could combine it with work and family life. Though I had to say that my wife thought that six times training a week was just something too much of a good thing :)

BTW: know your meme



Raymond Meester